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.

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MCB’s Balanchine, Tharp and Alston Come Off Beautifully

Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez’s vision for Miami City Ballet was apparent in the tasteful programming of Saturday’s performance at the Kravis Center, with the de rigueur Balanchine work leading off the evening followed by two company premieres.

Lopez who has been “shopping” for new works that would flatter and challenge the company, has been successful. For Program III: Passion and Grace, she brought a rarely seen contemporary work by avant-garde choreographer Tywla Tharp and a sleek contemporary take on the tale of Carmen by British choreographer Richard Alston. Like Balanchine, both of these dance-makers are known for their extremely musical choreography.

The program, ruled by the Delgado sisters, Patricia and Jeanette, with a welcomed sprinkling of new faces doing lead roles, was appealing, well-balanced and well-danced. The company looked strong and confident. The Opus One Orchestra played with gusto and aplomb and the production values were polished and refined.

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A Contemporary Take on the Classic Carmen

A high-intensity drama about spirited Spaniards seems like such a good fit for Miami City Ballet, you’d think company artistic director Lourdes Lopez ran out looking for Carmen. But in a way it was Carmen that came to her.

As the centerpiece of MCB’s third program of the season, this story ballet by contemporary British choreographer Richard Alston has all the elements to give it prominence in the troupe’s repertoire. And, luckily for the choreographer, MCB has the craft and personalities from corps to principals — with force, speed, flair — to offer Carmen interpretive luxury in its first artistic home in America.

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Miami City Ballet to present ‘Carmen’

Miami City Ballet dancer Jeanette Delgado is not someone you’d tend to overlook, but she’s taking no chances on this steamy August afternoon. She steps challengingly to the front of the company’s studios — then stomps in defiance, planting her hands on out-thrust hips; inviting, no, demanding that we pay attention.

“This is when you go hello Miami!” smiles choreographer Richard Alston.

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