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MCB's 2nd Program: La Source, Push Comes to Shoveand Western Symphony -- your comments?


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#1 bart

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 07:52 AM

Miami City Ballet's 2nd program opens in Miami this weekend -- then on to West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. (Naples, too? I'm not sure.)

The program consists of La Source (Balanchine, Delibes), Push Comes to Shove (Tharp, Lamb/Haydn), and Western Symphony (Balanchine/ Kay).

I hope that all who see this -- or who have any thoughts about the choice of programming -- will post their comments and impressions here.

:thanks:

#2 bart

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 09:53 AM

I had a hard time registering "La Source," so I checked it out on Google. Here's a section from a 2004 review by Susan Reiter of a NYCB performance (Danceview Times)

___________________
QUOTE:
"There were many delights to be found within this evening of beautiful (mostly French) music and three ballets all created within a seven-year span—two Balanchine works framing a Robbins masterwork. Chief among them was the return of La Source, one of Balanchine's effortless ventures into sheer, sophisticated delight. Twenty years ago, Merrill Ashley and Ib Andersen gave performances of this confection that moved me to tears by virtue of their sheer beauty and effervescence. While this performance did not achieve that level of perfection, it offered sublime dancing from Miranda Weese, making her debut in the ballerina role that bears Violette Verdy's indelible stamp of French flair and witty musicality.

"The clear yet intricate choreography that Balanchine shaped for Verdy in this role requires a degree of lightness and unforced articulation that is not easily achieved. The dancing seems to ride along the music as gaily and swiftly as water bubbling downstream. Despite the gleaming pink tutu in which the ballerina is dressed, this is not a sugary role. It radiates refinement, expansiveness, and asks that the dancer apply contemporary speed and aplomb to delicately perfumed, richly detailed steps.

"La Source—with its divine Delibes music that sweeps the dancing along with its achingly joyous melodies, yet never cloys or holds the dancing back—has an old-fashioned look (all that pink!) yet always feels fresh. This is one of Balanchine's subtle homages, summoning up the style and aura of French romantic ballet yet allowing his dancers to express their individual present-day selves.
_____________________

Where would be be without Google? Or Danceview Times, for that matter? :thanks:

#3 carbro

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 11:02 AM

While I generally agree with Reiter's piece here, I never really feel satisfied by this piece, though, and I think it is due to the structure. It feels like a series of excerpts, rather than a fully realized ballet, and I don't mean in the sense of, say, Aurora's Wedding. It feels like a Balanchine went to work on a pas de deux, and while he was choreographing, started to envision dances for a single soloist and for a small ensemble. Each passage has its own delights, but as an organic entitity, it just doesn't feel whole.

Push was Tharp's first collaboration with Baryshnikov, a no-holds-barred exploitation of his virtuosity. The gentleman has two female partners of contrasting personality. ABT's recent revival of Push was not a success. I couldn't tell whether it was inadequately prepared or simply dated. The corps didn't seem energized, and surprisingly, the only female lead (of four I saw) who "got" it was Dvorovenko. Corella was terrific in the male role. I think the other cast I saw was led by Bocca.

Here is NYCB's synopsis of Western Symphony: http://www.nycballet...ep_western.html

You'll enjoy a healthy dose of cheek on this bill (La Source's coming primarily from the second female lead), which should suit the Miamians very well!


I eagerly await reviews.

#4 Helene

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 11:15 AM

How does the current version compare to the original performed by Verdy and Villella? The film of them doing the ballet blew me away. I was entranced by the work and didn't want it to end.

#5 TOOTOO

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 08:38 PM

Miami City Ballet's 2nd program opens in Miami this weekend -- then on to West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.  (Naples, too?  I'm not sure.)

The program consists of La Source (Balanchine, Delibes), Push Comes to Shove (Tharp,  Lamb/Haydn), and Western Symphony (Balanchine/ Kay).

I hope that all who see this -- or who have any thoughts about the choice of programming -- will post their comments and impressions here.

:beg:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


our way around this site. Did your see this weekends show

#6 carbro

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 10:12 PM

Hi, TooToo. Well, the program hasn't premiered quite yet, but check back early in the week.

Glad you found your way here! Please drop by our Welcome Page and introduce yourself. How did you come to ballet? What are some of the most memorable performances you've seen?

Looking forward to hearing from you, too! :beg:

#7 Paul Parish

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Posted 18 January 2006 - 10:58 PM

Helene, I'd bet my bottom dollar that nothing compares.

