Incubator – Miami City Ballet

Miami City Ballet has got a brand new bag. The company made its reputation on high-quality performances of Balanchine, and it has a strong corps, one of the most cohesive in the country. But while it once stuck with proven masterworks and the infrequent commission, it’s also becoming a lab for new works.

Over the past few years, the company has commissioned distinguished ballets by Liam Scarlett, Alexei Ratmansky and now Justin Peck. Each choreographer made similar musical choices – dense symphonies or concertos by 20th century composers – and used the corps de ballet as a large intricate mass, often set off by a soloist or couple: the individual against the group.

“Heatscape,” the new work by Peck, was the centerpiece of the company’s final program of the season. It was a typical Peck ballet – densely packed musical visualization – only better. Peck chose Martinů’s first concerto for piano and orchestra: a long work of changeable moods from manic to lyric, but one that suits Peck’s innate style.

… But now, MCB does more than impeccable Balanchine. Peck, Scarlett and Ratmansky have now done some of their best work in Miami, often better than they do on their home turf. What is the company doing right? The dancers get top credit: they’ve earned it. But let’s look further. Scheduling may be an important factor. In a pre-performance talk, Peck described the process from start to finish as taking nine months. Not all that time is spent rehearsing, but it’s not rehearsal time that’s crucial. MCB scheduled a series of working periods with time off where the choreographers could gestate and edit. They didn’t have to grind the ballet out and slam it onstage. Whatever it’s doing, the company is now one of the best incubators for ballet choreography in the country.

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