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Pointe Magazine cover story"Miami Rhapsody"


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#1 bart

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 11:32 AM

The June/July Pointe Magazine has a cover story on MCB enttitled "Miami Rhapsody." Akuthor is Caitlin Sims. It's not yet online.

The cover photo is of principal Mary Carmen Catoya, and there are a number of effective performance photos, including one of 6 women in Push Comes to Shove which is almost like a snapshot: caught at an awkward moment, but full of life and movement.

The starting point for the piece is the move, at the start of next season, to the Miami Performing Arts Center, where MCB will be one of 4 resident arts organizations. There's some interesting information about Villella's original proposals for a ballet company in Miami, and the master plans he prepared that led the company to its current size, reputation, and recent financial strength.

Here are some of the highlights:

For his part, Villella selects dancers by focusing on the individual. 'The firsts thing I look for is quality of movement. Each of us has that singular fingerprint of how we move,' he says. 'The second is how we move to music and if we have the ability of physicalize music.' And while Villella also looks for 'compatible, willing human beings,' he believes that an important factor in developing a company is 'that people have artistic information that is common througout the ranks.'

To further this goal, Villella teaches company class every day, so that his singular approach can create a more unified look for a company made up of dancers from more than a dozen countries. He hires young dancers, often early in their careers, and promotes from the corps de ballet. 'We are not a company that hires or rents superstars,' he says. 'We develop from within,. It's part of my great satisfaction to look at young kids who came here straight out of schools and academies and are now principal dancers.'


For a company of its size, MCB peforms a relatively large number of times for each program, with regular venues in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Naples, and several tours around the country each year, as well as a few visits abroad. This provides a lot of stage time for the dancers, and some ballets have up to 5 different casts.

'You perform a lot, and that's what makes a dancer. I love to dance; that's why I'm here," says Catoya.

"When dancers have opportunities, it eliminates -- to put it delicately -- interpersonal problems,' says Villella.


Just as interesting as the article is what the author leaves out.

The impression is given that Villella started out at Miami with an almost exclusively Balanchine repertory. There's no mention of the large number of ballets of quite a different style by resident choreographer Jimmy de Gamonet, who left the company and took his ballets wtih him a number of years ago.

I wasn't in this area at the time, and have never seen one of Gamonet's ballets, but I notice that audience members continue to ask about them during Villella's curtain-raiser talks and Q&A. Villella usually sidesteps these questions.

Last March, however, during one of the curtain raisers at West Palm, he responded by saying that, although he has not spoken much in public about the reasons for Gamonet's departure, he felt that the Gamonet ballets had served their purpose when the company was establishing itself, but were not of the kind or quality that presenters wanted when MCB went on tour.

Sims's article, however, gives the "official" historical revision of MCB history, in which Gamonet is a non-person. This doesn't effect the enormous achievement of Villella and MCB :) , but it does, IMO, make me a little suspicious of journalism which relies entirely on information provided by the subject of the article. :dry:

#2 Jack Reed

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 12:53 PM

Just a couple of quick thoughts in passing - too quick to look anything up, even:

Thanks for mentioning the article here; that's one magazine I don't check as regularly as I should, obviously! (Maybe a link in the "print" forum is appropriate?)

I saw MCB dance a few of Gamonet's ballets, and I don't miss them. One, Grand pas Classique I think it was, merely made the dancers look awkward, which is bad enough, but the worst one in my limited experience kept me out in the hall on subsequent returns to the theatre, not in protest but just to protect myself. Retelling the story of the crazed old matriarch, The House of Luisa Alba, or something like that, treated us not only to the spectacle of the title character caning a young woman, but in another scene, some one else, understandibly having had enough of a miserable life, hangs herself, realistically, in full view, on a raised place, stage center. Yikes! Dancers? In something like that? What a waste! And dancers don't have time to waste!

Now, I'm not categorically opposed to strong stuff in art, and in fact I'm taken when something is evoked with economy of means, but these were literal, graphic depictions, and I couldn't get anything out of them but shock. If I have to be shocked, I want at least as much strength of craft in the process as one gets from Antony Tudor, although so far I find the shocking aspects of his ballets gratuitious and, consequently, flaws.

