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Divertimento 15, Reassuring Effects..., Piazolla..Program I, November 5, 2004


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#1 Jack Reed

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Posted 06 November 2004 - 01:37 PM

(from Miami Beach, Florida) Last night's program in the Jackie Gleason Theatre led off with a performance of one of Balanchine's great masterpieces, Divertimento No. 15, that was excellent right through - flawless and not "perfect," too -"perfect is boring", and there was not a routine or boring moment anywhere in this - this cast shines with genuineness and individuality. It was led by Mary Carmen Catoya, whose flashing quick legs and feet in Variation VI revealed the allegro details almost as though by a stroboscope, and she showed us she can mold and modulate phrase in moderate tempo, too! The end of the variation is choreographed with outstretched arms, palms up, but this gesture seeemed, from her, to be a personal remark: "There you are!" Jennifer Kronenberg's Variation III was distinctively fresh and true at the same time - not idiosyncratic but a re-creation. Renato Penteado's Variation V was superbly clear and masterfully realized. Not to slight the others by mere mention, they were Patricia Delgado, Tricia Albertson, and Katia Carranza. The other two boys were Jeremy Cox and Didier Bramaz, and all five greatly distinguished themselves in the great Andante.

If this performance was just slightly subdued compared to some of many years ago, it was neverthelesss vivid and glowing, richly rewarding to see, on such a high level, it left me pleasantly a little unhinged during the intermission: I really wanted to remain in its world awhile longer.

Instead, we got Trey McIntyre's new The Reassuring Effects of Form and Poetry as the program resumed. I did not find it reassuring, and a man behind me remarked to his companions afterward that "Something's missing". McIntyre had invented pointlessly and endlessly tricky choreography to Dvorak's direct and straightforwardly flowing e-minor Serenade for Strings. What seemed to me to be missing was motivation deriving in some way from the music, as had been happening for a heavenly near half-hour before intermission. And the new ballet suffered too by another comparison, in that it sometimes lacks Balanchine's "luminous spacing" (Denby's phrase) which gives us "more" by lettting us see the dancers consistently, though I must say I have seen much worse examples of clumping dancers together than I did in this piece. I hope the dancers enjoy the challenge of executing the tricky bits with apparent ease. At least, the way they look in it is always somewhere on the scale from fine to beautiful.

The program ended with another masterpiece - or so it looked by that time - from a lesser master, Paul Taylor, Piazzolla Caldera. I guess it's nearly inevitable that when Taylor is danced by dancers other than his, whom as it happens I had seen just a couple of weeks ago, although not in this, the effect is a little less: Taylor's dancers have more powers fully to realize what they do, and they are more into the floor while MCB's ballet dancers are lighter and more held up.

Regardless, it was a satisfying performance of a superb piece, and was well led off right at the start by Carlos Guerra, downstage center, whose quality of movement seems to enlarge him and gives what he does throughout much of the increased effectiveness it neeeds. For me, the high point comes in the late section titled "Celos", in which Kronenberg dances with Guerra, Cox, and Luis Serrrano. In this, as in some earlier numbers, one way Taylor's mastery is manifest is by his having dancers crawling on each other or closely hooked together, and yet remaining articulated individuals. No thick clumps here.

When I saw Taylor's company dance Piazzolla Caldera near Chicago a few years ago, I wondered whether Edward Villella would consider it for MCB. Thank you, Edward. And for that intoxicating Divertimento No. 15, thank you, God.

Edited by Jack Reed, 14 December 2004 - 12:31 PM.


#2 Jack Reed

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Posted 07 November 2004 - 02:23 PM

(from Miami Beach, Florida) Attention must be paid to Deanna Seay's performance in Divertimento No. 15 Saturday evening. Her luscious, langorous phrasing should put her behind the music right away, but it never happens: She gives more in the same time - the music is recorded - by spinning out the phrases and linking them into larger, supple, long-arching ones, as though for her, her entire time out from the wing were one phrase. This gives quite different cumulative effect from the crisp and sharp presentation of detail within phrase of Catoya Friday night and Carranza this afternoon, and I feel really fortunate in not having to choose among them - I could have them all. Overall, Saturday's and Sunday's Divertimentos were not the intoxicating experience Friday night's was, but Seay's literally fascinating performance - you could not look away - she seemed to infuse the space around her with some kind of compelling energy - was more than enough compensation.

