Miami City Ballet
Miami City Ballet
Long Island, New York
April 20, 2001
Reviewed by Clive Barnes
George Balanchine was much more than the twentieth century?s greatest classic choreographer. Just eighteen years after his death his ballets are still everywhere?but more important still, so are his disciples and protégés.
I caught performances by companies headed by two of Balanchine?s one-time principal dancers, 64-year-old Edward Villella, who brought his Miami City Ballet to Long Island?s Tilles Center, and 52-year-old Robert Weiss, who was showing off his Carolina Ballet at its home base in Raleigh, North Carolina. What both share?and here is Balanchine?s real heritage?is style, enthusiasm, and, not least, sheer teamwork. They are real companies, not just random groups of thirty or forty dancers.
Villella?s troupe is, of course, the longer established, dating from 1986, and the better known, having appeared on many international tours, including a particularly successful foray to the Edinburgh Festival, and, only last year, providing some of the highlights of Kennedy Center?s Balanchine Festival.
So far it has only reached the environs of New York City?each time gathering a flock of the faithful?but it is acquiring the stature of a major U.S. company. Here, the Miamians shone in a couple of Balanchine pieces?a performance of The Four Temperaments suffused with vibrancy, and the now-rare Ravel duet Sonatine, crisply danced by Deanna Seay and Eric Quillere. The latter was a special delight, and it is fascinating how Quillere, a typical product of the Paris Opéra School, has so completely dedicated himself to Balanchine.
There was also a 1999 mambo-inspired work by Villella himself, Mambo No. 2 a.m., a lively, if oddly named, part of a forthcoming full-evening production. More immediately rewarding was the troupe?s brand-new staging of Frederick Ashton?s great ice-skating classic, Les Patineurs.
By pretty general consent, Ashton is regarded, along with Fokine, Balanchine, Tudor, and Robbins, as one of the five major classic choreographers of the twentieth century. New York prides itself as being the center of the dance world, but this was the first time New York had seen an Ashton ballet in more than twelve months?and that makes Ashton one up on both Fokine and Tudor. Center of what? The Miami production, using the original 1937 William Chappell scenery and costumes, was sharp and well focused. The leading role of the Blue Skater, created by an inimitable Harold Turner and a challenge to virtuosi such as Brian Shaw, Fernando Bujones, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Ethan Stiefel ever since, was given with real flair by a dazzling Luis Serrano, who could happily have spun and curvetted until the ice melted.