But I havn't seen them -- what I DID see long ago was Violette in Emeralds, also French, and the lusciousness of her shoulders, the way she was dancing with the upper body almost a half a count behind the legs, opened my eyes to a kind of phrasing in clasical dancing I'm only used to in jazz singers, and NO anxiety about it -- all the time in the world, incredible rubato.

What I'd ALSO bet is that if Vilella got Violette to set it, Miami will do it really well. They did the best job of Emeralds I've ever seen -- which includes lackluster early 90's NYCB and very nice SFB year before last (best thing was Yuri Possokov as the cavalier, which is a bizarre thing to say but without pulling focus he had the aura, the demeanor, the softness of the style absolutely right) and okeydoke Kirov a couple of years ago, that I've ever seen. They were in Berkeley about 5 years ago, and Emeralds was a dark green sumptuous mystery, glorious -- I was enthralled. And Violette, I believe, had set it.

#8 bart

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 11:55 AM

Thanks, all, for your help. While looking for even more information about "La Source", I found this review of the Miami performances. It's by Guillermo Perez, one of the more informed reviewers in this region.
http://www.southflor...-events-reviews

We're going tonight and tomorrow. MCB does not post casting ahead of time (at least anywhere I can find it). The cast Perez reviewed seems well-chosen, with some of my favorite dancers concentrated in Western Symphony. This program uses a lot of principals and soloists, so it will be interesting so see the role-switching that goes on between the first and second casts.

I hope others will report their impressions here, too.

#9 Jack Reed

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 07:19 PM

I plan to see this program in Ft. Lauderdale. Meanwhile, you've all got me salivating with anticipation.

Paul, I saw Jewels in south Florida in February 2000, when the program book carried these credits for "Emeralds": "Originally staged for Miami City Ballet by Karin von Aroldingen." and "Restaged by Eve Lawson." Jewels was so good the first weekend in Miami Beach I went back the last weekend and saw it again near Ft. Lauderdale. By then, I wrote in my notes that Mary Carmen Catoya was "fine & light," "[the] best [one] in this [Verdy's] role, understands [the] plot in [the first movement]" and Deanna Seay, in the Paul role, was "superb," "makes us see everything, to great effect."

I have great regard for Verdy's staging; she and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous staged a Sonatine for MCB that was, except for a couple of blank spots, the real thing, as done by all three casts.

But this thread is about Source, Push, and Western!

Jordan Levin's fine review in the Miami Herald, "A Splendid Romp, Brimming with Fun," is mostly about Push Comes to Shove, but she touches on La Source for a paragraph, too, and I think her title applies to the whole program. Here's a link:

http://www.miami.com...ng/13642909.htm

Consider, for contrast, that their next program consists of Dances at a Gathering and Ballet Imperial.

bart, I'd be glad to see an outline of MCB's Source, which went through some changes in its first year. B. H. Haggin's account of them, reprinted from his reviews in the quarterly Hudson Review in the book Ballet Chronicle, is consistent with Nancy Reynolds's in Repertory in Review. but differently detailed:

"Spring 1969... The new La Source pas de deux was unusual in structure: instead of the customary sequence of initial supported adagio, brilliant solo for each dancer, and brilliant coda for the two, it offered first solos for [John] Prinz and Verdy, then their supported adagio, again a solo by each, and then a final waltz by the two. Even with a couple of brief musical interludes (which broke continuity) the sequence was so taxing that at the third performance Balanchine made a cut in the final waltz...

"Summer 1969... [W]hen the piece was given again a few weeks later it was combined with three numbers from the earlier Pas de deux and Divertissement danced by Schorer and a group of girls. [eight: Reynolds] One of these gave Verdy and Prinz a rest before their second solos and waltz; but this wasn't enough to enable them to do the entire waltz and then the finale of the earlier ballet; and so the waltz still had the damaging cut.

"1970 footnote: Balanchine finally omitted the entire waltz."

With that kind of putting together and taking out going on, no wonder this little ballet "just doesn't feel whole," carbro! (Reynolds quotes Verdy herself about the ensembles: "These parts are like French operetta, very light, frolicky, a little bit of a take-off on French dancing; the pas de deux is more serious, refined, and tender.") The answer to that is a cast which makes you not notice such things by keeping you occupied on another plane, like V & V, right, Helene? Helene, dear, please say little more about that film (which I didn't know existed! Holy smokes!), like how we might also see it!

In November, Farrell's troupe presented an eight-movement La Source: Entree (as I call it in my notes, like the beginning of a pas de deux) or Adagio; Male Variation I; Female Variation I; Ensemble for demi-soloist and corps; Adagio II; Male Variation II, Female Variation II; Ensemble (Company; to the well-known "Naila" Waltz). I expect this is what MCB is doing.

