In her curtain speech on opening night at the Arsht Center, Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez characterized classical ballet as “tutus, tiaras and fairy tales.” She then promised the audience none of those things in the program they would see tonight and she was right.

Instead, the audience was treated to a captivating and diverse evening of dance—from classical to contemporary—that explored the complexities of human interaction and relationships.

The program began with George Balanchine’s “Serenade,” set to Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade in C Major for String Orchestra.” Created in 1934, Balanchine’s first American ballet is classical in the strictest sense, but offers a compelling contemporary sensibility. 

Framed within Balanchine’s signature kaleidoscopic formations, soloists and small ensembles of dancers enter and exit, disrupting the harmony of the forms created by the women of the corps du ballet. Karinska’s spare blue leotards and long tulle dresses accentuated the elongated lines of the individual dancers and the larger constructions they exhibit on the stage. 

Two contrasting pas de deux were performed in the second act, diametrically opposite attempts by two dancers to connect: 

Passion and athleticism fueled Kenneth MacMillan’s theatrical scene from “Carousel,” danced flawlessly by Jennifer Lauren and Renan Cerdeiro. Cerdeiro’s dazzling leaps and turns, in particular, were effortless. Their relationship is steamy, performed to the timeless love songs of Richard Rodgers, and with an unexpected ending.

In contrast, “Calcium Light Night” by Peter Martins is cold and cerebral, set to atonal and polyrhythmic music by Charles Ives. Nathalia Arja and Kleber Rebello each danced angular expositions under an empty square light hanging above before finally sharing the stage. Theirs was a story of attraction and collision.

The entire company was featured for Jerome Robbins’ “Glass Pieces,” performed to the repetitive minimalist music of Philip Glass. Scores of dancers passed each other like strangers on a busy city sidewalk, only to spontaneously escape the cacophony and break into synchronized movement.

The second movement, “Facades,” featured Simone Messmer and Rainer Kremstetter, but the real fascination is found upstage, where a mesmerizing procession of shadowed women parade across the stage like automatons.

 The Opus One Orchestra, under the baton of Gary Sheldon, particularly shined in this act as winds, brass and strings, alike, mastered the difficult arpeggiations and minuscule rhythmic variations that characterize the musical selections from “Rubric,” “Facades” and the opera “Akhnaten.”

Throughout the program—and regardless of style—the dancers of Miami City Ballet offered technically precise performances, danced with exuberance and enthusiasm. What was Lopez saying about tutus, tiaras and fairy tales, again?

Miami City Ballet repeats Program II at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Jan. 20 – Feb. 22, and at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, Feb. 4 – 5. Tickets and more information at