I think bart's point about completeness or comprehensiveness is arguable either way. Not having read the article myself yet, I gather it's essentially about MCB today, its recent past and near future, and while Gamonet was on board for a time, with the clarity of hindsight maybe it's possible to see that his presence didn't contribute that much to where the company is now.

#3 bart

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 03:15 PM

Thanks, Jack, for those memories of Gamonet's ballets. I can see why Villella, given the current extraordinary abilities and rep of his company, has shed no tears about their loss.

Actually, the question that led to Villella's outburst was about whether he iintended to put on House of Bernarda Alba again. :)

I have heard odd and contradictory things about Gamonet's work. Some of that work is now visible in recent performances of his new dance company, the one he took over from Maximum Dance. But not the story ballets, I believe. There was definitely an audience for this in Miami in the early days, and Villella must have been glad to have it as he gradually (and quite ingeniously) developed his Balanchine rep.

What I question is the article's complete excision of this part of the history of the company, as well as the erroneous suggestion that MCB's early rep was exclusively or heavily Balanchine.

It's funny you mention Tudor. There's a thread elsewhere on BT in which posters have baeen suggesting literary sources for new ballets. I'd been thinking of mentioning Casa de Bernarda Alba, a very powerful play by Federico Garcia Lorca, and was specifically imagining to myself what the Tudor of the 40s-50s might have made of it.

The plot -- a matriarch in an isolated Spanish village, obsessed with her daughters' purity and reputation, confines them inside the claustrophobic walls of their house. The plot deals with the tragic attempt of the youngest daughter to escape. Actually, Martha Graham or someone with that kind of stage presence would have made an astonishing Bernarda, one of the great roles in Spanish theater for a woman of a certain age. The last lines seem appropriate to a non-verbal art like ballet: "We will drown ourselves in a sea of mourning. The youngest daughter of Barnarda Alba has died a virgin. Did you hear me? Silence. Silence, I said. Silence!"

Heavy stuff! Here's an earlier thread on some other ballets based on the play: http://ballettalk.in...l=bernarda alba Apparently Kenneth MacMillan, Mats Ek, and others have done versions, too.

Question: anyone else have memories of Gamonet ballets in the MCB rep long ago?

#4 carbro

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 10:59 PM

There was a time in the 1980s when NYCB, ABT and the Royal were artistic mud puddles. When someone asked me why, I realized that these companies, all started from nothing with strong visionary leaders, had just been handed over to a new generation of ADs who did not have to struggle, who did not necessarily feel driven by a specific vision of the company they wanted. These companies were now The Establishment, but they were floundering.

Villella seems to have succeeded as wildly as he has because he has a very clear, very specific vision and set of goals for his company. My best hope is that when the time comes to turn it over to the next generation, the person shares Villella's drive and sense of what the company means, what makes it unique. MCB is a treasure.

#5 Jack Reed

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Posted 13 July 2006 - 10:41 AM

I wanted to thank bart for correcting the title of the Gamonet ballet I got wrong; I may not think a lot of his work, but I do think he deserves accuracy in reporting at least. (I've checked the title of the other one, and my memory served me better that time.)

And I want to thank bart again for mentioning the article at all: I had given the magazine only a passing glance on the rack, because, ordinarily, I don't buy dance magazines; I didn't recognise Mary Carmen Catoya on the cover because it's an image on paper and I recognise dancers more by what makes them interesting and rewarding to see, how they move. How much movement can you show on paper? (Uh, oh, there's another thread!) That said, there are some nice pictures in the article, including one which implies movement, the one of Jennifer Kronenberg as The Siren: Notice how her left foot is an inch off the floor? The whole shot brings back that moment in Prodigal, her cool dominance contrasted with the creepiness of the Drinking Companions; it's well chosen, like the others.

They're not all so well captioned, though: Notice the one of Luis Serrano and Carlos Guerra on p. 39? That's who they are, folks, left to right, but the caption names them in the reverse order. Tsk, tsk!

Yes, MCB is a treasure, all right.


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