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MCB's 2nd Program: La Source, Push Comes to Shove

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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:

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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:

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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.com/about/rep_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.

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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.

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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:

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

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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:

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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.

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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.southflorida.com/music/sfl-enmc...-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.

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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/mld/miamiherald/living/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.'"

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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:

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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.

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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?)

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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.

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(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

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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.

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.

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!

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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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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.

I was talking about this with a friend today. We saw Nine Sinatra Songs at PNB this afternoon, which MCB has performed -- including two selections for the Guggenheim series for the Balanchine Centennial -- which Pennsylvania Ballet performed last February, and which will appear on Colorado Ballet's March/April 2006 program.

I know that the Balanchine and Robbins Foundations control who gets to do what ballets, and there seems to be a pattern of being allowed to do some of them after achieving a certain level, and then only some of them when a company has the financial resources to recreate elaborate and expensive original sets and costumes (ex: Liebeslieder Walzer). Since many companies want to perform these works, a number of them are close in the progression allowed by the Foundations. Francia Russell staged La Valse in 1996 and 2000; Peter Boal has scheduled it for the March 16-26 program, along with a revival of Val Caniparoli's The Bridge and a new work by Dominique Dumais. For PNB this could have been logistical: I believe they own the sets and costumes, and Russell stages ballets she learned from Balanchine; while not an insubstantial number, I don't know if she stages anything later than the late 60's or early 70's. While it's hard to imagine that La Valse is an over-the-top box office draw, I could see Artistic Directors and marketing departments looking at a successful production of Nine Sinatra Songs and thinking that the work would be a big draw and possibly attract new audiences. La Valse has the advantage of glamour, recognizable music, three dramatic lead roles, and a number of soloist and demi-soloist roles in the "Valses Nobles et Sentimentales" section.

The same thing seems to happen with opera, even after co-productions and the Handel revival are eliminated from the mix. For some reason, among lesser-performed Verdi, MacBeth seems to be having a number of revivals clustered together, following last year's Un Ballo in Maschera, and I've seen a number of regional companies producing Cosi Fan Tutte.

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(from Fort Lauderdale, Florida) Thanks for that, Helene. So it's not exactly just coincidence at work here.

Now here's my latest installment, and then I'm on the run to today's matinee:

Saturday, 4th February 2006, Matinee and Evening

The event of the afternoon for me was Push Comes to Shove with Jeremy Cox, Andrea Spiridonakos in the tall-girl role originated, I think by Martine van Hamel, and Haiyan Wu, not short, but in the short-girl role. In contrat to Luis Serrrano's fine etching of detail, Cox, losing nothing of detail - actually, making it more visible through execution less clipped, extended the role by strong chracterisation from first to last; Serrano had given a superb but subdued performance of the role, while Cox, in the Baryshnikov role gave us, not Baryshnikov being Baryshnikov, hardly that, only Baryshnikov is Baryshnikov, but Cox being Cox in Push: He was just there, without reference to anything else, sometimes, just for example, turning his head to register surprise at something someone else did, while Serrano had shown the look, but Cox was surprised.

And Andrea Spiridonakos was the perfect match, lovely and utterly at ease in her part and, at some moments, out of her part, and then back in it again; Push is like that. Jennifer Kronenberg had made more of these "shifts," more like I remember van Hamel (from the video, which I saw more often than on stage), and I think Spiridonakos's way was a little more effective for letting us discover what was going on, although for me, these "discoveries" were the more vivid for having seen Kronenberg in the previous performance. In other words, she had contributed to my getting more from Spiridonakos's version. Wu was also superb, especially when working with Cox, as for example when he wraps his arms around her from behind and shakes her up. Yes, indeed, Push Comes to Shove is like that - it shakes us all up and puts us down somewhere else! What fun it was!

In the evening, Push had the special benefit of Mary Carmen Catoya's unfailingly crystal-clear dancing in the "short" part, and Michelle Merrell came into the "tall" part, not articulating the changes in it so clearly as Spiridonakos and Kronenberg had, along with Serrano.

In the afternoon, La Source was distinguished by Kristen Kramer's excellent realiztion of the demi role, after which she did a double-take as Edward Villella brought her a bouquet. Sad to report, this turned out to be Kramer's retirement preformance with MCB, after only five years! Patricia Delgado was very good in the lead, although hardly Catoya's equal, and presenting what I now take to be the family smile, with Kenta Shimizu, whose superbly crisp dancing did not quite match Penteado's easy but clear flow. In the evening, this ballet got a really lovely performance of the lead from Haiyan Wu, again, not matching Catoya, but can anybody? And Mikhail Ilyin gave a performance of the sole male part with, for my money, the best "flavor" so far.

