Posted 25 October 2007 - 03:02 PM
I enjoyed reading your long post, cubanmiamiboy. Sometimes, thinking about what I've looked at, I come to BT with a sense of wonder about these little works of art which are disappearing even before they're finished with the question "Did you see what I saw?" in my mind, and it helps me to savor their ephemeral beauty to know that others actually did that, too. One of the things that makes BT fun is that although we may use somewhat different words when we talk about similar performances, it's often pretty clear when I read different posts here that we have seen much the same thing happen, don't you think? So here's my contribution. Let's see if it gives someone some benefit:
Friday, October 19, 2007 Broward Center for the Performing Arts
President Kennedy complained that nothing happened until you read about it in The New York Times, and with all due respect to John Rockwell (whose arrival in the Times's dance department was like a fresh breeze) it was good for it in the person of Alastair Macaulay finally to notice what some of us have known for years, that MCB can dance and does dance Balanchine better than the Kirov or NYCB. (Doesn't POB even rate mention?) How to dance Balanchine is a large topic in itself, and I'm such a slow writer I think I'd better stick to what I think I saw at MCB for now.
(cubanmiamiboy, I envy you your dancer's eye for what you see; maybe I'll be so acute, so analytical, some day as you, but as you may see from my posts, I don't perceive technical details so much as respond to the effect of their sequence. I do know what rondes de jambes are, but I'm trying to take in the whole dance as it flows on, so its effect can flow through me.)
I think I had first seen MCB's Jewels led off by Mary Carmen Catoya's "Spinner" variation years ago (I had naively allowed for only one traffic jam while crossing Miami to the Jackie Gleason Theatre but encountered two and so was admitted late to the back of the hall on the first applause), and I was struck then by deja vu. It soon became clear I was not looking at Verdy, though, but at someone who was like Verdy not as an imitation, for Verdy didn't even imitate Verdy, or anyone, but as someone who heard the choreography and showed us what she heard. (So it is with MCB generally.)
Anyway I had high expectations of Catoya this time and I was not the least disappointed. But this time (as on my second and third visits that first weekend years ago) I arrived in good time and was treated to the wonderful opening ensemble, in which Catoya worked so well with Carlos Guerra in the lifts among other wonders that she might have weighed about fifteen pounds, exactly right for this calm, luxurious and voluptuous world beneath the sea. (I am stealing here from the late Robert Garis, because his words from 1968 fit this 2007 performance well.)
What was a pleasant surprise, therefore, was Haiyan Wu in the second variation. I've had reservations about Wu as some one very clean and correct, not stiff or anything but remote and detached; but not tonight. What lovely arms! What luscious line! All the way down! All the time! Her variation (Mimi Paul's, originally) used to precede the Verdy one, but Wu's performance was one of the best justifications I've seen for changing the order (which Balanchine did on Verdy's retirement). Wu is tall, too, so all this (contained) splendor was the easier to see. On the other hand, in her pas de deux with Jeremy Cox, he never seemed to take his eyes off her, and so, although she took little notice of him, this part had less of that other-worldly quality it had under Balanchine's supervision, when the man's eyes remained downcast. Nevertheless the steady-stepping strangeness of this dance caught the audience too.
Inevitably I compare whatever cast I'm seeing in Rubies with the original, because one of their late-60's performances of it at Ravinia in the Chicago Symphony's summer "festival" there was the single performance that hooked me on ballet. I knew Stravinsky's witty Capriccio intimately at the time, and had not yet learned to listen so closely to everything that came my way, so that Emeralds went past me that first time (like it did you, cubanmiamiboy?) But that first Rubies was riveting. No one has done it like McBride and Villella, although Petra Adelfang and Jeff Herbig, prepared by Victoria Simon, reproduced McBride's sparkle and Villella's swagger to a surprising degree in the early days of Ballet Chicago. (Adelfang and Herbig went off to PNB, I think.)
