Villella’s Heroic Homecoming: Miami Burnishes Balanchine

f all the marvelous moments of the company’s final three performances, the greatest—and greatest-hearted—was one of the curtain calls. Tharp,

f all the marvelous moments of the company’s final three performances, the greatest—and greatest-hearted—was one of the curtain calls. Tharp, in the house for the Saturday matinee, watched the program and, unannounced, raced backstage, cast aside her winter coat, shawl and hat, and bounded onstage at the Upper Room curtain in her work boots, jeans and a sweater, her silver ponytail flying. She acknowledged the dancers. They beamed back at her. She curtsied deeply to the audience. Then she marched into the wings and came out again, leading Edward Villella. And there they stood, at City Center, where New York City Ballet used to dance, the Prodigal Son and his feisty little sister.

Behind them, the dancers of the Miami City Ballet, who everywhere reflect, refract and reembody Edward Villella’s virtues, if not his unique charisma and physique. (Some things really are once in a lifetime.) I wish I could name every member of the company, from the most polished of the ballerinas, Mary Carmen Catoya, to the most natural, Jeanette Delgado (one of two beauteous sisters, the other being the radiant Patricia). I can only say that I did what I always wish to do at the ballet: I fell in love, over and over. With bodies fully energized, even when still, and right down to the fingertips. And some with technique to spare, with time enough to phrase, to dilly here and dally there, and still arrive spot on the music.

And dancing that reflects the structure of the choreography—in the Balanchine, and, as it happens, the Tharp—when the choreographer carries the arc of the movement over the musical theme and into variation; when choreographer and music are partners, if you will, and the body shows this.

How? By having the upper body dance with the lower. If the melody is in the feet, the harmony is in the arms; or vice versa. Point, and counterpoint. Nothing arbitrarily decorative in the hands, but the various flourishes that are grace notes. And all in perpetual conversation. Thus an ease settled on the hall, a palpable delight. Everyone felt it. How do I know? From the sighs, from the ovations.

 

Robert Gottlieb, The Observer’s dance critic, is closely involved with the Miami City Ballet, and has therefore recused himself in favor of Nancy Dalva, who has written about dance for The New Yorker, The New York Times and 2wice.

Villella’s Heroic Homecoming: Miami Burnishes Balanchine