Jardí Tancat is the Catalan choreographer's first ballet, created for the Nederlands Dans Theater in 1983. The influence of his mentors, Maurice Béjart and Jirí Kylian, is a happy one, and Duato's transformation of their theatricality is a miracle. Jardí Tancat may be the epitome of European modern ballet — barefoot, earthy, yet somehow still classical — but Duato came back home with this one, to his native Valencia in Spain. This is ballet with a Spanish accent.
The dance is set to five Catalan folk songs recorded by Maria del Mar Bonet, a protest singer who defied the Franco regime by singing in her native Catalan, a language forbidden for decades by the fascist dictator. The songs themselves are heartbreaking, from a simple "Water, we asked for water/but God you gave us wind" to a madwoman's lament for a lover lost at sea. Jardí Tancat means "closed garden" in Catalan, and in Duato's garden of life, six barefoot dancers move within barren fence posts upstage, ensembles fluidly changing from solos to duets, from melancholy to improbable joy. Duato's language seems at once ritualized and natural. His steps ring true.
The piece flattered the MCB dancers, who took to it with authority and ease. Emily Bromberg and Andrei Chagas, Leigh-Ann Esty and Chase Swatosh, Leanna Rinaldi and Shimon Ito all give back a sense of adventure and truth onstage that is rare indeed. MCB director Lourdes López is putting her mark on the company in her first full season as artistic director, and the choice of this ballet so far from the company's comfort zone is daring and happy.
The rest was fine, often more. The Miamians' version of George Balanchine's Concerto Barocco is delicious. Justin Peck's 2013 Chutes and Ladders, introduced here last season, is a little hothouse flower of Balanchinean neoclassicism. Alexei Ratmansky's rambunctious 2012 Symphonic Dances showed off the whole company in style and closed the program with a smile.
Octavio Roca writes for artburstmiami.com.