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Program II, 31 Oct. - 2 Nov. 2003, Miami Beach, FL


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#1 Jack Reed

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Posted 20 April 2004 - 07:24 PM

On Friday I attended the MCB premieres of two Balanchine ballets, "Ballo della Regina", staged by its original ballerina, Merrill Ashley, and "Stravinsky Violin Concerto", staged by Bart Cook. As soon as the curtain went up on "Ballo", the audience clapped enthusiastically, and justifiably, for the beautiful sight: The four solo girls in lavender and the twelve corps girls in aqua-marine were all in lovely poses, and the sensuously luminous mother-of-pearl backdrop and golden lighting of the original production were all well reproduced before us. Not to mention the rising opening chords of Verdi's happy music.

Catoya performed this reputedly taxing role with an even smoothness, but I wanted something more, some modulation. Then I reflected that this was her debut in "Ballo", and for her to raise this role to this level right off the bat was cause more for cheering than for grumbling. And by Sunday afternoon, what I wanted was starting to happen. And she still danced "as though effort were not involved," said one of my guests, a former singer and dancer with professional experience. (Catoya's partner was Mikhail Ilyin, whose dancing was also effortless; neat, clear, polished, superb.) Saturday evening saw Katia Carranza in the role, also an inflected performance, if not equally strong.

So what had happened? I don't want to take away from what dancers can do on their own, but Merrill Ashley and Bart Cook, who had been in the studio during the week to stage "Ballo" and "Stravinsky Violin Concerto", turned up Saturday evening to give the pre-performance talk in Edward Villella's absence (he went to the Ann Arbor symposium on Balanchine), so Ashley may have worked with the dancers some more on Saturday.

My guest was enthusiastic. After explaining that she saw several groups of Russian dancers on tour in her upstate New York town, she said, "We expect good ballet from Russia, but not from Miami! The Russians are technicians, but this is beautiful!" This kind of thing happens over and over in my experience: I introduce people to good performances of Balanchine, and they're amazed and delighted. While they are not a representative sample of the general population, I still get the feeling there would be much benefit on both sides if only more people knew what was going on here!

"Stravinsky Violin Concerto" was led by Deanna Seay and Kenta Shimizu as the Aria I couple and Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra in Aria II. The tights-and-leotard costuming of this ballet makes it obvious that Seay doesn't have the stereotypical long-legged Balanchine dancer's body; with shorter legs and longer torso, she's, well, more like Karin von Aroldingen, long one of Balanchine's principals, actually, and the originator of this role. So much for that stereotype. And Seay dances it her own way, clearly and subtly articulated, not slurred, within the flow. She makes it all work. No, better: She makes it all live. And her partner, Kenta Shimizu, was excellent, large and clear, just right for the role.

Kronenberg was at least as effective as Kay Mazzo, her role's originator, had been, as far as I was concerned, and her fine partner seemed touched at the end of Aria II by what had happened in that movement. What does happen? At the end, he stands behind her and extends an arm over her shoulder with palm open, as though to show her the world, to which they bow as one; then he brings that hand over her eyes and bends her backward, as though to blind her? So some suggest. In his pre-performance remarks, Villella suggested he blinds her to his anguish; Iliana Lopez, who danced an effectively nuanced performance with Yann Trividic Saturday and Sunday, ventured Sunday that "he covers my eyes not to see the cruelty of the world." My own view is that it's more important to notice things like this and to be struck by them and to wonder a little than it is to get a definite answer, which may not actually be provable. Hints expand in our minds. Less is more.

"Stars and Stripes" Saturday evening was most memorable for Catoya's Fourth Campaign. Watching her strut downstage toward us, swinging her shoulders and grinning, I wondered who was having more fun, her doing it or me watching? Friday and Sunday, with Catoya in "Ballo", Katia Carranza took over, with Luis Serrano; she gave it an excellent, peppy performance, but it was not the grand fun Catoya had with it.

#2 Helene

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Posted 20 April 2004 - 10:42 PM

My guest was enthusiastic.  After explaining that she saw several groups of Russian dancers on tour in her upstate New York town, she said,  "We expect good ballet from Russia, but not from Miami!..."

I envy you for being able to see Miami City Ballet. Since Edward Vilella is there, I expect good ballet from Miami :)

I hope to be able to travel to Miami to see them someday. I'm afraid that for most ballet companies that tour, the Western US has a northern limit of San Francisco.

#3 Justdoit

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Posted 21 April 2004 - 01:24 PM

hockeyfan228, MCB was on tour to your neck of the woods in October of 2001. I believe the venue was a college performing arts center about an hour south of Seattle. They also went to Anchorage on that same tour. Check their web site for touring information. This is often when we get to see them--on tour. In fact, we are going to see them this weekend in Fairfax, Va.

#4 Helene

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Posted 21 April 2004 - 02:17 PM

hockeyfan228, MCB was on tour to your neck of the woods in October of 2001.  I believe the venue was a college performing arts center about an hour south of Seattle.  They also went to Anchorage on that same tour.  Check their web site for touring information.  This is often when we get to see them--on tour.  In fact, we are going to see them this weekend in Fairfax, Va.

Thank you for the information; I'll check their website and hope for a repeat visit. A college an hour south of Seattle sounds like Evergreen in Olympia. I wonder whether the publicity in Seattle was low-key, or I missed the ads because I was away for part of the month.


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