This is a review of the second night performance of Program III at the Arsht Center on February 12; Program III is now on stage at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through March 13.
“I love you. Bye-bye,” spoke a woman from the audience into her cell phone, hanging up just a beat before Gary Sheldon took his baton to the Opus One Orchestra. This Saturday night’s audience, chatty and restless, drew a collective breath upon viewing Arnold Abramson’s scenic drop, depicting a lonely castle, and 16 dancers, standing at attention and ready to begin the evening’s first ballet, George Balanchine’s “Scotch Symphony.”
Of the 19 principal and soloist roles among the performance’s three ballets, only two changed casts from the opening. Additionally, six of the eight corps women in “Scotch Symphony” were new tonight. Appearing as the soloist in red — knee-highs, pointe shoes, lipstick, and kilt — in the first movement of “Scotch,” Sara Esty looked like a brown-haired American Girl Doll dressed in her Scottish outfit with a full day of outdoor activities ahead. Taking small, quick steps running forward on pointe and arriving in positions with time to spare freshened and punctuated the Mendelssohn music, played at a much brisker pace than on Friday. The new female corps looked less settled dancing together than last night’s cast, while the male contingent did not alternate.
A second round for “Scotch”’s principal couple, Katia Carranza and Renato Penteado, brought new dimension to their partnership. Tonight, Carranza’s sylph wooed her partner with more interested and friendly glances, while Penteado’s poet seemed to stand back an instant longer before catching her mid-step (a solo pirouette that finishes in a supported arabesque tilted forward, and a half-turn with one leg held high that completes rotation with the help of her partner are among the risky moments choreographed neatly into “Scotch”’s second movement adagio). When Carranza tugged her partner at the wrist in attempt to lead him off stage and into her world, the effect felt more eager and less manipulative—as though tonight she had invested more in their brief relationship.
Paul Taylor’s “Promethean Fire” again met deserved, thunderous applause. Emotional distance in the new pairing of Mary Carmen Catoya and Yann Trividic as the central couple suggested other readings of the entire work, which explores in abstract terms human responses to a catastrophic event. (A program note, read aloud by some audience members to their seatmates, that “Promethean” is believed to be driven by Taylor’s reaction to the destructive acts of September 11, 2001, could have been a helpful point of connection to a shared experience.) In Trividic and Catoya’s duet, it often seemed he wanted to pool their misery and strength, focusing on her, while she was on her own track to survival, looking ahead.
While the rest of “Promethean” involves the group of 16 dancing in hand-holding circles and wearing unifying unitards — gender-equalizing costumes — men and women are also made distinct. Two clumps, one of women and one of men, standing, emphasize a difference in height and build that’s less noticeable or important in motion. The moment ambassadors from both groups cross carries dramatic weight, as though recognizing that in their different approaches to mourning, there exists an essential co-dependency within a couple, and interdependency throughout a larger community.
Taylor’s designs through space in “Promethean” can be appreciated by taking in the big picture of the full stage, and even do so with slightly blurred eyes. Planetary rotation and revolution carries on as men lift and spin women while moving in a circular path. Images of human despair at its basest evoke Rodin’s Gates of Hell as the dancers scatter and slither from center as though poured into a pit, writhing weakly on the floor. Each dancer contributes a moment of pointed desperation, reaching quickly to the sky with one hand and then the other, before joining the heap of bodies that suggests a photographic still from a horrific murder inside a gas chamber, or a building imploded. Trividic emerges from the rubble and picks up Catoya as a hero, or as a common man rising to the occasion.
“Nine Sinatra Songs,” with an identical cast as its opening, looked smoother this night. The dancers made the uncomfortably difficult moments of Twyla Tharp’s ballroom-inspired partner work look like a pleasure.
Miami City Ballet’s Program III:Scotch Symphony, “Promethean Fire,” and “Nine Sinatra Songs” continues from March 11 through 13 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; tickets from $19 to $169; go to www.browardcenter.org for more information.