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Neighborhood Ballroom by Miami City Ballet - Review

Guest after5

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Guest after5

On Saturday, 4/12/2003, Miami City Ballet performed a new ballet by Edward Villella called "Neighborhood Ballroom" at the Broward Center for Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. It is a four act ballet set to contemporary music of four decades spanning World War I and World War 2. It was a wonderful evening filled with sensual dancing, spectacular technique, elaborate costumes and just plain old entertainment. I was a little skeptical about watching a four act ballroom ballet, especially since I am a bun head to the bone, but Mr. Villella replaced my skepticism with awe.

The four acts of ballet follow a poet through his rise from anonymity of youth to the professional success of his mature years. In each act, he is enamored with a woman of the decade who, personifies the times and who, in turns, loves him and leaves him, and removes him that much farther from his muse of poetry.

Throughout the ballet, the muse of poetry, Deanna Seay, tries to reach the poet, but with each passing act, he moves farther and farther away from her.

The first act, "The Waltz: Our Lady of Oblivion" was danced by Yann Trividic and Michelle Merrell, supported by the company. Trividic, with his romantically good looks and nice line, is a perfect choice for the dreamy young poet. He is so naive and vulnerable, that I wanted to shout at him to run when Merrell shows up as the seductress. She is all woman, confident of her sexuality and not inhibited by the social norms. At one point, she partners Trividic, and he crumbles to the floor wrapped around her. Of course, she leaves him confused, and chips away a piece of his ideals.

The second act, "The Quick Step: Unspeakable Jazz Must Go", finds our poet during prohibition. He is starting to build a name for himself, and he walks into the neighborhood ballroom full of youthful confidence. Soon, flirtatious flapper, Maria Carmen Catoya, catches his eye and he surrenders to her. This act has some very interesting supporting characters. There are two men in drag, who reminded me of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in "Some like it hot", and they drew a few chuckles from the audience. There was also a trio in black tuxedos, two women with a man. All this is suggesting the experimental nature of Jazz Age.

In the third act, "The Foxtrot: Dancing in the Dark", the poet falls for a cool as ice movie diva, Jennifer Kronenberg. She teases him and bides her time while waiting for her lover, the pilot. The poet and the diva dance a very romantic pas de deux with spectacular lifts. Luis Serrano shows a great comedic ability as one of the three smokers. And his technique is right there with his comedic ability.

The fourth act, "The Mambo: Mambo No. 2 a.m." starts with the poet as an older man, who no longer can draw women to him with just his looks. The femme fatale of this act is the hot mambo dancer, Iliana Lopez. She is flattered by the attention the poet shows her, but she is clearly much more interested in her mambo partner, Franklin Gamero. The pas de deux they dance made sizzling noises in the auditorium. This act is filled with good music accompanied by a conga player. The poet reminds me of the dying swan, he tries to live up to the role of the bohemian, but he is too old, and cannot keep up anymore.

In the Epilogue, "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road), the poet is in the pool of light surrounded by his women. They each dance a few steps with him and leave him, again. The last one is his long lost muse. She bids him goodbye and he is left alone once again, one last time. At this point I was fighting the tears back, the same tears I did not let out last year at the end of first act of Giselle.

I must say I loved this ballet. The company danced so well, they were really on. The choreography is fantastic. Mr. Villella consulted ballroom experts, but this ballet is much more than just plain ballroom. The male and female dancing parts are equally matched in both technique and the quality of steps. All the characters are well developed. The costumes are wonderful. I think MCB has a nice touring ballet to offer. Audiences nervous about sitting through a lengthy white ballet may just be drawn to this one.

If you have an opportunity to see MCB performs this ballet in your area, I think you will greatly enjoy it.

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Thanks for the report, after5! The Neighborhood Ballroom has grown in pieces; I saw an earlier version of the Mambo act at SUNY Purchase about 2 years ago when MCB visited the area. I'm glad you reported on it to us - I noticed your last review was on a performance at Harid a while back, so please tell us what you see more often!

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