(In the lobby of the Tilles Center before the performance)
On Friday night, Allison and I took two subway lines, an LIRR ride, and a taxi to get to the Tilles Center on Long Island to see Miami City Ballet, but the trek was totally worth it since the company’s program included three works by Balanchine and our favorite ballet – ever: Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room with music by Philip Glass. We’ve seen this exhilarating, breathtaking piece performed by ABT at least 4 or 5 times, but unfortunately, the company didn’t perform it at last fall’s City Center engagement. So when we discovered that Room would be performed by MBC – a company that neither of us has ever seen – on Long Island, we jumped at the opportunity to see it.
Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations was first on the program. This piece allowed me to see what MCB’s female corps looked like. Although the women were well-rehearsed, solid on formations, and together on timing, many of them were not as technically strong as I thought they would be, considering that MCB is one of the top ballet companies in the country. Some pirouettes were shaky and the footwork not very precise. However, the lone male in the piece, Renato Penteado, was technically impressive, especially in the petit allegro solo. Still, there was not enough feeling in the movement (from all of the dancers), but perhaps this has more to do with the lack of emotional depth in Raymonda than with the dancers themselves.
Sonatine is a laid-back duet for a man and a woman, with a pianist on stage playing music by Maurice Ravel. There’s almost a lazy or sleepy quality to the stylized arm movements, hip swivels, and port de bras that the woman repeatedly completes into the man’s arms, but both Jeremy Cox and Haiyan Wu managed to infuse the movement with energy. In contrast to this sleepy duet was Tarantella, a duet that requires sharp, rapid footwork, precise musicality, and the ability to use a tambourine while jumping and turning – all at breakneck speed. Alex Wong (who happens to be a Winger contributor) and Jeanette Delgado definitely had what it took to get through this seven-minute piece. They interacted well and really got into character.
The evening ended with In the Upper Room, a 40-minute marathon that is the ultimate test of stamina in the ballet world. The dancers were spot on, and when they were supposed to be dancing in unison, they were truly dancing in unison. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this piece performed so solidly and with such clean execution of Tharp’s choreography. The dancers were energetic and experts at attacking the movement, with Wong and the other two “stomper” men, Jeremy Cox and Daniel Baker, deserving special mention. And yet, there was still something missing for me. Allison said she was shaking at the end and utterly thrilled, but I thought that this performance of Room lacked the spark – and I’m really unsure about what exactly this is – that made my heart race the first time I saw it. Perhaps I set my expectations too high, or expected to feel exactly the way I did after seeing Tharp’s masterpiece for the first time. Hopefully the spark will be present the next time I see Room, or maybe by then I’ll have figured out what the little spark is that makes this ballet – when performed flawlessly – so elating and stirring.
(A curtain call for In the Upper Room)