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International Ballet Festival of Miami(Miami and West Palm Beach)


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#1 bart

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 02:36 PM

On Friday I saw the West Palm Beach program of the 10th Anniversary of the International Ballet Festival of Miami. Three other programs (some duplications) were held in Miami during the week.

I hope that others who saw one of the programs will also post their impressions.

First of all, I have to say that Rolando Sarabia did NOT perform in West Palm. :tomato: He was listed in the program for Nutcracker Pas de Deux in Miami. The headliner for West Palm was Rasta Thomas -- so there should have some excitement. You might expect. However ... read on.

Thomas received virtually the ONLY publicity for the event here (an interview with him in the Palm Beach Post) so possibly some of the younger people in the audience were there for him. He performed a clever and energetically executed non-dance to "Flight of the Bumblebee" -- approximately 3 minutes worth of action (a man swallows a bumblebee and reacts). There were roars from one section of the audience (I guess he is a media star). But those I talked to were in a state of shock about the almost insulting brevity of his appearance.

Bernard Courtot (formerly of SF Ballet, POB, English National, and lots of guesting and galas) was scheduled to dance something from the Bejart Firebird but did not appear. The disembodied voice that announced his non-appeareance mentioned "visa delays." Visa delays were apparantly also responsible for the absence of Ballet do Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro.

So, there were some ... (shall we say?) disapointments in the program. Especially when you could read what Miami was getting: Sarabia plus Thomas in Le Corsaire pas de deux (the 3-minute version?).

Enough of that. The highlights for me were the chance to see a mix of young and mature dancers in repertory that was either very familiar (the same old Corsaires, Don Q's, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty pas de deux) or unfamiliar: including work by Complexions, the newly formed Balleteatro Nacional de Puerto Rico, something from the Cranko version of R&J, and a new male pas de deux from Germany. The excitement of this -- and the enthusiasm and even giddiness of the audience -- made the event very worth while.

It's difficult to know what kind of standards to applyl to such an event, especially when there are so many different kinds of dance (classical and contemporary) and dancers. I'd done some homework the day before by revisiting videos of world-class dancers peforming most of the famous war horses. I mean Dowell and Sibley in Sleeping Beauty pas de 2, Corella and Kent in le Corsaire, Herrera and Corella in Don Q, Ferri and Bocca in the Macmillen R&J, etc. Nothing on the Kravis stage was in that league. But a number of the dancers at the Kravis seemed to be doing something that (for me) is often more important than perfect technique --- they were investing every part of themselves in the performance and in the movement. That made the best of the evening very exciting.

Highlights:

1) Our local troup, Ballet Florida, revisted Twyla Tharp's Baker's Dozen as the curtain-raiser for the evening. I really love this classy, joyful, fast-moving and "smart" ballet -- especially the way individuals and groups move on and off the stage, interact, swtich partners, move on to be replaced by others. The performance was a big improvement over their first effort with it last season. Some dancers who were stiff then seemed more comfortable with the speed and lightness required, and actually seemed to be enjoying themslves rather than thinking about "what happens next"? I especially liked Leah Miles (new last year to the company from Cincinnati) and Mauricio Canete (formerly of Houston), who lived IN the steps and the style.

2) Three men from Complexions -- Clifford C. Williams, Jason Jacobs, and Leyland Simmons -- performed something from "Gone" (choreography by Dwight Rhodes; song by the great Odetta). It was incredibly fast, athletic, and strongly danced. There were enough balletic elements, including grand jetes, to make me especially comfortable. Lots of cheers at the end.

3) Balleteatro Nacional (Puerto Rico) performed "Tangos" (choreography: Rodney Rivera) to music by Astor Piazolla. Piazolla's music is thrilling, and it carried the choreography along. (Unlike Taylor's Piazolla Caldera, where movement and music are of equal quality.) The piece starts with a formal and intense pas de deux for two men. A woman enters. Then a second women. The women especially (Laura Valentin and Marena Perez) were strong, muscular, and very effective.

4) Stuttgart's "Romeo and Juliet" suffered from the absence of a balcony, so the dancers seemed a little disoriented and out of place at the beginning. The Cranko choreography is more conventional and (to me) less emtionally powerful than MacMillen's. But Stuttgart soloist Katja Wunsche was a beautiful Juliet, especially when showing confusion about all the new feelings that she was experiencing, and Mikhail Kaniskin was extravagently and touching in love. Big audience response.

5) A modern pas de deux for two semi-naked Speedo-clad males -- Kaniskin of Stuttgart and Ronald Savkovic of Staatsballet Berlin -- to a strange but beautiful score by Eclectic, was one of the hits of the evening. Savkovic was choreographer. The brief, rough kiss at the end -- cut off abruptly as the two men separated -- evoked audible gasps from round the audience. (Including me.)

6) Good, more-than-competent and very popular versions of Corsaire from Vanessa Lawson and Jaime Vargas of Royal Winnipeg and Don Q from Silvina Perillo (I liked her a lot) and Alejandro Parente of Ballet Estable Teatro Colon.

