Choreographer Liam Scarlett did everything but dance in his own new ballet, "Euphotic," the centerpiece of the Miami City Ballet performance here Tuesday. He designed the white-hemmed, ocean-toned costumes and set as well as creating the three-section dance.
That doesn't mean Balanchine doesn't still rule at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, however.
The lion's share of the nearly 2½-hour evening went to Balanchine's Divertimento No. 15, danced lithely in white-and-silver tutus to Mozart, and Duo Concertant, a strong brew of the same name as its Stravinsky music. For good reason: The Miami City Ballet has a bloodline that starts with founder Edward Villella's years dancing for Balanchine.
That includes kicks so straight you could measure fabric on them and a sense of upper body fluidity that never betrays the relentless hard work underneath. The Divertimento is buttressed by a corps of eight ballerinas who dance their own interwoven ensemble moments with grace and polish.
But then a quintet of females comes fluttering in for solos en pointe, in amazingly centered leaps and gorgeously demanding routines In the Balanchine style to hammer symmetry from a jagged rock, there are three males working their way through this group. At one point, the signature Balanchine sense of humor emerges as one of the men swings his partner to fling her offstage as another dashes in to complete the turn.
Likewise, Patricia Delgado coyly refuses her partner's arm in the Duo Concertant, a brief breath of fun in an otherwise increasingly complex series of movements. Its partner twists seem impossible in deconstruction, but so natural with Renan Cerdeiro and Delgado dancing them. The pair take in snatches of the Concertant and then proceed to join its rambling violin and piano flight in their own fanciful world of lifts, kicks and interwoven steps.
It's powered — luckily for us — by the piano of Franciso Renno and the violin of Naples Philharmonic concertmaster Glenn Basham. This work, written in 1931, was particularly rewarding to experience after watching the Stravinsky/Vaslav Nijinsky mold-breaker "Rite of Spring" (1913) danced by the Joffrey here Jan. 14. Quantum leap is too subtle a way to characterize both music and choreography.
For the classicists, there was the Pas de Deux from "Don Quixote," a showpiece from the 19th-century wizard Petipa, probably one of the top five pas de deux in the ballet repertoire. Mary Carmen Catoya and Renato Penteado confounded gravity Tuesday with dozen-pirouette fillips, huge barrel leaps, cabriolets and diagonal jumps with single-foot landings. They do flamboyant justice to Haydee Morales' sparkling black costumes sprinkled with roses.
Then, at last, there was "Euphotic," the new work Scarlett choreographed for the company to Lowell Leibermann's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2. "Euphotic" is meant, Scarlett has said, to follow "Viscera," which he choreographed for this same company last year. This one is brighter in tone, thanks in part to Scarlett's ombred stage panels that shift from blue to gold, and in brighter, sun-yellow costumes for the principals — on Tuesday, Jeanette Delgado and Kieber Rebello.
It also has the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, with the ballet's Francisco Renno as soloist and Gary Sheldon conducting; all of them turning in strong performances that stand on their own.
"Euphotic" refers to the topmost portion of a body of water, the segment through which the sun can filter down to stimulate growth. Fittingly, this work begins with an ensemble scattered in silhouette, on their knees, suggesting the plankton of such an atmosphere.
The first movement, however, belonged to Delgado and Rebello, moving from — a bit too long, we felt — their facing positions into a pas de deux. As they danced, the ensemble floated by, and through: It was a harbinger of wonderful things to come.
The middle section, however, seemed more an extended parsing of the first, this time with an assist in gold-fronted blue from Sara Esty, who dances as a catalyst to the rest of the group. It's all beautiful work, but seems a bit less formed in the middle than at either of its full ensemble ends.
We would like the chance to change our minds about that.
This work bears repeating, and there's no company better to define its potential reach than the one in Naples this week.
Harriet Howard Heithaus writes about classical music and dance for the Naples Daily News.