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Recent articles on Edward Villella and Miami City Ballet


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#1 bart

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Posted 05 March 2006 - 03:07 PM

The current issue of Dance View (winter 2006) has a review of Programs I and II by Carol Pardo, with interesting thoughts about the repertoire, the dancers, and the style. I was delighted to see soloists Callie Manning and Jeremy Cox get recognition for their excellent performances in Prodigal Son.

Dance View also has an interview of Jennifer Kronenberg by Dale Brauner. Kronenberg is a big admirer of Julie Kent (I can see the similarities).

Brauner expresses the following opinion about MCB: "What I enjoy about the company is the sheer pleasure the dancers exude and that they perform the Balanchine ballets in the spirit he seemed to want, very fresh." In her response, Kronenberg agrees and says, "I think Edward is careful about hiring people that really love what they're doing, want to be here, want to be working, wanting to be in this company. He instills a great joy in us ..."

This ties in with another wonderful piece, this one an discussion between Allegra Kent and Edward Villella himself. Answering the question "What qualities do you look for in a dancer?", Villella responds: "I look for compatible, willling human beings who are dedicated and can visualize music with their bodies. You can teach technique, but you can't teach talent."

The interview also gives insights into the development of MCB from its start-up 20 years ago, the challenges of fund-raising and audience-building, and Villella's vision for the future.

#2 TOOTOO

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 03:03 PM

Bart, I subcribed to Dance View via their website a month ago, but have not heard from them. Is there a telephone contact number on their newsletters? I tried emailing them, but the email was returned for an incorrect address. Thank you for your help, it looks like a newsletter I would love to receive.

#3 Justdoit

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 09:04 PM

Finally got my Winter issue of Danceview and read the article. I also saw that performance of Prodigal by Jeremy Cox and Callie Manning and felt it was very special as well. I had seen Serrano and Kronenberg's rendition on Friday night and was not impressed by either. Both came across as just going through the steps and playing the parts. Having seen Iliana Lopez and Franklin Gamero in the same roles many years ago and I was using Lopez's mesmerizing performance as a benchmark. Cox and Manning (the "third or fourth string" cast?) just outdid Kronenberg and Serrano on role interpretation. In addition to good, strong dancing, I want to be pulled into a story, not feel like I'm watching a personality act a part. Both casts danced well, but Cox and Manning just made you believe it wasn't a performance. They were the Son and the Siren and the audience was somehow given the privilege of watching their story play out before them.

I didn't have a lump in my throat at the end, like Pardo, but I do remember the thought I had when it came time to applaud. It was in that moment that I knew I had just been lucky enough to see one great performance of Prodigal Son. You know, the kind of performance you wish you could watch again and right now!

#4 bart

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Posted 22 March 2006 - 05:06 AM

Bart, I subcribed to Dance View via their website a month ago, but have not heard from them. Is there a telephone contact number on their newsletters? I tried emailing them, but the email was returned for an incorrect address.


They just have an address: P.O. Box 34435 / Martin Luther King Station / Washington D.C. 20043. I dug into my files and found that I paid them on Payh Pal last April, but this year I sent a a check, so maybe they don't have a web presence any more. I know that the editor visits Ballet Talk regularly, so perhaps you'll get a response from there.

Finally got my Winter issue of Danceview and read the article. I also saw that performance of Prodigal by Jeremy Cox and Callie Manning and felt it was very special as well. I had seen Serrano and Kronenberg's rendition on Friday night and was not impressed by either. Both came across as just going through the steps and playing the parts. Having seen Iliana Lopez and Franklin Gamero in the same roles many years ago and I was using Lopez's mesmerizing performance as a benchmark.


We agree on Cox/Manning, wihch was the most engaging of the 3 casts I saw. I also did not feel that Serrano was a natural for the part, though liked Kronenberg a lot. Her performance was excactly as she discussed it in the article.

Your memory of Lopez and Gamero is interesting. I started attending MCB only 5 years ago, when Lopez was reducing her performances and Gamero seemed to function merely as her partner. Neither performed much in West Palm Beach performances I saw. I did see them in Diamonds, which I enjoyed more as a chance to see the ballet again than as a performance for its own sake. It was workmanlike.

