Miami City Ballet saved the best for last, dazzling the audience at West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center last weekend with both classical ballet and a little Broadway in the closing program of the 2012-13 season.
Program IV, planned last year before the departure of founding Artistic Director Edward Villella but executed by his successor Lourdes Lopez, began with Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering.
Set to a series of 14 mazurkas, waltzes, etudes and a nocturne by Polish Romantic pianist Frederic Chopin, Dances at a Gathering is not so much a programmatic work, but rather a series of joyous vignettes featuring five couples, perhaps at a spring festival. Like Chopin’s music, Robbins’ choreography draws heavily on the distinctive folk dances of Eastern Europe, a nod to classic ballet without the bourgeois pretense.
Dressed in billowing peasant shirts and slowing dresses, the dancers effortlessly leaped and turned, matching the lilting arpeggiations on the piano, performed flawlessly—and practically non-stop for an hour just off stage by the company’s staff pianist, Francisco Renno.
Several male dancers shined in the virile male roles, including principals Renato Penteado and Reyneris Reyes and principal soloists Renan Cerdeiro and Kleber Rebello, as well as a breakout performance by Chase Swatosh from the corps de ballet. Once again, Jeanette Delgado was entrancing, along Tricia Albertson, Patricia Delgado, Callie Manning and Jennifer Lauren, all delicately entrusting themselves to their partners throughout the many lifts and turns.
Rounding out the program was Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, created originally as part of Rodgers’ and Hart’s 1936 Broadway hit, On Your Toes. Choreographer George Balanchine’s first Broadway collaboration, it was actually performed as a “play within a play.”
The tale of gangsters, strippers and the ilk found in seedy speakeasies was expanded by Balanchine into stand-alone ballet in 1968 and performed complete with a gangster in the audience, talking parts and tap dancing — all nods to its Broadway origins.
As the curtain rose, it was immediately apparent this was not ordinary ballet, the stage transformed in a raucous club thanks to set design by Jo Mielziner and scenic paintings by Arnold Abramson and dancers clad in zoot suits and flapper dresses byIrene Sharaff.
Rodgers’ colorful score set the tone, accentuated by the orchestra/jazz band in the pit under the direction of Gary Sheldon as the story unfolded.
Kleber Rebello capably donned his tap shoes and fedora as modern day Gene Kelly, but it was Patricia Delgado — in heels — who stole the show. Gone was the prim and proper prima ballerina, transformed into a sultry ingénue who seduced her co-star and the audience alike with a breathtaking performance that drew applause throughout.
This is a program not to be missed, the perfect synthesis of a classical masterwork with a crowd-pleasing contemporary ballet, performed flawlessly by one of the country’s leading ballet companies, right here in South Florida.
Program IV: Broadway and Ballet will be repeated April 26-28 in Fort Lauderdale at the Broward Center and March 3-5 at Miami’s Arsht Center. For show times and tickets, go to MiamiCityBallet.org. JW Arnold