Western Symphony got a really excellent perfomance of the Allegro first movement from Katia Caranza, modest, unassuming, clear, nailing everything; all you hadto do was take it in as she showed it to you. And Penteado was her perfect match. In the evening, she took on the Adagio, and was even better. (Well, it is, and so all she has to do is do it well, and she did.) And finally, in the evening, Deanna Seay! I thought I wsn't going to see her, although I hadn't heard any bad news. And then there she was, inhabiting her character in the first movemnt Allegro, giving it life we don't always see. (We had seen some characterisation with Kronenberg on Friday, actually.) And the concluding Rondo had Luis Serrano getting the details right and so, giving the jokes point.

Edited by Jack Reed

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Thanks, Jack. Your account impresses me even more with Villella's willingness to cast these ballets in great depth, giving opportunities to so many younger dancers, when the company could probably rest quite comfortaby on the performances of its principals

I also liked Spiridonakos very much in this program -- as in the last one. Several years ago, when I first came to the area, she was given the opportunity to dance Myrtha, a daunting role even for a senior ballerina. It was a creditable job --but this was a young dancer not yet able to combine a unififed, consisistent characterization (as opposed to the presentation of certain gestures, facial expressions, etc.) with the difficult choreography. These qualities have come together over the past few years. I got to see her Siren last program -- and she constantly caught the eye this time around in Push Comes to Shove and Western Symphony.

With Spiridonakos, as with so many others in the company, Villella's work of fostering young artistic talent is paying off. It's one of the delight of seeing these programs multiple times to be able to see so many talented dancers -- at different stages of their development -- do so many great roles.

I wonder whether those who attend other companies with a similar program-based kind of scheduling -- PNB, Houston, San F, etc. -- find a similar approach to casting in their locales. (???)

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Another thought. I agree wholeheartedly with your great appreciation of Mary Carmen Catoya -- whom I didn't get to see in La Source. What a pure, clean, fast, elegent, and very musical dancer.

I have not had the chance to see her in parts demanding more expression of dramatic feeling and characterization. I can see her in Coppelia, but wonder how she would do in Giselle. Or even as the Siren or Sleepwalker.

Are there other roles she's done where she's impressed you with in roles like those?

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Here's my last "diary" entry on the weekend. I've written these independently, without as much opportunity as I'd like to have had to make them comments on yours, bart, because of problems with my ISP while I was in south Florida, and now that I'm back home and things are working better (same ISP; passage of time? different server? argh, it's the digital age, ya love and ya hate it!) and I can read through what you've written, I've found it interesting, as I often do, that we say much the same things, sometimes in slightly different language, as different people will:

Sunday, 5th February 2006:

The first surprise on this program made me happy and sad, because Deanna Seay and Kenta Shimizu led La Source, which made me happy, but because Jennifer Kronenberg, originally cast, was ill, I was saddened, of course, but at least she's not injured, I'm told, and very probably will be back soon. (Not soon enough for this fan, but, nevertheless... back.)

As I've said, I have problems with the slow tempos this ballet is being performed in, and it looked to me as though Catoya wouldn't mind faster tempos, but Seay had no problems! I think she could hold anything together, even in slower tempos than these, although neither Delibes nor Balanchine deserve that. Seay's way with whatever she dances suited this pretty well; she made this luminously luxurious, creamy, flowing along without effort. Kenta Shimizu was her fine partner, and Charlene Cohen was the very nice demi. (Does "nice" seem faint praise? I consider this pink ballet a "nice" ballet, delicate, perfumed and restrained in virtuosity, to choose to repeat some of Villella's apt words for it in his pre-performance remarks, and Cohen's "nice" dancing was just right for it.)

Push Comes to Shove was performed by Cox, Wu, and Spiridonakos again, and I found it more fascinating than before. Among other things, Cox seems to be host or m.c. at times. With this and her other roles just this weekend, Wu is showing a wide range, giving strong, effective performances of roles as diverse as this one and La Source. And Carlos Guerra, Spiridonakos's partner in the third movemement, has his customary nobility coming and going in accordance with the zany changes in this choreography. So I was very glad to see this again, and I regret it'll probably be some time before I get another chance at it.

I continue to think that the Sherzo of Western Symphony is weak and needs a little help, and this afternoon it got that and more from Catoya and Mikhail Ilyin. Wow! The way she tosses this off! (She even makes the point: Dancing in an easy-looking sequence downstage, she then does something more with an inflection and a look back over her shoulder at her watching partner as though to say, "Huh? That was nothin'!" This is not heavy acting, but I think she has it in her, bart, and I seem to recall a Giselle in which she was differently effective, more bouyant, than, say, Seay, who felt more deeply, IIRC.) Does she have as much fun doing it as I had watching it? I hope so. I think so! And Ilyin was excellent. So this was an exceptional Western right there, and Katia Carranza and Luis Serrano contributed a fine, clear Adagio, besides.

