Written By: Larissa Duff-Grant
Edited By: Brandon Booth
Miami City Ballet Presents Balanchine at Queen Elizabeth Theatre, February 19-21, 2015
Miami City Ballet recently visited Vancouver from February 19 to 21 to perform a program of three works choreographed by George Balanchine. The three pieces included Ballo della Regina, Symphony in Three Movements, and Serenade. The pieces were originally created by George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet, but have long been a part of the Miami City Ballet’s repertoire.
Balanchine is credited as being one of the first contemporary choreographers in ballet. His work epitomizes the era of neoclassical ballet in the 20th century. Along with co-founding the New York City Ballet Balanchine also founded the School of American Ballet Theatre which is still seen as one of the most prominent ballet schools in North America. Many of Balanchine’s ballets are plotless, and stripped of sets and intricate costumes. Balanchine decided to forego the classical tutu and instead would have his dancers perform in simple bodysuits. These stylistic choices help Balanchine’s work stand out as they made Balanchine’s work completely unique in a time of classical ballet.
Grouping together these three different ballets gave the audience a good example of the different ways that George Balanchine choreographed. The program began with Ballo della Regina a ballet originally choreographed in 1978 for New York City Ballet principal dancer Merrill Ashley. The piece was choreographed to feature Ashley’s abilities in allegro which is apparent in the fast-paced, challenging choreography. The second piece featured, Symphony in Three Movements, also used fairly quick movement with a heavy focus on petit allegro. In this piece Balanchine used layers of dancers on stage to create shapes and patterns in space. Throughout the piece the dancers weave through one another to create various patterns in movement sequences. This ballet also featured a captivating pas de deux that broke away from the classical pas de deux with the use of angular movement and isolations. The last piece in this program was Serenade. Serenade was the first Ballet that Balanchine choreographed after his arrival in New York and it is still viewed as one of the greatest masterpieces of the 20th century. This ballet featured an almost entirely female cast dressed in white bodysuits and tulle skirts. From the opening pose of women standing still onstage, to the lowering of the curtain as three men carry a ballerina on their shoulders off stage, Serenade was absolutely breathtaking and the perfect end to the performance.
This program by the Miami City Ballet was phenomenal. The dancers were all technically wonderful but also seemed to understand the importance of each piece. These three ballets are all extremely difficult to perform and the Miami City Ballet dancers made them look effortless. My favourite piece of the night was Symphony in Three Movements. This the ballet perfectly exemplifies Balanchine’s neoclassical style. Symphony in Three Movements is quite an intense piece, set to music composed by Igor Stravinsky the movement is complex, physical, and fast paced. Because the piece is plotless the only focus is on the movement itself, this is a lot of pressure to place on a cast of dancers but the Miami City Ballet portrayed Balanchine’s vision extremely well.
George Balanchine’s choreography is extremely important to ballet as a genre. Balanchine redefined ballet and created a transition from classical ballet to what we know as contemporary ballet today. Because of the big role that Balanchine and his choreography played in the shaping of contemporary ballet it is important to educate audiences and studying dancers about his work. Miami City Ballet is doing a brilliant job of keeping Balanchine’s work alive and fresh, breathing new life into classic masterpieces.