Haggin wrote about La Source again in the January 1984 issue of The Yale Review, where his music criticism appeared, in the course of marking Balanchine's death a few months before:

"One such session... is a rehearsal of La Source, which he made to teach John Prinz skill and style in partnering a ballerina in a classical pas de deux. When Prinz was to turn Verdy on point, Balanchine said, 'Take her hand - only with the fingers - and show her off.' When Prinz was turning her Balanchine said, 'You work too hard at it,' and taking her hand, showed how easy it was to turn her as he walked around her. Discovering that she was trying to balance herself as he turned her, he said to her: 'You must do nothing - just stand on one point: he must balance you and turn you.' Later, when Prinz lifted Verdy and set her down, Balanchine said to him: 'Let her go and back away, to show her off.' And turning to me he said: 'I'm the only one who knows all this. I learned it myself, by watching dancers when I was young.'"

#10 bart

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 08:14 PM

Thanks, Jack. I'm really glad you'll be commenting on the program as it's performed in Fort Lauderdale. I just got back from one performance and will be at tomorrow's too, and will gather my thoughts at that time.

About La Source. This is one ballet that must have completely passed me by in my NYCB days, so I'm interested in learning all about it. Villella, in his pre-curtain talk, mentioned the untypical structure, but not that it had developed over time and by accretion. His take on the structure was -- pas de deux/ male variation/ female variation/ corps is introduced/ second pas/ second male variation/ second female variation/ second corps/ coda and finale. The ballet was first performed by MCB in 1988. I do not know if it was set on them by Verdy, but Villella insisted that Verdy had been Balanchine's inspiration and was very generous in his praise of her dancing.

I was especially interested in what the program notes had to say about the origins of "La Source" itself:
-------
QUOTE: "The original La Source was a three-act ballet produced at the Paris Opera in 1866; it was set in ancient Persia and told the story of a water sprite, Naila. This otherwise forgotten ballet is remembered for the contributions of one of its composers, Leo Delibes, who wrote the musisc to the middle of the work, with the highlight being the lilting [and quite familiar] "Naila Waltz." In an unusual arrangement, composer Ludwig Minkus wrote the music for the beginning and the end."
----------
The full ballet was revived in Russia several times, including 1902 at the Maryinsky. None of these productions was successful.

#11 Jack Reed

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 07:06 AM

I have little doubt that Verdy's presence was Balanchine's inspiration. I saw several performances of Source by V. & V. in my NYCB days, although I never saw Prinz in it

The use of two composers for the original ballet certainly was unusual, and I remember reading somewhere that it was a kind of debut for Delibes, whose music was liked so well he later got to write whole ballets all by himself, like Coppelia and Sylvia.

(It's easy for us to laugh today at the odd combination of Delibes's inspiringly lilting and piquant music with Minkus's conventionally serviceable but plodding, oom-pah-pah music in the same ballet back then. Why couldn't the powers-that-be or that-were in those days tell the difference and get it right the first time?)

#12 bart

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 02:09 PM

Just saw my second performance of this program, and I am overwhelmed by what wonderful ballets these are. Every one of thethe Miami dancers performs them very well (always); and an awful low perform them superbly.


LA SOURCE. Casting is everthing when the ballet is about style.

We hear a lot about Balanchine's wish to honor the "French" style. Actually, I think this means the "Verdy" style -- and incredibly delightful it can be with the right dancer.

This afternoon, the role was taken by Haiyan Wu, who trained at Beijing Dance Academy, danced with National Ballet of China, and who has been a principal at MCB since 2003. Wu has grown as a performer during her short time at MCB. I remember an early start as a gentle but tentative Giselle. Later: a haunting performance in Faun.

This "La Source," is Wu's break-through role as far as I'm concerned. I never saw Verdy in this ballet, but I saw her in just about everything else. And Wu is worthy of someone coached by Verdy. As I watched this performance I thought about all the things that composed the Verdy performing style: impeccable positioning of head and sholuders -- arms and hands perfectly placed, very expressive, fluid but always accurate -- gently flexible back -- an expression that suggested delight in dancing -- beautifully positioned feed -- great technique, but movements across the floor and in the air that flowed naturally. Wu has all those qualities.

She also projects a real character rather than someone merely connecting steps. Verdy has been quoted as saying: "Choreography is nothing other than symbols, and with Balanchine, even if it was more symbolic, it was all there if you knew what it meant ... In Balanchine's words, 'You put a woman onstage, you already have a drama.' It's true. There isn't one minute of exchange with a partner, for instance, or with other dancers, that is not in itself already a divine play." Wu IS lightness and Dance, as well as the "garden of flowers moving the the breeze" that Villella talked about in his pre-curtain talk.

