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Program IV, March 12-14, 2004, Gleason Theatre

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#1 Jack Reed

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Posted 13 March 2004 - 02:34 PM

(from Miami Beach, Florida) Program IV consists of company premiers of Balanchine's "Symphony in C" and of Twyla Tharp's "Nine Sinatra Songs" and a repeat of Balanchine's "Diamonds" from "Jewels". The first and last ballets, big-cast, white-costume, 19th-Century style ballets, are being performed with the Florida Classical Orchestra, conducted by Clotilde Otranto.

Before the performance, Edward Villella gave us a collage of what he got from Twyla Tharp the day before - she had come down from New York Wednesday for the last two days of rehearsals, conducted by Elaine Kudo - in response to his question, What do you want me to say about your ballet, if anything? Here's my version: It's about love, American love, people who don't know each other very well, people who do know each other very well, uncertainty, awareness, accumulation results in a fiftieth anniversary dance, the duets are dialogue,we feel the vocalist's breathing and phrasing, almost incestuous intimacy, innocence and seduction, splitting and coming back, leaving to find, "My Way" younger first time, comfort, stability, committment and trust, the exhibition couple, about competition, immediacy, about not minding a good fight, a faux fight, give as well as you take, "My Way" not egocentric, looking at one's entire life, same circumstances in every period, in every relationship, it's not a period piece, beyond.

Got that, everybody? You do? You're smarter than I am...

I hope to post more later. Meanwhile, anyone else who was there, feel free to join in, as always.

Edited by Jack Reed, 20 March 2004 - 06:18 PM.

#2 Jack Reed

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 12:09 PM

Friday night, the first movement of "Symphony in C" with Deanna Seay and Mikhail Ilyin's clarity of nuance was a complete and satisfying little ballet in itself, while Jennifer Kronenberg's second movement, with Carlos Guerra's able partnering, seemed to me a little - inconsistent: Phrase ends sometimes looked snapped, arm movements sometimes looked whipped, for a little over-emphasis. But it was always clearly, neatly shown - I've seen much less "pure" second movements, and crystalline purity is what it needs. I always look forward to Kronenberg's dancing, but maybe this has come more from my experience of her in "leotard" ballets. This was her debut in the role, and the company's premiere, and I regretted that I would probably not see her do it again during my stay.

But the Catoya phenom led the third movement, and she was so perfect for it, with her quick, light energy, that I quickly forgot my quibbles about Kronenberg. Catoya's excellent partner was Renato Penteado, about a perfect match, whose solo got a deserved hand. (Not that there's an instant for him to "take" applause or even to look at us; he goes immediately toward the back to partner her down the diagonal.) And Katia Carranza and Luis Serrano led the fourth movement so ably I only wished there were a little more of it.

Saturday evening, Catoya and Penteado delicately energized the first movement, with luminous effect; Seay showed a fully realized, burnished performance of the second movement with Yann Trividic who looked, so help me, absent-minded, although I think he managed to be an adequate partner except in a couple of her turns. Still, it was a rich experience. Katia Carranza led a very satisfying third movement, with Ilyin, which suffered from following Catoya's by only a day; and Joan Latham, ranked with the soloists and corps in the full company list, led a fine fourth movement with Didier Bramaz.

And Sunday, I got my wish, and saw Kronenberg's second movement again, and liked it better still. Part of this is that, while she doesn't seem to be unusually tall when she stands with the others, she is one of those who seems to grow when she moves, and even to affect the air around her, and so to have larger effect, and part of it was that familiarity helped me past what I had reservations about. Catoya did not dance all afternoon; Tricia Albertson, also ranked with the soloists and corps, was cast in the third movement, with Penteado, and "merely" showed why this movement belongs in this great ballet.

Clotilde Otranto, conducting a group called the Florida Classical Orchestra according to the cast list if not the Miami Herald, had the score's inner voices singing out and generally imbued it with life.

After intermission, Twyla Tharp's "Nine Sinatra Songs", which is already playful in the title, since there are eight songs used, "My Way" coming both fourth and ninth, if in different arrangements. I've had occasion to notice that, in contrast to some operatic tenors, who sweat to impress with voice power, Sinatra pleases with his evident love of just this song now, which he is delighted to sing for us, and the few buzzy notes, which could have been edited out, only add to the directness and authenticity of his performances. And I liked Oscar de la Renta's costumes, especially the dark-blue dress, with sequins or something above the waist and on the sash, which suited Deanna Seay so well, and the red one with winding ruffles on
Charlene Cohen. Why am I talking about these aspects, and not the dancing? Okay, I'm procrastinating. The quality of it rose and fell, and never was it sufficiently reckless to look dangerous. (The famous ending to "That's Life" was demonstrated; no uproar.) A number of gaggy bits came off, but I thought Sinatra and de la Renta were the unusually prominent entertainers here.

