Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 29, 2022

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, "Miami City Ballet"

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through August 28, 2022
by Josephine Sarnelli

Photo by Christopher Duggan
The return of the Miami City Ballet brought with it a debut of the Ted Shawn Theatre’s new
orchestra pit.   In addition to offering a live orchestra for the first time at the Pillow, it also allowed for Balanchine’s 1934 signature work Serenade to be presented - which can only be performed with live music per the licensing agreement with the Balanchine Trust.  The newly enlarged stage accommodated the 26 dancers in this large production.

The program was a study of four very different choreographers.  Whereas Balanchine’s piece has remained ageless, the opening dance Diversion of Angels from 1948 by Martha Graham clearly looked dated.  The repetitive flexed foot leaps and fluttering hands, once cutting edge in the dance world, were tiring despite being performed to perfection.  The three couples, each embodying a different aspect of love – young and flirtatious, romantic and passionate, mature and enduring, worked well together.  The novel costuming of a legged skirt provided for fluidness and athleticism, particularly for Taylor Naturkas as young love.

The most moving work in the program was the world premiere of Geta, dedicated and named for a beloved, recently deceased instructor at the Miami City Ballet School.  Choreographed to Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitta Pas” (Don’t Leave Me), the strong movements were exquisitely performed by Renan Cerdeiro.  His connection with the audience amplified the emotion of the piece.   The costuming of a long tunic over a nude unitard looked awkward and did not enhance the otherwise perfect routine.

Antique Epigraphs, a 1984 ballet by Jerome Robbins, is so named because it is performed to Claude Debussy’s suite “Six Ėpigraphs Antiques.”  The seventh section was a lovely flute solo by Linda Toote entitled “Syrinx.”  Performed en pointe by eight women invoking Greek goddesses, the fragility of the dancers might be discarded as an obsolete representation of femininity in today’s world.  However, the ability of each dancer to showcase her individuality as well as the group’s collaboration and support in partnering as duets and trios speaks of the modern woman.  The developpés were striking; the soft movements of their arms hypnotic.  Of particular note was their directional ability to have the audience focus from one side of the stage to another simply by turning their gaze in unison.

The finale Serenade was well chosen for the many traditionalists who enjoy classical Balanchine. The choreography, set to Peter Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, includes cabrioles, grand jetés and rond de jambe en l’air, which were all beautifully executed by the troupe.  The plot literally evolved during Balanchine’s rehearsals, who incorporated a late arrival of a student and the fall of another directly into the final chorography.  However, it takes a strange turn midway through when a “dark angel” enters and draws to a sad ending. The conductor joined the dancers on stage for a well-deserved standing ovation.

The Miami City Ballet brought to an end the 90th season of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.  It was a spectacular year and we so look forward to the 91st!