Kristen Kramer's appearance in the corps of the Scherzo reminds me to correct what I said about her above. I meant that that was her final solo appearance; she did a few more corps roles after that.

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For a New Yorker who sometimes feels frustrated with NYCB, a weekend with Miami City Ballet in Ft. Lauderdale was the perfect cure. Western Symphony in particular was a smash. I was amazed to feel tears springing to my eyes as the curtain rang down on that townful of madly twirling cowboys and dance-hall girls. In New York the ballet has gotten tired over the years; the dancers seem to be mocking the western cliches rather than re-energizing them. Not so in MCB! Villella has the whole cast running at a gallop, and loving it. The climax came right where it needed to be, with outrageously leggy turns and twists by the Diamond Lil figure of the fourth movement. Principal Michele Merrell set the standard for sophisticated raunchiness on Saturday, and corps dancer Allyne Noelle matched it on Sunday. Backing them up was a terrific corps, with long-legged Kristin D'Addario sticking out as a future queen of the saloon. As for the men, these are real cowboys -- gauchos, actually, but cowboy culture is as indigenous to Latin as to North America. Guys like Luis Serrano, Renato Penteado and Carlos Guerra look completely at home where the buffalo roam, and their swaggering style even rubs off on colleagues like Mikhail Ilyin and Kenta Shimizu. I had begun to think of Western Symphony as a dated piece, but the immigrant blood of this company renews America's frontier spirit, with a bang.

As for La Source, I agree that Haiyan Wu has captured the subtlety and grace of the Violette Verdy part, but she does it in her own way and makes it new. She is an artist of the upper body, using the arms, wrists, hands and fingers to stretch out the musical phrases, giving them her own extremely free but still totally musical interpretations. She also projects an air of calm, the same feeling but in a different mode from Verdy's Gallic sophistication. Wu seems more enraptured in the moment, less conscious of the details and more into the flowering of the whole lovely sequence. I also agree that La Source makes an odd, incomplete impression, but I think that impression fades the more times you see it. And it fades completely when you look at the old videotape of Verdy and Villella. They make it look like a masterpiece.

Push Comes to Shove is a clever piece of programming in between these two ballets at opposite ends of the Balanchine spectrum, but I think this work of deconstruction fails in its mission to undermine the logic of classical music and dance. For one thing, the jokes are all right on the beat, just on the surface of the music. Still, the company gave it their all -- Jeremy Cox and Luis Serrano worked some laughs out of the male lead, though no one gives it quite the cross-wired bursts of combustion that were invented on and for Baryshnikov. Wu and Andrea Spiridonakis had their own takes on the nuttiness, Spiridonakis bursting into enormous extensions literally at the drop of a hat, and Wu inventing an upper-body wobble and bobble that served as a perfect non-sequitur to her ballet movements. But Push seems like a thankless task for such dancers, who are not at all cynical about their art.

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flipsy! Thank you, thank you for that wonderful and concise report! What evocative language! You brought so much of the weekend back! For one example, "cross-wired bursts of combustion"! Ever seen amateur auto mechanics try to straighten out mixed-up spark-plug wiring? If the motor runs at all, it's like having a nervous breakdown! What potent metaphors!

But the best remark on Tharp came from the master of what to leave out: "Twyla makes everyone look like her; I make everyone look like themselves." Dancing his choreography is not a thankless task. You become yourself.

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By the way, flipsy, please tell us more about that video of La Source. Where can it be seen? Only at some place like the Dance Collection? Or maybe it's in something that has or had commercial circulation?

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Thanks, flipsy. Among other things, your comments on Wu -- "an artist of the upper body" -- helped me very much to re-see and understand better what I could not quite grasp about her beautiful performance in La Source. How great to have the opportunity to see Verdy and Villella in video !!!

I was fascinated by your comment on the jokes in "Push ..." coming right on the beat and riding the surface of the music. I didn't notice it at the time, but you're right! I can see several examples from these performances in my visual memory bank. I guess it helps make the ballet even more accessible, though I can now imagine other ways of handling it. Which makes me want to see it again, soon, since missed opportunities can be as fascinating in ballet as what is actually done.

I hope that others will make their travel plans to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or West Palm with the MCB schedule in front of them. Bring your sun glasses. :)

Anyone else have thoughts about this program? Even just a few words? There's a group of MCB fans and Ballet Talk readers down here -- or visiting here regularly -- who haven't posted much but would love to hear from you.

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I saw the video of Verdy and Villella in La Source in the Dance Collection of the NY Public Library, at Lincoln Center. It's black and white, silent and incomplete, but it was a thrill to see. Verdy's details are exquisite, and Villella does a series of leaps, opening out from an etrechat into a 90 degree plus extension a la seconde, that no gazelle could match for grace. See for yourself!

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