Villella frequently supplements or complements the Balanchine repertory that mainly draws me with tasteful choices from other choreographers. There's been Taylor (and there'll be more), then "Giselle", now Tharp, and next year, Robbins (this is another topic), and I like the idea and the choices, except that the performances may be a lot less effective than those of the companies the choreographers worked with. But his audience wouldn't be introduced to much of this otherwise, and some of them may like some change from the symphonic repertory too, so, who cares?

Then "Diamonds," to conclude. All three performances were led by Ileana Lopez and Franklin Gamero, and they were in series with the masterful ones I saw in Naples. When they meet on the diagonal in the pas de deux, each is looking away from the other, but their raised hands join as surely as though they belonged to the same person; then they meet on the other diagonal, and it happens again. But it was not the same perfected performance all the time. Sometimes Lopez took a balance longer than at other times, sometimes she turned her head grandly at the end of the pas de deux in such a way as to acknowledge Gamero's kiss on her hand, sometimes suddenly as to express surprise, and other such fine detail changes, which showed these were not routine but fresh performances. One who had seen five in a week's time could only feel not bored but fortunate. In the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon ones, Carlos Guerra substituted for Gamero in the second Scherzo (only), giving larger and more energetic performances than Gamero had but ones with somewhat less finesse.

The two large-cast ballets were danced with corps of such vibrancy, it almost had me thinking these are corps ballets, but of course they are "everybody" ballets. What a corps, though! What a company! Wait a minute, the names of the corps dancers in the program don't match up exactly with those in the cast sheets: In "Symphony in C," there were six strangers out of fifteen, and in "Diamonds", nine out of twenty-four. I was told that by the end of the season, minor injuries had thinned the ranks of the corps and that they had been replaced by students from the company's school. They all danced together with just those small differences of form and timing - no waves going up and down the lines - that make us aware they are living individuals, not elements in an optical effect or a computer simulation. No cadets! Dancers!

Otranto is right to have the winds sing forth in the Tchaikovsky, though maybe not to the point of bassoon obligato early in the first movement; but overall, it's great to have an orchestra here again.

And then at the end, there were the curtain calls. As Lopez walked alone along the flower-strewn apron to thank the fans who had crowded to the front of the house, she began to lose her composure, but coming out yet again with her husband and partner Gamero at her side this time, she looked reassured and restored.

#3 rkoretzky


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Posted 24 March 2004 - 12:17 PM

Jack, does Edward Villela still give pre-pref talks before every performance during the South Florida season? I saw MCB in Giselle in Naples last month, and was very happy with the ballet, but very unhappy to be told that Eddie no longer does the talks. To my mind, that was one of the wonderful things about MCB that set them apart from so many other companies--the concept of the AD personally introducing each program, taking questions from the audience, etc.

And I just re-read your post: which Robbins is MCB adding next season?

#4 leibling


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Posted 24 March 2004 - 12:59 PM

Edward still speaks before every performance when he is in town... but in the case of Naples, the pre-performance talks have, for some reason, been discontinued. Lately, on the east coast of Florida, though, when Edward has been unavailable to speak, Iliana Laopez has been sent out front.
Regarding the Robbins for next year- it currently consists of Afternoon of a Faun, and Fancy Free.

#5 Jack Reed

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 01:06 PM

As far as I know, Villella speaks to the audience before every performance MCB produces in south Florida, in other words, in Miami Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach; but they are hired into Naples by the Naples Philharmonic Society. It would be a little sad to think they don't want him. Do you mean he used to speak there, too?

Last fall, he was unavailable for a performance in Miami Beach because he was participating in a symposium on Balanchine in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and he was subbed for by - wait for it - Bart Cook and Merrill Ashley, who were in town to stage "Stravinsky Violin Concerto" and "Ballo della Regina". (One of the reasons we go repeatedly is that we never know for sure what's going to happen, right?)

#6 Jack Reed

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 01:12 PM

Actually, my notes for March 5 have him mentioning "Other Dances" as well. Of course, it's a long time yet, and the schedule has changed in the past, so I have taken the liberty of starting another topic for next season's repertory.

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