But while there may be favorite details de-emphasised and others stressed in a performance today, in principle, there's nothing wrong -- and a lot right -- with a fresh approach. Renato Penteado was certainly fresh, lighter in effect than Villella was, a little careful even, where Villella was more reckless (even about his own safety, or so it looked) cavorting with his gang of four in the last movement, and he gave an account of the part I'm eager to see again. Jennifer Kronenberg was evidently having a very good, wry time with McBride's part, one of if not the most brilliant in the repertory, but while she did it no injustice, and I want to see it again also, it was Andrea Spiridonakos this time who seemed to me more crisply on top of her demi role, admittedly considerably less demanding than the two principal ones. (She has, for example, the assistance (?) of four cavaliers.)
Diamonds began with MCB's pulsing female corps, full of life and yet contained within the musical phrases, bringing the momentum of a sequence almost to rest at the end and then easing into the next one, each girl on her own individually and all together. In the great pas de deux, I was a little bothered at first by very staccato wind-playing in the orchestra, but never mind: I was soon "distracted" from this distraction by the intense beauty of what Deanna Seay, ably partnered by Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez as her cavalier -- not a danseur noble, mind you, but a priveleged cavalier -- was unfurling on stage.
Modest, even small-scaled, richly detailed but unfussy, clean, flowing, faceted, deep. Really spectacular, not blaringly attention-grabbing; you pay attention, and you are quietly overwhelmed as, defying all probability, it continues the whole length of her time on stage. Beautiful to the point of exciting. I was reminded of Makarova (never in this role), with an important difference: Makarova got notoriously slow tempos to show you better, or something, but MCB is better than ABT about that, and Seay worked her quiet wonders in good tempos, without the conductor, Juan Francisco La Manna, putting Tchaikovsky's music to sleep. No one had to give her extra time; never late or rushed, she found all the time she needed. It was already there.
As Villella pointed out in his pre-performance remarks, you can't talk about this ballet without mentioning Suzanne Farrell. I remember reading that Farrell famously said "I dance for God" and meant it; Seay may only be dancing for Tchaikovsky (with some considerable assistance from Mr. B). There's no reason for her or anyone to try to be Farrell, not because of the difficulty of that but because it's not worthy. Seay's been with MCB for many years now and done many fine things, but this is far and away the best I've ever seen her do. She's still becoming Deanna Seay, not anyone else, and those lesser gods, the two Russians, must have been pleased tonight. This mere mortal certainly was.
Saturday, October 20, 2007, at 2:00 PM
Jeanette Delgado debuted, or so I was told, in Emeralds, and the part was not quite so second-nature to her as it was to Catoya, but following Catoya is a thankless position. (Nevetheless, Catoya could follow Verdy and von Aroldingen in my experience, and be very satisfying.) Callie Manning came into the Paul role, with Didier Bramaz; in her variation, I thought La Manna gave her easier tempos. Again, not quite so fully acheived IMO as last night. (My seat was five rows closer, Row Q, from where the complexities of the principals' movements among the corps in the ensembles, especially the first movement, was vividly clear and so, more effective.)
Rubies was ably led this time by Tricia Albertson and Jeremy Cox, with Allynne Noelle in the eye-popping demi role. Crisper, and maintaining a more upright posture, she was a little more conscientious and less relaxed in the part than Jennifer Kronenberg had been. (I don't mean for a moment that Kronenberg looked uncaring or anything; she was just more "above it".) The "Rubies woman" can take this approach very well, IMO, and I was also glad to see Cox rev up some more amps in his role, giving it more of Villella's power and momentum, even if he didn't become the airborne dynamo Villella had been. No one could, and this was a very fine performance as it was. (Not too surprisingly from the dancer who showed us the powerful Prodigal Son of a few years ago.) Noelle was superb, just a little playful.
There's a detail I remember in the second part of the first-movement pas de cinq, after the second irruption of the orchestra, when the corps has gathered upstage left (originally as though in wonder, or even fright, about the events downstage center), when, apparently manipulated by her four boys, the demi turns her back to us and then her upper body is lowered to horizontal and she regards us for an instant from an upside down face. Do I remember correctly that Noelle was the only one of the three girls who took this role who lowered herself/ was lowered to full horizontal and did this? (The others just put their head back a little.) That used to get gasps in the New York State Theatre; it showed everybody was paying attention, performers and audience.
