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Villella & Dancers: Works & ProcessGuggenheim Mus., Jan. 23 and 24, 2005


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#1 carbro

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 04:13 PM

Robert Gottlieb served as the evening's moderator. Before introducing Villella, he shared his high regard for MCB, calling it the "company closest to my heart." He cited its spirit, integrity and cordiality -- qualities, he said, which permeate classes and rehearsals, as well as performances. By way of comparison, he alluded to an unnamed entity: "We've seen an unhappy company, and it isn't pretty."

Villella noted that only two of his dancers attended SAB, and most have come through Soviet-influenced training. He has hired dancers who are amenable to Balanchine's style, i.e., who have demonstrated musicality (which he defined as "the ability to speak to us musically"), an ability to move and a willingness to go beyond their achievements. He sees his job as creating a sense of security for his dancers, so they will not be afraid to take chances.

Villella doesn't see Classicism as a static thing; his job is to pass on to his dancers the choreographer's original intent.

Gottlieb noted that Villella started to build a repertoire around a core of Balanchine (who is now represented by 30-35 works. Classics, including Giselle and Coppelia have been added over the years, as have works by other choreographers, including Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp. Villella credits the dancers' ability to succeed in that range of ballets to the solidity of their Balanchinian background.

Villella said that an unwillingness to let Balanchine into the body is defensive, which is why providing a sense of security for his dancers is so important.

Gottlieb asked about training teachers in Balanchine technique -- whether it is better to bring them here, or to send emissaries out. Villella said the Trust should do both. The place to start is by getting teachers to acknowledge that Russian technique is a building block, and not an end in itself.

Villella noted his disapproval for competitions, in which prizes are given for tricks. You can do the tricks three times (as in Diana & Acteon pdd), but it isn't as moving as a good Apollo.

Interspersed within the conversation were the following excerpts, all choreography credited to Balanchine except Nine Sinatra Songs (Tharp) and Neighborhood Ballroom (Villella). Throughout, the dancers proved true Gottlieb's assessment at the program's opening.

The dancing was as follows.
Stravinsky Violin Cto./Aria I: Katia Carranzo and Renato Penteado

Ballo della Regina/PdD + Male & Female Vars: Mary Carmen Catoya and Mikhail Illyin

Agon/Male Var fr.1st Pas de Trois: Jeremy Cox

Nine Sinatra Songs/One for the Road: Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra

Symphony in 3 Mvts/pdd: Katia Carranza and Jeremy Cox

Diana & Acteon pdd: Mary Carmen Catoya and Luis Serrano

Stravisky Violin Cto./Aria II: Jennifer Kronenbert and Carlos Guerra

The Neighborhood Ballroom/Three Smokers: Renato Penteado, Luis Serrano and Jeremy Cox

Emeralds/Solo (Verdy's): Mary Carmen Catoya, [Walking] pdd: Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra

Nine Sinatra Songs/That's Life: Katia Carranza and Renato Penteado

Syvia pdd (in full): Mary Carmen Catoya and Mikhail Ilyin

#2 bart

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 04:36 PM

Thanks, Carbro, for this report. A reduced company performed Coppelia that evening here in Florida, despite the flight of so many principals and lead soloists.

Robert Gottlieb served as the evening's moderator.  Before introducing Villella, he shared his high regard for MCB, calling it the "company closest to my heart."  He cited its spirit, integrity and cordiality -- qualities, he said, which permeate classes and rehearsals, as well as performances. 

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One of the great and infectious qualities of this company, IMO, is conveying joy. They're always game. No bored corps members here. And no walk-through solos. Great effort apparently goes into making it all appear effortless, a quality I appreciate a lot.

As to Villella's comment that only two of his dancers came from the School of American Ballet. The program lists 5 principals and principal soloists who "trained" at SAB, whatever that means. 3 are from Cuba and one each from Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, China, Brazil, and the North Carollina School of the Arts. Two recent principals, no longer with the company, were from France.

I wonder how this compares with other regional companies around the US?

#3 Helene

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 04:37 PM

Many thanks for the summary! I wish I had been there...

#4 carbro

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 07:42 PM

Whoops! Forgot to apologize at the outset for the very long lag-time in posting. blush.gif

As to Villella's comment that only two of his dancers came from the School of American Ballet. The program lists 5 principals and principal soloists who "trained" at SAB, whatever that means.

Because SAB carries such a cachet in the ballet world, I think many dancers include it in their bios, even if they attended only a single summer session. What Villella probably meant was dancers who can be considered SAB products.

It was one of the most enjoyable and instructive of these Works and Process lecture-dems, and I wish you'd been there, too, Helene!

#5 Jack Reed

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 12:41 PM

Add my thanks, too, carbro! And I'd say relevance trumps tardiness any day. Those of us who see MCB in Florida know the quality of the dancing bart describes, and I'm glad New York got to sample it. Congratulations!

But doesn't this post rate a link over from the Balanchine centennial forum?

#6 Helene

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 03:21 PM

But doesn't this post rate a link over from the Balanchine centennial forum?

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Sadly for us, the Balanchine Centennial is over. However, happily for us, Balanchine's extended family continues to present to the public. I've created a new forum for this, called "Children of Balanchine on The Road," where we can post about the presentations that continue Balanchine's legacy.


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