Based on the recurring question "Where is Iliana Lopez?" at Villella's pre-curtain talks, I realize that there is a lot of loyalty and a huge pool of good memories about her dancing. I did not get the chance to see her at the right time. Villella's current dancers are wonderful, but, with a few exceptions, the deeper, darker feelings don't come naturally to them. I felt this in their otherwise beautifully danced Giselles a few years ago. Joy, exhuberance, and panache are more in their line.

Speaking of which, any thoughts about the next season? -- especially the Don Quijote. I would think this is right up the dancers' alley.

#5 Jack Reed

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 03:37 PM

Bart, what you say at the end of your first post makes it look like the Kent-Villella discussion was in the Winter 2006 issue of Dance View but it's not in mine, even though the page numbers run consecutively (i.e., nothing appears to have been omitted). This item must be pretty tasty. Would you tell us where you saw it, please?

I hugely enjoyed Pardo's review - or, actually, enjoyed what she brought back of what I saw of Programs I and II, which says a lot about her powers of evocation, which sometimes need very few words: "Seay occupies a phrase fully and musically." She's writing about Seay in Source, but her phrase applies more widely, I think. Yes, yes, she does, she does! And when I read something liike that, I put down the magazine until all the fragmentary flash-backs have subsided, and I can read on without being deprived of them. So, unlike Pardo, I'm never surprised when I see Deay's name on the cast sheet, but I certainly do perk up.

On the other hand, some gremlin saw fit to repeat the caption for the picture on p. 19 under the one on p. 21, which is not of Catoya and Penteado in La Source, obviously, but of Catoya - and who else? - in The Quick-Step. Can we fill in the names of the other four dancers clearly seen here?

Edited by Jack Reed, 23 March 2006 - 03:43 PM.


#6 Justdoit

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 05:10 PM

Jack, Catoya is not in the picture on page 21 at all. Instead from L to R, Bruce Thornton, Andrea Spiridonakos, Charlene Cohen, perhaps Joan Latham (I think)and Alexandre Dufaur. It is an old picture from when Latham was still dancing with the company and is now one of the ballet mistresses.

bart, I had really never thought about the lack of dramatic depth of the MCB dancers which you spoke of in your last post. With a few exceptions, as you said and Seay would certainly be one of them. Reflecting on that statement I think you might be right. I too have always enjoyed the exhuberance of the Miami City Ballet dancers and their performances. However, I have to add that I am turned off by that danceschool face, i.e., the fixed smile, which I see too many MCB dancers use. Or, the "now I'll raise my eyebrows or purse my lips to show the emotion of this character." Perhaps the "depth" that you spoke of is what makes a truly great dancer. The ability to not just dance technically beautifully, but to also posess the ability to convey the character clearly and memorably to the audience as well.

What comes to mind here is that very old black and white Soviet film, early 60's, I believe. It's of Maya Pliestenskya (sorry about the spelling) where, while sitting in a chair, she demonstrates the range of emotion needed for Odette, Odile, Juliet, etc., with only the use of her upper body. I remember watching her and getting chills as I saw each characterization so fully realized while she sat there in a sweater, in the middle of an interview.

As for the upcoming season, I have never seen Don Q, (but would like to) so I really can't comment. However, the Christopher Wheeldon ballet Liturgy looks exciting. As well as another Tharp piece, In The Upper Room with music by Glass also peaks my interest.

Edited by Justdoit, 23 March 2006 - 05:11 PM.


#7 bart

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Posted 23 March 2006 - 08:03 PM

Jack, I'm sorry for the confusion. I omitted an important piece ofi information: the Allegra Kent interview with Villella is in the March 2006 Dance Magazine, not DanceView. Both came in the same week. Lots of Joe Gato photos, too.

Justdoit, thanks for your comments. The Plistetskaya film sounds wonderful. Do you -- or any other BT readers -- have information about whether this is still available?

Ballet movement (especially arms, head and shoulders) makes it possible to project so many kinds of feeling. Any well trained dancer can do it to some extent. But it takes an artist to do it in a way that makes you weep.

Incidentally, yours is a great name. Seems I've heard that phrase from my teacher when I was paralyzed by trying too hard to analyse a combination.

#8 Helene

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 12:43 AM

Justdoit, thanks for your comments. The Plistetskaya film sounds wonderful. Do you -- or any other BT readers -- have information about whether this is still available?

It's not available through amazon, at least at this time, but it is listed on the publisher's site: VAI. At $34.95 plus shipping, it's pricey, but it is also a priceless video. There are a few too many cuts to shots of the audience; however I'm not sure if this was strictly propaganda or was used as filler for parts of the performance where the filming was inadequate. The DVD (4261) also included a performance of Plisetskaya in The Dying Swan.

