I was mightily impressed by Miami City Ballet at Cal Performances:

“There’s long been plenty of buzz about Miami City Ballet, but usually it follows a certain story line. The company’s artistic director, Edward Villella, is a dance icon replete with a famous, stereotype-busting life tale: scrappy Brooklyn boxer becomes George Balanchine’s greatest male star, known for his athleticism and – as his own program bio now puts it – “virility.”

Then in 1985, two years after Balanchine’s death, Villella goes to Florida and starts building a new company. At a time when many of the leading interpreters of Balanchine’s masterpieces are becoming persona non grata at Balanchine’s own New York City Ballet, Villella brings in those shunned greats, like Suzanne Farrell, to maintain the flame by coaching in Miami. Thus a reputation is born: Though Miami City Ballet might not be quite a world-class company, it’s the place to see Balanchine done with rare spirit.

Turns out this is only half the story. It was no surprise Friday to see the Miamians deliver Balanchine’s stunning milestone of modernism, “Agon,” with verve and bite. Perhaps it should have also been no surprise to discover that the troupe’s verve extends well beyond Balanchine.

The bookends of this program were two hugely contrasting Twyla Tharp ballets, part of the Cal Performances salute to Tharp that continues next week with a visit from American Ballet Theatre, also at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. Tharp’s relentless invention is thrill enough, but the real spectacle was the Miami City Ballet’s nonstop energy and unfailing clarity. If this isn’t world-class dancing, I don’t know what is.”

The rest of the review is here.

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