Then we had the Catoya-Sarabia "Diamonds", and what an event that was, as is everything Catoya does. The regality of the part was there, and so were details made with a clarity you could use for demonstration purposes, but flowing and completely "natural". That approach can be taken as fitting the strength and independence of the woman in this part -- someone that strong hardly ever really needs the guy, although he is allowed to be around -- but for me, the effect as it went along, while lovely and elegant at each moment, didn't accumulate intensity as Seay's had done. Still, it was really something to see. I was told both that it was Catoya's debut in the part, and that she had done it before in Miami. It was so fully achieved, so secure, to the point of serene (appropriately), I couldn't believe it might be a debut, except that it was Catoya. Rolando Sarabia was everything she needed, evidently, although if you look at the Farrell-Martins video, you will see that he expresses "regard from a distance" for his queen in the passage where he travels and jumps across the space behind her, which I did not see from the three MCB men, who more merely moved and jumped, filling out a pattern.
Saturday, October 20, 2007, at 8:00 PM
Patricia Delgado came into the Verdy role, broad smile and all, dancing very clearly, so that you could enjoy continuously how her movements nestled in the musical shape, one of Balanchine's essentials, but otherwise I found her too carerful, controlled, and consequently a bit bland. She didn't enliven the role, but if this was another debut, it was not a bad one either. And so while I was hardly bored, I was happily surprised to find Seay in the Paul role, quietly enlivening it, one of the best justifications I've seen for Balanchine's reordering the variations in this ballet when Verdy retired and he had no one who could make such a marvel of the second variation that it seemed a bit of an anti-climax after the first (Paul) one, which I gather is easier to bring off and also used to serve as a set-up for the Verdy variation; now the Verdy variation is used as a set-up for the Paul one, an arrangement which was almost anti-climactic when Catoya preceded Wu, but which went fine when Delgado preceded Seay.
"Rubies" had the least satisfactory principal cast this time around. By MCB standards, both women (Jeanette Delgado and Kristin D'Addario) seemed a little vague and unfocussed. Renato Penteado repeated his lighter, clean performance. And this time, I was not so distracted by the complicated lighting changes just after the beginning of the ballet that I noticed the original saucy hips-thrust-forward move was replaced by another, less-effective one.
Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra led "Diamonds" this evening, and it didn't come across very well for me. I had a sense of being too far from what was happening, but then I realized I was sitting next to the seat where I was so very strongly affected by Seay's performance last night. Again, I hope to see Kronenberg in this again, because she has had such a knowing way with other roles in the past -- Faun, and the Siren in Prodigal Son come immediately to mind -- I can't not think there's more going on here than it seemed.
Sunday, October 21, 2007, at 2:00 PM
Nearly the same cast as opening night made this guy one happy camper. Catoya was again in fine form in Emeralds, dancing almost like a thistle in the breeze, like Verdy did. Didier Bramaz replaced Cox as Wu's partner. The Delgado sisters, again in the pas de trois, again removed what I think of as the family smile in the sad last movement. (It looked as though Mr. B. was as "down" as we were about Verdy's departure.)
Albertson and Spiridonakos returned in Rubies, this time with Alex Wong, who debuted in the dynamo role. A very confident debut it was, too, some of the phrases just a little clipped, but great strength and clarity, and everything Albertson needed, which is really a redundant thing to say, once you know it's MCB that's under discussion. I couldn't recall seeing inadequate partnering here. (Well, the boss was famous as a partner in his day.)
Then in Diamonds maybe I got a hint of something about partnering, but I don't know exactly what. Seay, with Rolando Sarabia this time, was magnificent again, until early in the place in the coda where she and her partner dance in the center, when at first she looked a little clouded and out of focus, not up to her earlier standard; but then something got adjusted, her dancing cleared right up and became confident again. She even smiled more brightly than we're used to seeing, and as they exited, she turned her face to Sarabia (exiting behind her) instead of maintaining her profile perfectly into the wing as on Friday. We couldn't tell whether she had a smile or a word for him, but if the guy pulled her out of whatever her bother was, she wasn't the only one feeling gratitude toward him!