Two other examples: Wu's preparations for pirouettes are fluid, subtle (though strong enough to produce perfect pirouettes), and appear to be a seamless part of the choreography rather than preparations for something more important.
And then there's that long promenade in arabesque towards the end of the ballet. The cavalier supports the ballerina holding one extended arm and then another. The shift in arm support and positioning is as simple, flowing, and easy-appearing as can be. At the end, she playfully pushes him away. What a moment!

Wu's partner, the excellent classicist Mikhail Ilyin, has many of the same qualities. I loved his lightness (with very good elevation), his fluid travelling jumps, and his attentive, generous partnering.


PUSH COMES TO SHOVE. Once again, casting is everything. You can't do this in front of an audience of a certain age without creating instant comparisons with Baryshnikov ABT performances in the late 70s. I saw two casts. Luis Serrano had all the moves and incredible lightness, speed, and agility. He's a fine dancer in many roles, but lacks the personality and the ability to command space that is required by this part.

I was much impressed by a younger, less experienced dancer -- Jeremy Cox, who's been given many challenging roles recently by Villella, including a Prodigal Son. He had real attitude. The bowler hat with him was an extension of his strong personality, not just a prop. You could see clearly each of the multiple shifts in direct and balance required by the choreography and marvel at them. His interaction with his two ballerinas was strong, well-acted, altenately puzzled, frustrated, and delighted, and this registered strongly with the audience. Lots of whoops and bravos. The large corps was wonderful, alternately classical and quirky, and moved very well with one another through incredibly complex figures.

My favorite solo women came from different casts: Mary Carmen Catoya, very serious and lovely as the softer of the ballerinas, was just about perfect. Michelle Merrell was confident and stage-devouring in the role of the big ballerina. Carlos Guerra was her elegant and amusing parnter in Third Movement. And Trisha Anderson darted, twisted, sailed between secure balance and even mroe secure off-balance, jerked her head and whipped her arms as the third female lead. That role must have been inspired by Elsa Lanchester's wierd but very touching and beautiful performance as Bride of Frankenstein.

Time has passed and dancer training has changed since the ballet was first performed by ABT, but this cast was danced better than I have ever seen it done. Except, of course, for Misha.


WESTERN SYMPHONY. What a repertory winner! The excitement builds right up to the stage full of dancers doing fast, synchronized multiple pirouettes as the curtain slowly descends. My favorites were Didier Bramaz and Luis Serrano (the lonesome cowboys in each cast) with Patricia Delgado (Bramaz's deam girl) in the Adagio, and Andrea Spiridonakos and Kenta Shimizu (a phenomenal jumper, turner, etc.) in the Rondo. The cast is so large that Villella had to enlist apprentices from the Miami City Ballet School. They fit in perfectly -- I don't think anyone not pretty familiar with the company could have told which they were.

#13 Jack Reed

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 02:44 PM

(from Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

Friday evening, 3rd February 2006, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale:

Friday's performance featured Mary Carmen Catoya leading a beatifully danced La Source, with principal coaching by Violette Verdy, according to the program, which seemed to me to cry out for better tempos. It cried out because of the high level of excellence of the performance otherwise: when something is really good generally, some aspect not on that level sticks out the more, and there was nothing else amiss. (Well, maybe Jeannette Delgado in the demi role was a tad "smiley" to my taste, but her dancing was so fine she had every reason to show pride in it, nor would I deny her the joy she evidently takes in performing.) The one man among the ten women in pink, Renato Penteado danced with classical purity and clarity which was, along with the others, just right for this ballet, and evidently he gave Catoya everything she needed.

When such a light ballet as this is slowed down, it becomes something of a demonstration and by that amount less of a realization. The fine detail needs more to flicker delicately before our eyes, hardly there before it is gone. Only toward the end of Catoya's second variation, where she has a little circle, did the tempo of the (recorded) music seem to me sufficiently fast; and it was good again in the last movement, once the "Naila" waltz got underway after the slow introduction.

Probably there are not a lot of recordings of this music available, so that this may have been the reason. I have not the slightest doubt, based on my happy experience watching Catoya's dancing in recent years, that she can perform it in faster tempos; not only that, I even suspect she too would like such tempos, because there were a couple of places where she slightly anticipated the music. I fervently hope that when the promised "live" orchestra is heard again in the next few seasons, this piece will be performed in more lively tempos, because it - and the dancers, all of whom performed it so well, greatly to their credit and Verdy's - deserves it. I'm sorry I didn't get to see it in Naples, where I think the Naples Philharmonic plays for the company.

