Posted April 26, 2016
By SOPHIE BARROS
From the last tier of the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Arsht Center, spectators can see the pit and hear the orchestra warm up its string and wind instruments. The chaos of melodic sounds would soon merge into one soothing song and the curtains would open to reveal a cave-like set, illuminated by blue lights that would transport the audience into the dreamlike world of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
On a weekend when Ultra Music Festival and the Miami Heat took center stage in downtown Miami, the Miami City Ballet’s (MCB) adaptation of the classic Shakespearean comedy premiered on March 18 in Miami’s luxurious Ziff Ballet Opera House, a part of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami.
The company’s performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was inspired by the work of renowned ballet choreographer George Balanchine, who adapted Shakespeare’s play in 1962. Balanchine’s production, which starred New York City Ballet prodigy and MCB co-founder Edward Villella, was brought to life once again by Miami City Ballet, and truly allowed spectators to plunge into a beautiful world of mystical creatures and romance.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is the story of two pairs of lovers that are manipulated in the supernatural world of fairies and other woodland creatures. The comedy, believed to be written by Shakespeare in the 1590s, has become a classic of literature, much like all of the writer’s work. After countless performances throughout the centuries, Balanchine broke the mold by spearheading the first ballet adaptation.
MCB’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” may have featured Balanchine’s choreography, but the company made the performance unique to the South Florida region by placing Shakespeare’s magical story in the deepness of the oceans, where the mystical and the unknown are a possibility.
MCB was founded in 1985 and is today one of the largest ballet companies in the country. The company is currently led by Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez, a Cuban-American dancer and teacher who danced under Balanchine as a principal dancer for New York City Ballet and then moved on to serve as executive director of the George Balanchine Foundation.
MCB features more than 45 dancers from all over the globe and performs more than 100 times every year. Now on its 30th anniversary season, MCB brought everything to the table with performances like “The Nutcracker” and “Swan Lake”.
The masterminds behind the aquatic rendition of Shakespeare’s work are Miami natives Michelle Oka-Doner and Tarell Alvin McCraney. Oka-Doner’s artistic vision brought the sea to the performers’ costumes and the set, which incorporated a translucent scrim to enhance the “under-water” effect.
McCraney’s dramatic direction brought a gist of comedy to the ballet, which proved to be a lot more than just a dance; it was truly a theatrical performance. Having two Miami natives adapt Balanchine’s work to reflect their hometown’s waterways made the performance unique to the South Florida community.
The performance surely lived up to Lopez’s promise of transporting the audience. The ensemble delivered the show of a lifetime as the dancers pirouetted and glided through the stage while still making the audience chuckle at Puck’s (a jokester servant) misfortunate adventures and at Bottom’s (a peasant actor) transformation into a manatee, rather than the traditional donkey.
The dancers’ spectacular lines and movements were accompanied by beautiful and almost otherworldly music by the Opus One Orchestra. The score was accompanied by six singers, whose ethereal voices beautifully complemented the dancers’ movements on stage in two of the many songs performed.
Another impressive aspect of the performance was the dancers’ acting, something that can be overlooked in dance routines but that makes a difference to the general ambiance of a number. Puck brought the comedic relief he brings in Shakespeare’s written play and the love and affection between the main couples was clearly visible from their body language and unbreakable eye contact.
When the couples danced on stage, it was as if nobody was there but them. They brought the audience to such complete silence that even the tiny thuds of ballerinas’ pointed slippers would echo through the tiers of the opera house.
Visually, the set design and costumes truly contributed to MCB’s marine concept, incorporating coral crowns, seashell thrones and seaweed skirts that fused perfectly with the deep blue background and the seafoam green lights. With every twist and twirl, fairies and mortals exhaled pure magic.
Each of the pieces of the puzzle, from the costumes to the music to the pas de deux, fit seamlessly together. The dreamlike performance was the perfect way to end MCB’s season in celebration of three decades of beautiful work.
- Performance Name: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
- Dance Company: Miami City Ballet
- Location: Ziff Ballet Opera House
- Dates: March 18 to March 20, 2016
- Future Performances: April 1 to April 3, 2016 – Kravis Center for the Performing Arts – 701 Okeechobee Boulevard, West Palm Beach, Fla. 33401; April 9 and April 10, 2016 – Broward Center for the Performing Arts – 201 SW 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 33312
- Tickets Prices: $20-$200
- Website: www.miamicityballet.org
- Phone Number: 305-929-7000
- Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 stars