This article first appeared in Miami New Times
The wunderkind is back in Miami with yet another world debut.
Liam Scarlett, that is. He who at age 26 has been appointed artist-in-residence at London’s Royal Ballet Company.
He who was also the choreographer of “Viscera,” a ballet commissioned for the Miami City Ballet in 2012, which was received enthusiastically, even reverently, not only by Miami audiences but by dance critics from all over the globe who came here to see it.
A hard act to follow? We shall see. Scarlett and the Miami City Ballet will debut “Euphotic” this weekend at the Arsht Center. How does he compare the two works? “’Viscera’ was introverted,” Scarlett says. “Even as it pulsated, there was a hush about it. ‘Euphotic’ is its polar opposite; it is bigger in every way, more extroverted.”
Scarlett took time to settle on precisely the right title for his new work. He decided on ‘Euphotic,’ “the name for the uppermost layer of water,” he says, “where there is a play of light.” For Scarlett, this new work is about fluidity above all else. “The pulsing from ‘Viscera’ is still there, but the dance itself has become so fluid, it is almost angelic.” Again and again he talks of working with “this feeling of moving through liquid, where every movement is a continuum… I am fascinated by the kaleidoscope” he says, “by seamless transitions.”
His work with Miami City Ballet is part of a continuum as well. “I picked up with the company exactly where we left off the last time with ‘Viscera’” he says. “I know the strengths of these dancers. I know how to highlight them.” And according to several members of the company, he knows how to push them — and then push further. Scarlett himself describes this company as “dancers who want to be created on. As dancers having the drive, intellect and artistic understanding” to allow him just that.
Quite a gift for a choreographer who chooses to work so close to the bone with his dancers. Scarlett develops a piece with, rather than for, a dance company. Before he arrives to work with a company, he will have been caught, intrigued, by a piece of music. Then he waits. He works with the dancers. He sees what may happen after weeks of work.
‘Euphotic,’ for instance.
This debut is part of a program entitled Tradition and Innovation, which includes major pieces by George Balanchine. Small wonder since Scarlett considers the master of American dance – and all its trademark musicality — one of his major influences.
After the extraordinary success of “Viscera,” is Scarlett a bit apprehensive as he waits for the curtain to rise on “Euphotic?” “While I was elated by the reception ‘Viscera’ received, one always feels called to do something better,” Scarlett says. “Still, I don’t think I would be human if I weren’t anxious. Then I lose myself watching these dancers.”
“Euphotic” takes place on Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami in the Ziff Ballet Opera House,, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. It moves to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in the Au-Rene Theater, 201 S.W. 5th Ave., Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 18 at 8:00 p.m., Jan. 19 at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m., and Jan. 20 at 2:00 p.m.. Tickets range from $20 to $175; www.miamicityballet.org.