Ballet offers night to remember

Thursday, April 11, 2002

From the first moment of George Balanchine's "Rubies," when the curtain opened to reveal a long semicircle of dancers glowing in rich red light, to the steamy sensuality of "Mambo No. 2 A.M." to the frenetic finale in a Prohibition-era speakeasy, the Miami City Ballet gave the full house at Rose Theatre Wednesday a night of unforgettable artistry.

The troupe, which will perform this weekend at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, is filled with versatile dancers who switch easily from a neoclassical work such as "Rubies" to one of artistic director Edward Villella's demandingly choreographed forays into the ways cultures move.

"Rubies" is the middle section of Balanchine's "Jewels," a plotless tribute to American jazziness set to Igor Stravinsky's dynamic Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. The necklace in the "Rubies" opening, formed by female and male dances wearing red, jeweled tunics, quickly evolved into a series of movements that were both classical and modern.

'Ballet is woman'

Ballerinas wiggled their hips to flute trills and curved their bodies. "Ballet is woman," Balanchine once famously proclaimed.

In "Mambo No. 2 A.M.," the audience is immersed in a smoky Latin bar where men and women pair off in scintillating combinations. Some dancers only watched from tables at the sides at times, but their movements were still intricately woven into the scene. Each dance added another person, building to the breathless finale, "Que Rico El Mambo."

Keller Ford, a percussionist in the local bands Papa Aborigine and Cape Rock Drive, skillfully played congas on stage during "Mambo," filling between the prerecorded music of each dance within the dance.

A high point was "Historia de un Amor," a darkly atmospheric dance in which Franklin Gamero raised beautiful Iliana Lopez in dramatic lifts and spins that made the audience gasp and applaud.

In the final number, "The Quick-Step: Unspeakable Jazz Must Go!" Villella transported the audience to a speakeasy where women might not be women and men might not be men but everyone dances. Coffee cups and flasks and familiar tunes like "Black Bottom" and "Ain't She Sweet" made it all the easier to get in the swing.

The standing ovation at the end was deserved, both by the Miami City Ballet and Southeast for bringing this extraordinarily experience to the campus.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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