Ah, New York, the ring of fire that all good ballet companies must eventually jump through, despite facing large financial hurdles (well, chasms, actually) and a critical gauntlet. Miami City Ballet makes its first major New York run at City Center from Jan 21-25, and artistic Edward Villella is bringing the big stuff in two programs: Balanchine, plus a Tharp.
Other than the very largest and most prominent (such as NYCB and the Kirov) only a few companies around the world have reputations for performing Balanchine to exacting standards, and MCB is one of them (Suzanne Farrell’s company, based in DC, is another). Villella was one of the first big male stars under Balanchine, performing with the company from 1957-1975 (and the first American born male), so his firsthand knowledge about the ballets performed is invaluable.
The Balanchine rep to be performed in New York includes La Valse (1951, Ravel), Symphony in C (1947, Bizet) (clip below), Rubies (1967, Stravinsky), Square Dance (1957, Vivaldi and Corelli), and Symphony in Three Movements (1972, Stravinsky; Villella danced in the first productions of these last three. Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room (1986, Philip Glass), a thrilling daredevil marathon of a ballet, completes the programming.
Miami City Ballet, comprising more than 55 dancers from all over the world, has a unique structure in that it has four home bases in different counties in South Florida: Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Collier. This decreases somewhat the pressures of touring, which of course the company also does domestically and abroad, and helps build a regular subscriber and fan base. The affiliated Miami City Ballet School was begun in 1993, and trains about 375 students in a professional level curriculum.
Unfortunately, live music was not economically viable for this New York tour, which obviously happens at a time of great financial instability. It is sad but not uncommon these days, when only the largest or most committed companies perform with orchestras. But this should be a wonderful chance to see Balanchine’s choreography done with the clarity, musical elan, and technique that it demands.
Photo of Jeremy Cox & Katia Carranza by Joe Gato.