Review: Richard Alston’s ‘Carmen’ in Fort Lauderdale

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Richard Alston’s one-act “Carmen,” recently performed by Miami City Ballet at the Broward Center here, is the best “Carmen” ballet I’ve seen. That is less a compliment than it sounds: Most “Carmen” ballets are clunkily melodramatic and choreographically dismal.

This one, made for the Scottish Ballet in 2009, has its faults and problems, too. It uses Rodion Shchedrin’s arch arrangement of Bizet’s highlights (including two numbers from “L’Arlésienne”), for strings and percussion; and it follows the basic gist of the Shchedrin ballet (originally choreographed by Alberto Alonso) in retelling “Carmen” as a tale about four people — Carmen, her rival lovers José and Escamillo, and a female Fate figure (who here is scaled down into the Fortuneteller). Its virtues, though, both make it rare among “Carmen” ballets and add to your knowledge of Miami City Ballet’s excellent dancers.

The title role proves a handsome vehicle for Patricia or Jeanette Delgado, depending on which performance you see. (I watched performances on Saturday and Sunday.) These sisters, this company’s most winning dancers, epitomize its elegant sunniness. Though they share dark hair and eyes, memorably large dimples and effortless personal allure, their interpretations differ: Jeanette (the shorter) is the more fiery and explosive Carmen, Patricia the more fascinatingly dignified. Even when you’ve seen thousands of pirouettes, Jeanette’s multiple turns on point (arms raised “en couronne” and wonderfully arched) are especially heart-catching, while Patricia’s supererect posture and the turns of her head raise the “Carmen” temperature.

The finest choreography, however, is for the men, notably Corporal Don José and Escamillo, the Toreador. As soon as José (Jovani Furlan or Chase Swatosh) enters, to a highly syncopated version of his “Dragons d’Alcala” tune, the music’s metric play stimulates Mr. Alston’s gift for rhythm; José pounces keenly onto one beat and hovers in a momentary balance on another…

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