La Source is "a hard act to follow," and it was followed by a different kind of fun, Twyla Tharp's witty Push Comes to Shove, staged by Elaine Pardo of the original 1976 cast. I thought this was perhaps less completely realized (or demonstrated!), but I enjoyed it, too; Jennifer Kronenberg in particular in the principal trio seemed at home in the "un-organic" choreography ("un-organic" in that things do not always seem to follow naturally from what has gone before, or even from the music, for that matter; indeed, some of it is danced in silence) remarkably much of the time, and although she is not unusually tall, she is by virtue - and I do mean virtue - of her long limbs, and the way she moves - good line - very easy to see on stage, a little easier than Luis Serrano in the Baryshnikov role, for that matter, whose very quickness in movement seemed to me to contribute to subduing his role's effect. But Baryshnikov in this role was a very hard act to follow.

Last came the four-movement version of Western Symphony, which is, of course, not danced to a symphony at all, but to a suite of arrangements of traditional "Western" tunes. The third or scherzo movement is the weakest of the four, and I see again why Balanchine omitted it after a time. I think he was right to do so, and at the same time I don't much mind Villella's putting it back, for the simple selfish reason that I enjoy watching his dancers, and this way I get to see a few more of them! And I believe they are glad to get some more pieces of the action, even if sometimes they are lesser pieces. Kronenberg appeared here again, apparently having a great time in a role different from Push Comes to Shove, the first, allegro, movement. Haiyan Wu effectively parodied the changing styles of the various quotes from repertory in the Adagio second movement, especially in matters like her abrupt deadpan change from rippling, extended-back "Swan Lake" port de bra back to the crossed-in-front "Giselle" style she had entered with, as she bouree'd off.

It upsets me some that in November the Suzanne Farrell Ballet would perform La Source with an orchestra in the pit playing the music in right tempos but with dancers not generally of the caliber of MCB's and then this month we see such fine dancing needing only the better tempos we heard in the Kennedy Center to realize the ballet more fully. I'd like to have the best of both worlds, of course. Couldn't somebody have loaned someone a tape of the Kennedy Center's orchestra? I did learn that MCB began rehearsals of Source in August; maybe that was too early for my little (retrospective) dream to have become reality, even if there were no other obstacles.

Another oddity of recent seasons: Last season MCB presented superb performances of La Valse, with Deanna Seay unforgettable in the "Girl in White" role, and last fall the Farrell company gave theirs. Is there something about keeping up with the Joneses or "I'll show you" or "There's a good idea" among ballet ADs? Or is it just coincidence that the same ballets turn up at nearly the same time? With a repertory as large as Balanchine's to draw on? I'm not exactly complaining, but I certainly am curious.

Edited by Jack Reed, 11 February 2006 - 06:43 AM.


#14 carbro

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 03:16 PM

When such a light ballet as this is slowed down, it becomes something of a demonstration and by that amount less of a realization.  . . . Probably there are not a lot of recordings of this music available, so that this may have been the reason.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

We live in the digital age, Jack. Not only is it possible to readjust tempi without distorting pitch, it is frequently done. Given that, the tempo was probably what Verdy and/or Villella wanted.

Is there something about keeping up with the Joneses or "I'll show you" or "There's a good idea" among ballet ADs? Or is it just coincidence that the same ballets turn up at nearly the same time? With a repertory as large as Balanchine's to draw on? I'm not exactly complaining, but I certainly am curious.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Can't speak with any knowledge on this, but it does seem, sometimes, that there's something in the ether giving people the same idea at the same time. :beg: :lightbulb: :lightbulb:

Terrific post. Thanks, Jack!

#15 bart

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Posted 04 February 2006 - 08:01 PM

Thanks for that report, Jack. You're educating me and (I hope) others who see the MCB on stage.

Hope you're not too disappointed by our recent cold spell. My two casts were different from your Friday cast, so I look forward to your post on tonight's performance. I would loved to have seen Catoya in La Source and Kronenberg in (well) anything.

Just got back from a truly thrilling Rite of Spring (Mauricio Wainrot) by Ballet Florida, which concluded an excellent program generally. I'll try to write up some of the best bits later. Glad there's so much exciting dance going on in our part of the country right now. :D We deserve it. Nothing moves in the ballet sense during the summer down here. And I mean nothing. (Do touring companies of Phantom and Chicago count?)


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