Photo: “I’m Old Fashioned,” Ashley Knox and Renan Cerdeiro, Photo by Carolina Kuras for the Miami City Ballet, 2020
“Old-Fashioned” makes for a uniquely rich and paradoxical term within the context of modern and contemporary dance. For the Miami City Ballet‘s “I’m Old Fashioned,” the new and the old blend together in a multi-sensory display of homage and virtuosity. The center piece of a four-part evening, “I’m Old Fashioned,” was originally choreographed by the famed Jerome Robbins in 1983, in an attempt to pay homage to a number in “You Were Never Lovelier,” a 1942 musical starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth.
The Miami City Ballet takes the Robbins piece and adds a projection of the dance number from the film as a backdrop while its dancers perform on stage, thereby making this a double-homage and a meta-performance in many regards. The brilliant conceit made for a spectacle of joy and play that captured perfectly the feeling of innocence and pleasure that accompanies watching Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth dance their love play.
Featuring Aaron Hilton, Ashley Knox, Alexander Peters, Jordan Elizabeth-Long, Emily Bromberg and Chase Swatosh, “I’m Old Fashioned” is the kind of crowd-pleaser that is usually reserved for the last piece in a night of ballet. To see the night begin with such a powerful and fun dance work raised the bar impeccably high. Seeing the Miami City Ballet’s dancers match Fred and Rita movement for movement, step for step, smile for smile made me think there was this strange kind of postmodern mirroring happening, a form of mimicry as much as homage. Sometimes the line is fine, sometimes the line is crossed…
Fortunately, in the case of this performance, the dancers were able to live up to the impossible grace and elegance of Hayworth and Astaire while adding decidedly cute and refined sentiments to their own work. There was a great deal of cuteness in the sense of innocence embodied in the performance I saw. “Cute” is not necessarily a word or an description you may want to associate with ballet or contemporary dance, particularly in the case of a work by Jerome Robbins. But on this night at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, it is apt.
After a short intermission, the audience was treated to a powerful performance called “This Bitter Earth,” named after the deadly dramatic song by Dina Washington and performed to pristinely painful elegance by Rainer Krenstetter and Emily Bromberg.
In fact, it was Ms. Bromberg who was the undisputed star of this night. With her divinely crafted performance in “This Bitter Earth,” and her sensational interpretation of “I’m Old Fashioned,” Ms. Bromberg was the dancer who made the most impact.
This is not to say that Katia Crranza and Renan Cerdeiro were not equally engaging in their beautiful interpretation of “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux,” the third piece of the night. They were indeed.
As is customary with Miami City Ballet performances, the evening’s concluding program was a large, intricate and ultimately exciting ensemble number called “Symphonic Dances.” Jennifer Lauren and Ashley Knox were standouts in this crowd-pleaser that left everyone in the Broward Center heading home with, one would hope, a sense of delight and magic in their hearts.
The Miami City Ballet’s 2019-2020 season has been nothing if not eclectic. One of the unique traits of the company, directed by Lourdes Lopez, is its ability to bring together classical ballet, modern dance and contemporary dance into a tight and consistent evening of work. This is a difficult feat, as some companies don’t succeed in their attempts to bridge the old and the new. Miami City Ballet is graced with one of the finest company of dancers in the nation. Combine that with the excellent orchestra, particularly Francisco Renne’s piano work, and the superb costume, lighting and set designs, and you get a truly cutting edge, world-class dance company.