by Diana Dunbar
The XXI International Ballet Festival is a harbinger for the upcoming art season in Miami. It’s an exciting opening to the rich cultural events which will occur in the coming months. The festival takes place over two weeks and includes performances by the Medal Winners of the International Youth Ballet Grand Prix, modern and contemporary productions and the Etoiles Grand Classical Gala.
The Festival Gala was a cornucopia of virtuosity and brilliance by companies from Chile, Spain, Mexico, Argentina and more. Choreography included pieces from Marius Petipa to George Balanchine; as well as works by contemporary choreographers. Some of the many highlights of the program came from the Ballet de Santiago (Chile); the Bay Area Houston Ballet and Theater (USA); Uniqart Dance Company (Spain); Corpo di Ballo dil Teatro Di San Carlo (Italy); the Milwaukee Ballet (USA); and the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami (USA).
Ballet de Santiago, under the artistic directorship of the renowned prima ballerina Marcia Haydee, gave a heartfelt rendition of the White Swan pas de deux from ‘Swan Lake’ Act II. Natalia Berrios and Jose Manuel Ghiso beautifully captured the poignancy of Odette and her prince. Natalia bourrées out from the wing with arms fluttering, after the prince spots her, she assumes the vulnerable swan position on the floor, arms long and crossed as if protecting herself from what lies ahead. Her prince guides her as she slowly raises from the floor onto pointe. She poses in attitude, he holds her, as their arms meet in an embrace, as if he is assuring and consoling her. The chemistry is strong between the dancers – we believe they would place their fate in each other’s hand.
Bay Area Houston Ballet and Theater
‘Spring Waters’ performed by Estheysis Menendez and Javier Morales from the Bay Area Houston Ballet and Theater (USA); Nelson Madrigal, artistic director, announced itself with each dancer entering with magnificent grand jetés. This pas de deux emphasised the physicality and seemingly natural athleticism of the dancers. It’s challenging and fast paced, with a daring the ‘fish dive’ for the ballerina and a beautiful one hand lift for the male dancer. It’s pure adrenaline from start to finish and it does not disappoint.
Uniqart Dance Company
The mood of the program shifts with a contemporary piece from the Uniqart Dance Company (Spain). Artistic director Marsha Rodriguez presents choreographer’s Vitali Safronkine ‘Matching Thoughts’ performed to ‘In the Act of Creation’ by Balazs Havasi. The program notes states that “A perfect match is nonexistent. Only thoughts can bring two souls closer in unison.”
In this intriguing work, two men engage in an exploration of a relationship and the rocky path it often takes; it feels like they are in a yin/yang cycle. The balance of power shifts in the form of their movements. Each takes turns supporting the other. Lines or thoughts cross as they struggle to find a meeting point. Safronkine’s composition adds an ominous element; bells are heard, signifying a signal of some sort- good or bad. It leaves us curious, wanting to see more.
Cuban Classical School of Ballet
The International Ballet Festival is the vision of Pedro Pablo Peña who was born in Cuba and performed with the National Ballet of Cuba. He is also the founder and artistic director of the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami – a company with a mission to maintain the beliefs of the Cuban Classical School of Ballet outside of Cuba.
Pablo Peña has received many awards and recognition from the city of Miami. His school has trained many dancers who have gone on to professional careers with leading dance companies around the world.
The company presented two pieces at the Gala, both staged by Eriberto Jimenez, assistant director and coordinator of the Festival and Ballet Master for the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami. Both pieces ‘Bayadere’ pas de deux and ‘Coppelia’ pas de deux were well received by the audience and showed great strength of technique. It was a pleasure watching these dancers do justice to these wonderful works.
Teatro Di San Carlo
Also on the program was a strong performance of ‘Diana and Acteon’ presented by the Corpo Di Ballo dil Teatro Di San Carlo (Italy); with Giuseppe Picone as Artistic director. Dancers Anna Chiara Amirante and Alessandro Staiano gave a bravura interpretation of this demanding pas de deux in one of the most technically difficult pieces of the evening. Diana, with bow in hand, enters the stage with a series of emboîtés. This sets the scene for the huntress and her hunter to display quick turns and breath taking jumps. When Diana releases her arrow we know she hits her mark.
From the Milwaukee Ballet we get a chance to see the incomparable work of George Balanchine as performed by Marize Fumero and Arionel Vargas. Michael Pink, artistic director of the company, trained as a classical dancer at The Royal Ballet before joining the English National Ballet. He has been with the Milwaukee Ballet since 2002 and, from the performance presented at the Gala, has shaped the company into what has been called “Classical ballet for the 21st century.” Balanchine’s ‘Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux’ (first performed in 1960) was aglow with high speed passages, musicality and pure, beautiful lines. The dancers’ execution of Balanchine’s work was exemplary and inspires a trip to Milwaukee to see more of this fine company.
The XXI International Ballet Festival of Miami presented a bounty of quality companies at work today and was all that a Gala should be; a fine display of extraordinary talented performers and bravura – a Gala that sparkles.