#9 bart

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 01:36 PM

Thanks, Helene. The link is to Swan Lake. Am I correct in thinking that it's the "Plistetskaya Dances" video that contains the passaage Justdoit mentioned?

(What I REALLY want to do is order both.)

#10 Justdoit

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 01:38 PM

Thanks for the compliment bart. It's a combination of Balanchine's "just do" and NIKE. :(

Hope you find the video and like it. It's rather rough in spots.

Edited by Justdoit, 24 March 2006 - 01:39 PM.


#11 Helene

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 04:17 PM

Thanks, Helene. The link is to Swan Lake. Am I correct in thinking that it's the "Plistetskaya Dances" video that contains the passaage Justdoit mentioned?

(What I REALLY want to do is order both.)

I'm sorry, bart, I was in two threads at once and confused them. I'll double-check the "Plisetskaya Dances" video for that passage. I don't remember it off hand from that video, but that doesn't mean anything :(

#12 Jack Reed

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Posted 26 March 2006 - 03:28 PM

Thanks, bart, I'm off to the magazine shop!

And thanks for the correction, Justdoit. I don't think I'd fail to recognise Cohen straight on, but I obviously haven't learned her profile. Speaking of dancers' faces straight on, I wonder if you dance yourself? I have a theory that we have all been learning to "read" people's faces since we could focus our eyes but dancers have learned in addition to see dancing so much better than mere mortals like myself that people like me are more distracted by expressions far from neutral. At any rate, I've sometimes thought a dancer actually undermines her effect on me when she makes too much with the face, rather than giving me more as she may think. Seay is one of the ones who are faultless in this regard though, in my book, FWIW.

Edited by Jack Reed, 26 March 2006 - 03:30 PM.


#13 Justdoit

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Posted 26 March 2006 - 05:43 PM

Jack I have not danced myself. But I have some experience watching dance. I do remember hearing Suzanne Farrell say to a class filled with young dancers as each struggled with a center combination and the struggle showed on most of their faces. "Believe me very few in the audience are watching your feet, it's your face they're looking at!" I would agree with you on Seay.

bart, I am sorry to send you on a hunt for this video. I borrowed it from our local library, probably 10 or 12 years ago, and do not remember the name of it. I would think there can't be too many different titles out there about Plistetskaya. It is either from the 50's or 60's and it is in black and white. There are excerpts from several of her favorite ballets and footage of her in class demonstrating her always doing more work ethic.

#14 bart

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Posted 26 March 2006 - 07:34 PM

As I get older I've found myself myself sitting closer to the stage AND using my opera glasses more. I often look at faces, sometimes selecting a new dancer in the corps, or a favorite dancer doing something that is not in the spotlight. In confess that these are not always the msot correct or even charismatic dancers. Doing this is my equivalent of the close-up shot in a film.

I am deeply impressed when a dancer is immersed in his or her "role," even in an abstract ballet -- When they are committed that they seem to BE their dance, and not just doing choreography designed by someone else and practiced for long periods of time in a studio.

Conversely, I'm turned off when dancers show in their faces the physical effort required to dance their parts. So I look for those whose faces project joy -- or concentration -- or passion -- or whatever is called for. The negative side of this is that I probably am taken in sometimes by the great big smile, perhaps mistakenly.

Farrell's comment about the audience not noticing feet is interesting. The world of dancer's feet, line, port de bras, etc., seems difficult and specialized to many viewers. I include myself in this, though Ballet Talk and exposure to good dance writing has helped me to understand better what I see.

#15 Jack Reed

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 01:49 PM

I don't dispute the truth of Farrell's remark - of course, the meaning and consequent truth of any statement depends on context, and hers was a large class of youngsters, whom I gather she wanted to nudge in the right direction - but it's been my pleasant observation that, while many people use their hands effectively to augment their conversation, dancers generally have more articulate feet than anyone's hands I can recall. That's why I choose my seating distance, when I can, to be able to see a dancer's figure entirely.

(Hmm. I'm just imagining now the sort of talker I just refered to using hands strapped into mitts, with wood blocks in the ends, no less! It puts me the more in awe of what dancers do: But the gesticulators generally have no line to speak of. There's much of the difference...)


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