7) The chance to see two new, very young dancers from Cincinnati bravely stepping in at the last minute to fill the programming gap left by the absent Courtot and the Brazilian troupe. A voice in the dark announced the replacement, so I don't have as much information as I should. The pas de deux was from Victoria Morgan's version of Midsummer Night's Dream, though the costumes (white tuto, white satin) seemed out of Sleeping Beauty. I did not get the young woman's name, but the man was Joseph Gatti, a Cincinnati soloist who was a Gold Medal winner in the 2005 New York International Ballet competition. (I looked this up on their web site.) The choreography was not memorable, but the earnestness, joy, compatability, and sheer pleasure that the two dancers conveyed made this a treat for me. They were 100% invested in their dancing and deserved their very big round of applause.

The Festival has a place in West Palm, and I hope they will be back next year. It will take more communication and publicity in Palm Beach County -- and programming more comparable to what they are doing in Miami. There's a big dance audience here, and it can be very enthusiastic and supportive, as Friday night showed. But to sell out the house -- management needs to do some extra work.

#2 vrsfanatic

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 03:36 PM

The Festival has a place in West Palm, and I hope they will be back next year. It will take more communication and publicity in Palm Beach County -- and programming more comparable to what they are doing in Miami. There's a big dance audience here, and it can be very enthusiastic and supportive, as Friday night showed. But to sell out the house -- management needs to do some extra work.


Thank you bart for your very interesting review. I was not able to go this weekend to either location unfortuantely. I missed a great chance to see J. Gatti (again). As for your observation regarding selling the house...the Kravitz Center does not have anything to do with selling tickets for this event since it is not sponored by the Center. Those responsible for the selling of the ticket are the organizers/management of the Festival!

#3 bart

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 03:55 PM

vrsfanatic, you're right. I should have made that more clear.

By "management" I meant the promoters. The Kravis handled the mechanics of ticket sales, but did nothing else.

Generally the Kravis actively promotes only those performances and productions that it presents itself It merely rents the hall to Miami City Ballet, Ballet Florida and Palm Beach Opera. These companies are a responsible for their own publicity and maintain their own box offices.

#4 Helene

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 04:11 PM

Thank you so much for the review, bart! I'm glad there were enough highlights and dancers you had never seen before to make it a worthwhile event. Perhaps next year, the "visa issues" will be resolved in time to see more companies from South America.

#5 tango49

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 05:17 PM

Yes thankyou bart for taking the time to write about the festivities! I'm glad you were able to enjoy many of the performers despite all of the apparent last minute changes. I wish I could have been there as you know.

I just wanted to add that Joseph Gatti's partner was a lovely dancer from Cincinnati Ballet named Janessa Touchet!

#6 leibling

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Posted 19 September 2005 - 04:14 PM

I went to see the performances in Miami- Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Well.... um... well- I don't have a lot of good things to say.

The best part of the evening on Saturday ( that I saw- I left after the first intermission becasue most things were being repeated the following day), was listening to Violette Verdy speak as she accepted an award from the Festival -some sort of "Grand Prix Gold Medal" in honor of the tenth anniversary. She is the most delightful woman, and accepted the award saying that she doesn't expect any awards because she loves what she does.

Other than this, I can't say too much about Saturday. There was a Swan Lake Act 2 pas de deux- this is never very good on it's own anyway. The pair from Royal Winnipeg performed a contemporary piece that started out ok, but quickly became too repetitive choreographically. When I begin to feel that I know the steps the dancers on stage are doing, they have done them too much. A selection from Midsummers- was refreshing, and the dancers were very good. The "Grand Pas Classique" was forgettable.

Now for my rant. Sunday afternoon's performance lasted almost four hours, and I am sorry to say that it was not a pleasant afternoon. The dancing ranged from forgettable to capable to the highlight of "Complexions" in "gone." However, I cannot blame the dancers onstage for my bad experience. I have never been more embarassed to be a part of the AUDIENCE than I was on that afternoon. Cell phones, people talking, candy wrappers. On piece was was a duet for two women with no music. It was not a great piece, but those women, trying to accomplish something on stage, did not deserve to be treated the way they were. People in the audience laughed, talked out loud, and ANSWERED their ringing cell phones. As the piece ended, there was such a response as I have never heard- some people began to yell bravo- laughing as they did so, happy the piece had ended, and others booed. I don't know what to say about an audience response after a piece- people are free to express themselves, I guess- but the ridiculous behavior during the piece was inexcusable. I wish I could say that this was the only time the audience behaved this way, but the rest of the afternoon was much the same. Anything contemporary- even Complexions-was not given very much respect, but if a girl in a tutu came out and did some fouettes, the audience went crazy. It was worse than a circus.

