I've just seen 3 performances here at West Palm. Generally, I'm in entire agreement with Jack. And with flipsy,
(Flipsy, I moved your post to this thread and closed the duplicate thread. We were writing at more or less the same time, so I ended up reporting some of the same things as you. I'd never heard the phrase "jumping bean solo" for the man in Raymonda. It certainly is apt. It also reminded me of Bluebird. Also, your post reminded me of Catoyal's fishdive towards the audience at the end of Raymonda. Now THAT's a thrilling bit of business!)
About the program: This was a brilliant combination of ballets. Villella, in his pre-curtain talk, said that it is a showcase of very different styles that his "young dancers" are capable of doing. Oddly, Villella himself did not seem very enthusiastic about any of these works during his comments. He was very brief, and seemed rather uninterested in both Raymonda Variations ("a bit of froth") and Lilac Gardens (which he seemed to consisder something of a period piece). He had a few interesting memories of dancing in "Three Movements. Apparently, when he asked Balanchine about some of the arm waving movements, Balanchine responded: "Helicopters, dear. Helicopters." Villella also called the 3 MOvements an "anti-war" ballet, which was -- and remains -- news to me.
Villella seems very good about allowing his young dancers to gain experience in a variety of roles. When this works -- as with Alex Wong, who had the chance to partner the ballerina in Raymonda Variations AND to dance one of the very intricate and demanding Balanchinian leads in 3 Movements on the same program -- it really works. But Wong is a rare and exceptional natural dancer who absorbs dance styles quickly and aeautifully. However, several of the apprentices chosen to dance in Raymonda were not really up to it. The steps are easy; linking and sustaining them are not. The effect at times was that of a student recital at a mid-level ballet school: not exactly fair either to the dancers or the audience.
I love what Balanchine did with the classical steps and conventions. Mary Carmen Catoya was wonderful in the lead. Her style and charm reminded me a bit both of Verdy and McBride in the part, lthough she's more muscular and compact. Luis Serrano was a marvellous partner, and the two of them worked well together. Serrano is not a jumper, which made him a bit less suited for the solo parts. Alex Wong (second year member of the corps) did an amazing job at the Sunday matinee. The partnering here is not easy, especially with all those difficult balances and transitions in the adagio sections, and I was astonished as to how well he did it. (A test for me is how the man uses his hands to help the ballerina pirouette. Beginners often seem clumsy with this. Wong was good -- and effective.)
I wasn't looking forward to Lilac Garden
for a couple of reasons. I haven't seen it since I was rather young, and my memories are of something fusty and melodramatic, suitable for a museum rather than a modern company. Worse, several ABT performances I saw in the past were stiff and uninspired. I was also fearful that the young Miami dancers, who have nothing like this in their repertoire, would not be able to come close to the style or feeling. I was wrong. They did a really excellent job -- miraculously so, when you think of the challenges. they also got me to look closely at a ballet I'd never paid much attention to before, and to come to admire and even love it.
I saw two casts. The most effective, to me at least, was composed of Jennifer Kronenburg (Caroline), Carlos Guerra (Lover), Daymel Sanchez (Man She Must Marry), and Deanna Seay (Woman from her Past). Seay was the only dancer I've ever seen who made the "other woman" someone I really sympathized with. She was softer and more vulnerable than the usual interpretation,and it worked. On the other hand, she had the force to carry off the two most powerful (for me) visual images in the ballet: the upstage bouree from one side of the stage to the other, with back to the audience; and her savage response to the young party guest who asks her for a dance, only to be driven off the stage by a suddenly enraged woman, chest forward, arms back, having finally lost her cool.
Similarly, Sanchez was less rigid and ominous than I've seen before. At times he was genuinely puzzled by how upset his old mistress was, or why Caroline was always turning her head away There was an attractive weakness in this character that contrasted with his powerful social position in a male-dominated world. The opening tableaux -- Sanchez standing behind Kronenberg, his hand slowly moving down her arm in a possessive and non-affectionate carress -- was chilling.
