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Miami City Ballet

By Guillermo Perez

Adreinne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Miami, FL
January 6–8, 2012
Performance reviewed: Jan 6


Miami City Ballet welcomed the New Year trumpeting a world premiere by Liam Scarlett, an up-and-soaring choreographer from England who dances for The Royal Ballet. Unlike Asphodel Meadows, the artist’s first work for his home company’s main stage in 2010, this new creation does not boast a pretty title. Yet Viscera certainly announces the deep-centered physicality—indeed, the performance fortitude—that its fleet and fervent configurations demand, revealing the choreographer’s own gutsiness. Contributing to MCB’s second program of the season, the 25-year-old Brit staked his ground alongside Robbins (In the Night) and Balanchine (Ballet Imperial).


At this stage of Scarlett’s career, it’s tempting to define him by looking back and around for comparisons. When he resorts to brooding, Kenneth MacMillan’s shadow might cross the stage, and a push into prickly formations and bolting steps brings Scarlett to the explorations of contemporaries. Still, in matching his musical taste to the individual flavors of dancers, Scarlett is very much his own man.


An athletic score by Lowell Liebermann, Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra (Francisco Rennó at the keyboard, with the orchestra under Gary Sheldon’s baton) encouraged Scarlett to offer Olympian feats to a cast of 16 dancers, all avid contenders. A committed classicist—no matter how raw-nerved his dynamics get—Scarlett counted on crisp academic execution. True, images flashed by and partnerings shifted in Viscera’s first movement, but mirroring and counterpoint lent cohesion to the sequences, giving the impression not of frenzy but a driving mission. All the better to accommodate assertive complications—the difficult lifts, a flourish in the limbs—which Scarlett cultivates amid formal paths.


The dancers would tilt and twist but always looked wickedly good. And best was Jeanette Delgado, a rustler with a whirl here, a dash there, fronting or merging with her cohorts. Tricia Albertson, at times partnered by Renato Penteado, and Callie Manning, with or without Kleber Rebello, claimed their bright pockets of energy. Sara Esty surged among them, but the weave-through ensemble (Leigh-Ann Esty, Adriana Pierce, Emily Bromberg, Helen Ruiz, and Ashley Knox; Bradley Dunlap, Ezra Hurwitz, and Jovani Furlan) also proved essential in adding sheen and fiber to this ballet.

 


In the slow second movement, whispers from strings and a fugue on the piano painted a somber region where Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra reigned alone. All hubbub gone, they made for a sleek but keenly sentient pairing. Though steely articulations whirred on, the couple’s attachment gave off an animal warmth. When she scaled his body, love turned into the conquest of Everest.


With a background of changing color light adding a blushing intensity (John Hall’s design), the third movement had Delgado once more leading the fray in what now seemed like aquatic buoyancy. There was room for quick exclamations—lift-drops, for instance—but what impacted most were big, bold blocks of movement. Humming along with calculation but never less than humane, Viscera engaged our intelligence while compelling us to feel ever more deeply.

 

Photos by Mitchell Zachs, courtesy MCB. Top: Ashley Knox (front) in Liam Scarlett's Viscera. Bottom: MCB dancers in Viscera.