Miami City Ballet Shines @ Harris Theater

3 out of 4 stars


On November 8, the Harris Theater celebrated its 15th birthday. It seems hard to remember a time before the Harris’ existence, so reliable are its contributions to Chicago’s performance scene. The Harris was envisioned to be a home for Chicago music and dance companies, but quickly expanded to present high caliber national and international touring artists. One such guest, the Miami City Ballet, graced the Harris stage this weekend with a three-part program.

The first act of the night was its highlight: Concerto Borocco, the classic George Balanchine work that proved plot unnecessary to make a ballet hum. The work makes music visible: two principals (Katia Corronza and Jennifer Lauren) embody the first and second violins of Bach’s Concerto for 2 Violins in D Minor. Balanchine’s choreography is mesmerizing once you free yourself from any urge to impose a story on his abstractions. Like a kaleidoscope, the configuration of limbs is ever changing, constructed with the simple materials of flesh and white leotard. A pas de deux with Reyneris Reyes playfully engages with the corps de ballet—a human knot untangles itself—perfect stillness contrast with precise speed. This is Apollonian beauty: structure, clarity, form.

One Line Drawn is a brand-new, Harris-commissioned piece from Brian Brooks, with a fantastic original score from Michael Gordon. The piece demands to be noticed with its audience-facing wall of lights that makes the dancers look like ghosts wandering in another world (light design by Aaron Copp). The movement is as visceral as Balanchine’s is cerebral: dancers twist like knotted trees in a storm. They emerge from the ghost light in solos and small groups, periodically forming a single file line and breaking out again. I was interested to see what “mixing of gender roles” would occur, as stated in the program, but couldn’t pinpoint anything especially new or experimental here. The men’s and women’s costumes are identical, but the women are still on pointe (why?) I wanted this piece to dig deeper, to find more clarity in what it had to say.

Call me a heathen, but I was disappointed in the final piece, a Twyla Tharp- Jerome Robbins collaboration from 1984. The dancers shined (especially impish Alexander Peters, looking like Peter Pan) but after 40 minutes of unflaggingly pleasant smiles, I craved emotional depth and variety. Like the evening as a whole, the work could be observed, appreciated, and admired, but rarely felt with verve.

Miami City Ballet performs Nov. 8 & 9, 2018 at the Harris Theater (205 E Randolph). Call the box office at 312.334.7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org for tickets and more information.

Susanna is a Teaching Artist with Chicago's finest dance education companies, exposing hundreds of students to the art of dance each year. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Dance from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, where she was awarded the David Wick Prize for Choreography. Susanna enjoys performing, keeping up with the city's performance scenes, and traveling.