Kronenberg as Caroline was lovely and very affecting. Evereykthing about her (face, movement, even her body in repose) were in character, and she used the frequent push-pull movements and gestures of the role to suggest how truly conflicted she was. In the alternate cast, Haiyan Wu was mis-cast in the role, both as to temperament and as to style. Softer, more helpless, more neurotic than Kronenberg, her Caroline made me think of her Giselle -- except that here, she isn't given the opportunity of going mad and dying. Wu is a compelling Giselle. However, I would have preferred to see Tricia Albertson or Katia Carranza given a chance as Caroline.
The Lover is the least interesting part in this foursome, but Guerra made me feel his suffering, while still playing the social game that required him to partner other women in the dance and to act as if he hadn't a care in the world. When the time came for the ballet's final tableau -- Guerra alone in the center of the garden, his back to the audience, his folded behind his back -- I felt that his story was, indeed, just as interesting as the others. Guerra continues to grow.
In the second cast, Sanchez switched roles and became the Lover. He's a beautiful mover, so this worked fine. Callie Manning was the other woman. She is angrier and more menacing than Seay. Sometimes she appeared even stronger and more scarey than the man who is rejecting her. Jeremy Cox, on the other hand, was gentler and more subtle than most dancers in this role. That meant that the power relationship went a bit askew, though still quite interesting. I especially liked the way Cox/Manning, in the midst of something passionate, would catch themselves up and glance quickly and sharply from left to right, aware that someone might be looking.
The audience response to LG was interesting -- signs and gasps as the curtain rose ("Oh, good, a romantic ballet in a garden.") -- and then puzzled and politely restrained hand-clapping at the end. It was a magical set of performances that deserved a bigger response.
Sympthony in 3 Movements
is a ballet I've loved since day one, its debut during the Stravinsky Festival. This was a smoothly run, beautifully danced, and very exciting performance. The corps of women in white leotards in their long diagonal line received gasps of appreciation as the curtain rose. The women had been very well-coached in the style. (Well, there WERE a couple of young women who had their own ideas about arm movements and had a rather more swoony kind of attack than the others.) The corps of 5 couples were really good. Each of them danced as if given a mig solo, and everyone was worth looking at closely.
Of the three lead couples, Tricia Albertson (in red) and Alex Wong were the sharpest, fastest, and most Balanchinian in the way they attacked and sustained the steps. Wong, from his first solo entrance charging across the stage commanded the available space like Villela did. Speed, elongation, elevation: you name it. Albertson's and Wong's jump competition -- very high jumps, torsos twisted, legs bent and to the side -- got gasps and applause.
The main couple were Katia Carranza (pink) and Jeremy Cox. At first Carranza seemed a bit softer and even more voluptuous than this role seems to call for, but her dancing grew on me. She can attack a movement when she wants (eg. circling the stage with rapid picque pirouettes as the female corps moves in all sorts of directions). In the "eastern" or "oriental" duet, Carranza and Cox were stunning. Their concentration was total. They were very much together but also completely in his or her own world. It was one of the most powerful examples of pas de deux I've seen on stage in a long time.
As the third couple, Patricia Delgado (orange) and Alexandre Dufaur danced beautifully together. (Jack refers to a certain straightforwardness in Dufaur's dancing. In the past, I've been distracted sometimes by a kind of lackadaisical quality in his corps work. Here, however, the concentration was total and the manner was impeccable. Clearly he knew that this is a major role.) The dancing for this couple is not as interesting as for the other two, but they held their own at the end when all 3 couples dance together, in sequence, in competition, etc. It's a great finale, and everyone did his bit. [Edited to add a comment of flipsy's:
Let’s just say that the finale is like an amphibious assault, with Navy Seals crouching on the shore, air cover buzzing overhead, ranks of infantry advancing and a signal corps darting in and out of the wings.
(But ... anti-war? I'm still puzzling over that.)