Nothing like second and third looks at The Reassuring Effects of Form and Poetry from better seats to clarify it to some extent at least, though clarification of its motivation in the music still seems to me to be missing. In pre-performance remarks, Edward Villella said McIntyre wanted to make something "uplifting", so maybe I'm listening in the wrong place for motivation. "Uplifting" seems like a stretch to me, but the ballet is certainly upbeat, and watching it - or rather, watching the dancers in it - makes me happy, now that on third viewing I ignore that the music and the ballet proceed along parallel tracks, frequently coordinated to be sure - let Dvorak strike a high or loud chord, and someone's limb or body will go up or out - but without much other causal connection. Nothing looks inevitable, when you've seen it, versus the masterworks opening and closing the program. So, for me, not enough musical motivation and an abundance of busy, fussy movement, all executed, by all casts, superbly, with utter mastery.

And from better seats, the dancers look all the better. The audience (which pretty well fills the main floor, BTW, the upstairs seats being invisible from below) doesn't seem to share my reservations, and many people are on their feet to clap at the end. Dancers busy looking fabulous is by no means nothing.

The crowd loves Piazzolla Caldera too, especially Saturday night. I enjoyed it even more from a better distance, and although these are ballet dancers, this is not Taylor "lite": The effect is powerful as it goes along, the audience starting to applaud prematurely sometimes, and falling silent - even the matinee crowd - as Taylor moves on, carrying us with him. Through these superb dancers, he has us in his grip, and he does not release us until the end. If it's not quite the equal of his own dancers' effect, when do they come to Miami? Miami should feel grateful, and MCB should feel proud.

Edited by Jack Reed, 14 December 2004 - 12:36 PM.


#3 flipsy

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 07:52 AM

I saw Friday and Saturday night's performances, and wouldn't really disagree with any of Jack's insights. But here's my own take, composed in the air on the way back to NY.

Someone once wrote that Balanchine's Divertimento #15 was like cut glass, and that's the way it looked when MCB opened their fall season with it at the Jackie Gleason Theatre. The ballet seemed to be an essay in angles and directions, with quick turns revealing different aspects of the body in motion, especially the diagonal shapes. The dancers were ready for it, always on time and nearly always in the perfect shape, giving the audience a collection of crystal clear pictures to flow along with Mozart's transparent score, adding depth and dimension to the music. Among the most sparkling images of the Friday and Saturday performances were Haiyan Wu's extensions and Mary Carmen Catoya's turns, and the leaping turns of Mikhail Nikitine in the male solo. Jeanette Delgado's high-arching limbs were tops in the corps.

After this elegant curtain-raiser, the company got down and dirty with Trey McIntyre's Reassuring Effects of Form and Poetry, and Paul Taylor's Piazzola Caldera. Reassuring Effects is a wild scramble for four men and four women to a Dvorak serenade, with lots of crazy lifts and falls, crotch-flashing and even one instance of apparent crotch-grabbing. But it's all done in a spirit of fun, even a repeated exit where the men drag the women off the stage, cave-man style. I saw it twice and liked it better the second time. The first night it struck me as the perfect Miami ballet, all speed and flesh and color, a dazzler without much depth. The second time I was able to see more, including maybe a hint of reality in the relationships. The remarkable MCB dancers are able to dance at a torrid pace without looking frenetic. And they are always dancing with each other. Andrea Spiridonakos stood out as ideal for this kind of thing, with her long limbs and in-your-face gestures.

Piazzola Caldera is a series of sexy tangos in a bordello bar, with a divertissement for two falling-down male drunks. Jennifer Kronenberg took on three guys, including the two drunks, and they all wound up under the table. Kronenberg combines subtropical sizzle with continental angst, a potent package. Another temptress was Charlene Cohen, an eccentric floozy with a big red rose in her hair. This was hot stuff, but once again in a spirit of fun.

