Miami City Ballet Sears the Stage With Catalan Dance

Categories: Dance

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Photos courtesy Miami City Ballet.
There are many reasons to rejoice in Miami City Ballet's second program of the season, called "See the Music," but chief among them is this: the company premiere of Nacho Duato's Jardí Tancat. It is a gem, a major addition to the company repertory, and above all it is beautiful.

Flanked by a Balanchine classic as well as by other new and recent works, the program opened at the Arsht Center last weekend, and continues at the Broward Center Jan. 24 to 26 and at the Kravis Center in Palm Beach from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. It's a hit.

Jardí Tancat is the Catalan choreographer's first ballet, created for the Nederlands Dans Theater in 1983. The influence of his mentors Maurice Béjart and Jiří Kylian is a happy one, and Duato's transformation of their theatricality is a miracle. Jardí Tancat may be the epitome of European modern ballet -- barefoot, earthy yet somehow still classical -- but Duato came back home with this one, to his native Valencia in Spain. This is ballet with a Spanish accent.

The dance is set to five Catalan folk songs recorded by Maria del Mar Bonet, a protest singer who defied the Franco regime by singing in her native Catalan, a language forbidden for decades by the fascist dictator. The songs themselves are heartbreaking, from a simple "Water, we asked for water/but God you gave us wind," to a mad woman's lament for a lover lost at sea. Jardí Tancat means "closed garden" in Catalan, and in Duato's garden of life, six barefoot dancers move within barren fence posts upstage, ensembles fluidly changing from solos to duets, from melancholy to improbable joy. Duato's language seems at once ritualized and natural. His steps ring true.

The piece flattered the MCB dancers, who took to it with authority and ease. Emily Bromberg and Andrei Chagas, Leigh-Ann Esty and Chase Swatosh, Leanna Rinaldi and Shimon Ito, all made the most of this chance to expand their art and give back a sense of adventure and truth on stage that are very rare indeed. MCB Director Lourdes López is putting her mark on the company in her first full season as artistic director, and the choice of this ballet so far from the company's comfort zone is a daring and happy one.

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