If it is any consolation to those of you in West Palm, Rolando Sarabria was injured and only danced the adagio and coda from the Nutcracker with an overly-smily Lia Ciria. To tell you the truth, there was nothing in his partnering work that would recommend him in my eyes. He made very little connection with his partner- although she wasn't helping- and then would punctuate a phrase of movement with an unnecessary port de bras, as if he wanted to remind the audience that he could dance. He has received a lot of publicity- he jumps high and apparently can do a lot of pirouettes, but isn't ballet, and dance in general about more than these tricks? Shouldn't the quality of the art show up at the very least in an adagio?I shouldn't pass judgement on him because he is injured, but the willingness of people to christen someone an instant star because they can do 32 double fouettes that finish with a backflip is something that I find disheartening.

At least the trio from Complexions provided not just satisfying, but memorable dancing. These men were movers- and while they could have just resorted to the usual variety of self-indulgent movements to show off their very flexible and fluid capabilities, their piece, with it's folksy music by Odetta, seemed to describe some part of the human experience. Each man seemed to have a purpose beyond showing off, and through each of their respective internalized struggles, I felt I could see references to slavery, segregation and this society's struggle with that history.There were no overt references or gestures, really, just an atmospheric quality brought together by the music, the well balanced choreography, and each dancer's artistic contribution.

I don't want to say too much more- I can't say anything else nice, really. The production department behind the festival has a lot to work out- both performances started a half-hour late, the programs are poorly edited and Violette Verdy's name was constantly mispronounced. (Please- if you are honoring someone with an award at least figure out how to pronounce their name.) There were a variety of lighting mistakes, and even musical cue mistakes. These amateurish mistakes do not put the festival in good light, and I hate to think of how this might reflect on ballet in general.

#7 bart

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Posted 19 September 2005 - 07:01 PM

The audience sounds more thaqn worthy of a rant. At West Palm we were spared that. There were quite a lot of young people in the audience. Some, I assume, were dance students from the Dreyfoos School for the Arts, Ballet Florida, maybe some from Harid, etc., and dance students in my experience tend to contribute maturity and decorum to an audience, however young they might be. The audience was very attentive and, I think, responded to each piece appropriately and with respect for the artists -- including the best of the contemporay pieces. I didn't realize how rare this can be.

Otherwise, I concur with your feeling that the production and management of the event left a LOT TO BE DESIRED. The mispronunciation of "Verdy" at Miami and the 3-minute Rasta Thomas headliner solo at West Palm defy belief.

...  if a girl in a tutu came out and did some fouettes, the audience went crazy. It was worse than a circus.

the willingness of people to christen someone an instant star because they can do 32 double fouettes that finish with a backflip is something that I find disheartening.

I noticed this too. It is fun to cheer such things. But I wondered a few times what the audience felt they were roaring FOR?

#8 drb

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Posted 19 September 2005 - 08:02 PM

Regarding the Miami performances, the pre-performance interview of Rolando Sarabia in the in the Miami Herald
http://www.miami.com...miherald_living
perhaps will help explain his performance:
'Rolando Sarabia was speaking in Cuban. ''No es fácil, esto,'' he said using a phrase common on the island and among recent exiles -- it ain't easy, this thing. He was referring to the life of a dancer, which at merely 23 has already cost him one ankle and two knee operations.
And his country.'
and
'Sarabia had no idea whether he would be allowed back into Cuba to see family and friends. 'I have friends who are artists and friends from the street who know nothing about dance, and all they can say is, `man, you can really jump high.' ''
Worse, he had recently decided it was time to make space in his life for a relationship and had a girlfriend in Cuba. ''No, don't print that,'' he said. Then he changed his mind. ''What the hell, print the whole thing. I don't give a . . .'' Thinking about being forced out of his country to pursue a career -- ''they threw me out,'' he said -- was getting him riled.'
The article concludes:
'''There is nothing left for us,'' Sarabia insisted, sounding like a much older man, "but to live off our memories."'

#9 drb

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 12:09 PM

From the NY Times article on Hispanics in Dance (see in Sep 20, 2005 LINKS), the festival is mentioned:
"This is not, of course, to suggest that the United States is all milk and honey. Take the festival, which was energetically attended but fraught with complication.

The Cubans had it worst: Alihaydée Carreño, who recently left the Ballet Nacional de Cuba to dance in the Dominican Republic, did not get a visa to attend. Daniel Sarabia, a member of the corps at the Boston Ballet, had a fractured foot, and Ms. Almeida, a senior soloist with the Cincinnati Ballet, didn't show because of a swollen Achilles tendon.

Then, on Saturday night, Rolando Sarabia, who defected in July and had knee surgery seven months ago, hurt his toe. At Sunday's closing matinee, he and Lia Cirio, a member of the corps at the Boston Ballet, gave an uninspired rendition of the Nutcracker pas de deux. The audience cheered anyway. They seemed happy to see Mr. Sarabia. This is not just art, after all; it's also politics."

leibling, you may appreciate the "energetically attended."

#10 bart

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Posted 20 September 2005 - 05:12 PM

Here's a review of one of the Miami programs, by Guillermo Perez (Sun-Sentinel).

REVIEW

#11 dirac

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 04:27 PM

Thanks to bart and leibling. I enjoyed reading these!


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