Edward Villella made his presence felt in every way, from the mix of the program to his own personal appearances -- a pre-show talk from the stage, and after the show, standing at the door with his wife Linda to shake hands with patrons and ordinary folk alike. What would Miami be without him? Let's hope that question doesn't need an answer for many years.

Edited by flipsy, 09 November 2004 - 07:07 PM.


#4 Jack Reed

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 01:35 PM

Thanks, flipsy, for sharing your take on the performances. Reading it helped to bring it all back again, with a sense that it really had taken place, and that my mind wasn't playing tricks. Not entirely, anyway. (I willingly submit at least partially to the magic of good dancing.) And I was glad to read a more concise and focused account than my own.

#5 Justdoit

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 08:34 PM

Got back from Miami last night and still do not have time to write about the 3 performances I saw at The JGT this past weekend, but am anxious to do so since I actually was one of the audience members standing after the Trey McIntyre piece and didn't particularly like the Paul Taylor piece until Sunday afternoon. I will write more later this week when I have alittle more time.

#6 Justdoit

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Posted 14 November 2004 - 06:59 PM

Alittle late to be posting about last weekend's performances at the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach. However, the company just completed their final weekend of the same program at the Kravis theater in West Palm Beach this weekend. Perhaps someone who attended in West Palm would like to add their impressions to this thread.

I did see all 3 performances at the JGT. I though the program an odd mix of Balanchine classicism in "Divertimento No. 15," with Trey McIntyre's, push-it-to-the-limit, "Reassuring Effects of Form and Poetry" and Taylor's contemporary "Piazzolla Caldera." BUT, when it was all over I liked it and so seemed to be the reaction of three different audiences.

Divert was danced very well with my favorite being Deanna Seay. Katia Carranza, who did Seay's part at Sunday's matinee was a close second. Both commanded the stage with beautiful lines and phrasing. I was wondering why Haiyun Wu, also a principal, who was perfection in her variation, was not performing the lead. Perhaps she did so in Kravis this weekend? "Cut glass," is a wonderful analogy when thinking of this Balanchine masterpiece. I would agree with Flipsy that MCB was up to the challenge.

McIntyre's REFP was a special treat for me each performance. I agree it is impossible to know if the three standing ovations (for a ballet in the middle of the program) I experienced were in appreciation of the eight highly trained dancers dancing full throttle for 30 minutes or for the choreography or for both. I personally felt it was the latter. I love being surprised and when a ballet can keep me surprised and interested throughout, I'm happy. McIntyre took a Dvorak love serenade and gave it a completely different perspective. One I could never have envisioned. For me that is the symbiosis of music and dance. McIntyre, like Balanchine, listens to the music closely and the music drives the movement. McIntyre manages to get double the movement in his choreography utilizing quirky unusual lifts, turns and directions which may seem to blur the characterizations or overall effect. At times it's hard to keep up with the unique images McIntyre is creating, but the music/dance connection is never in jeopardy. REFP keeps the audience on the edge of their seats watching and thinking. Like good poetry, rereading is essential and leads to a better understanding of the poet's intent. The same can be said for REFP. Both casts were a testament to their art form. All the dancers were outstanding. MCB should be very proud.

Piazzolla Caldera reguired a 3rd viewing and better seating for me to more fully appreciate what Taylor was trying to say in this seductive romp. There are just other Paul Taylor pieces I like better. That said, I too came to enjoy the Celos section. Sunday's cast of Didier Bramaz, Mikhail Ilyin, Callie Manning and Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez were most effective in their unusual quartet. With Bramaz and Ilyin lending perfect comedic timing or slapstick to their drunken pas de deux.

Altogether, a memorable set of performances last weekend in Miami Beach by The Miami City Ballet, continuing at the top of their game.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 14 November 2004 - 08:10 PM

It's never to late to report on a performance you saw! Thank you. And belated thanks to Jack and flipsy, too; I missed your posts when they first went up. I love it that people are actually going down to Miami to see ballet! (build it, and they wil come......) Bet MCB loves it too!


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