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MCB "Jewels" performancea humble consideration...

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#31 bart


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Posted 20 November 2007 - 12:11 PM

Here are some comments about the Saturday evening and Sunday matinee performances in West Palm Beach.

Responses to Jack Reed and popularlibrary: Jack, you are right, the diamonds did start to sparkle (flames added to candles in the chandeliers) when the polonaise began. I didn't notice it from the upper level, but did from the orchetra. IThis didn't distract me, but it did seem a little obvious: "Hey, a very grand party is about to begin,." as if the grand movement and the spectacle of 24 dancers in 2 long lines couldn't tell us that on their own.

And, yes, I agree that the opening tableaux in Rubies is too dark. It got a gasp and a hand nonetheless, as did each opening tableux.

Popularlibrary, the elements of women's empowerment and gender control which you note from the original performances now seem to be gone. For example, in Rubies neither of the lead women seemed to be engaged in a power struggle. They were, however, toying with the boys while enjoying the game immensely. Is it possible that Farrell's interpretation in Diamonds was personal and possibly unique to her? Both Seay and Catoya in the Farrell role seemed to enjoy very much being presented, pursued, and courted by the man -- but not to take it too seriously either.

Emeralds. Saturday night's cast was the same as Friday's. On Sunday, Jeanettte Delgado was replaced by her sister, new principal Patricia Delgado. (Jeanette did not dance this weekend.) I have not really responded to Patricia's dancing in the past, but this was a good role for her. The bracelet solo was especially well done, with lovely filigreed shaping of the port de bras. Generally, upper body is Patricia's strongest suit.

Callie Manning (as the second woman) danced in a more rounded, academically correct fashion. There's much to like in her dancing. A certain tension in the neck and jaw -- and an inconsistency of facial expression, something that several other Miami dancers sharel -- sometimes get in the way. The dancing must be controlled, of course, but there must also be an illusion of freedom. Didier Bramaz was a marvelous partner, and she seemed to lighten up when dancing with him.

This pas de trois was exceptionally young. Villella seems to like to cast the Esty twins (Leigh-Ann and Sara) together. Their "date," as it were, was Alex Wong. They were a spritely, perky contrast to the more classical and elegant trio from Friday night. In the final tableaux, when Wong led the other two men towards the audience and into the gesture of kneeling and raising an arm to ... what? (as popularlibrary has aptly said), his extreme youth and freshness of face made me think of a young generation leading his elders into the future.

Rubies Jeanette Delgado was scheduled for the lead, but was replaced by Jennifer Kronenberg. That made the cast indistinguishable from Friday night. There were differences in performance, however. Perhaps the dancers were tired. I saw no change in Kronenberg, but Penteado's bravura work seemed a little more effortful, a couple of incidents of near collisions i the corps were noticeable, and timing was off at a couple of key points.

Corps member Kristin D'Addario was the tall girl Saturday night. D'Addario doesn't yet have the attack and the sheer physical presence for this role, but she has charm, sweetness and very high grandes battements, all of which were lovely to watch, though possibly not in Rubies

Sunday's matinee performance had anew cast. It was virtually, as a result, a new ballet. Patricia Albertson and Jeremy Cox were the leads. Alllynne Noelle, another recruit from the corps, was the tall girl. (She was quite a surprise -- but more about that later.)

Albertson and Cox are interesting dancers who are often cast together. They are not romantic or naturally passionate dancers, but they play off against each other quite well. Here they were like 15-year old kids, darting glances and smiles, and reminding several of us of Mickey Rooney and a perkier version of Judy Garland in the 30s Andy Rooney films. "Hey, kids, let's put on a show." It was fun, but detail was lost. When Kronenberg does those fast pirouettes in coup de pied, with arms up at right angles and wrists bent towards the head, every detail is visible despite the speed. Albertson's look was blurred. Cox's run with the boys was low-energy compared to Penteado's. You wouldn't have thought that this this has been one of the most thrilling short bits in modern male dancing. Similarly, Cox's big jumps and slides were softer, gentler, less risky-looking than the Rubies score -- and history -- calls for.

The real surprise for me came from the tall girl. Allynne Noelle really is tall, with long, long legs, so is usually stuck up stage when the corps is dancing. She's a very appealing -- and potentially exciting -- tall girl. She understood and was alwaysin sync with the music, and had the ability to move from attack and sharpness to melting softness. Spiridonakis, a more experienced dancer, was closest I think to what Balanchine intended, but Noelle was really fun to watch. At one point the tall girl exits stage left -- deep plie in second, followed by balance in arabesque, performed three times. Noelle made it look almost too easy, but had a slight look of "did you really think I couldn't do that?" when she glanced at the audience just a before departing.

With this young cast, Rubies is about extreme youth playing around with jazzy attitudes and sexiness that they don't yet completely understand. Kronenberg and Penteado are the same characters, but maybe five years later. They've been around a bit, perhaps hanging out at afterhours Broadway dance clubs. Both approaches have dramtic validity and can work. But the second version is the Rubies I remember it from the original season.

Diamonds. On Saturday, Seay repeated her role, this time with Rolando Sarabia. She was if anything even more impressive on second viewing. Seay and Sarabia made an impressive partnership, but Cotoya with Sarabia the next day were more than that. Catoya (so good in Emeralds earlier in the run) was wonderful in Diamonds. Sarabia's body is slightly stocky, so it's even more astonishing when you see the lightness of their jumps, the softness of their landings, the elegant and masculine movement of hands and head, the entrechats that rise with impeccably pointed feet and end in a perfect fifth position. Sarabia is the real thing. Dancing him made Catoya more of the real thing -- fast, brilliant, possibly even competeitive -- than I've ever seen. Diamonds, which can sometimes be a little wan, was thrilling. Everyone, from principals to corps, got the biggest ovation of the evening.

Live Music IS better. The Opus One orchestra, conducted by Juan Francisco La Manna, had a rich polished sound. They handled the three very different pieces of music beautifully and with a lot of sensitivity to what was going on onstage. In Rubies, the solo pianist Francisco Renno played a difficult score brilliantly. When you really notice a ballet orchestra, it's usually because something is going wrong. The best tribute I can pay to La Manna and Opus One is that, after the opening bars, you tended to forget that they were there. The music and dancing were a tightly knit unit.

God -- or the Devil -- is in the Details. Diaghilev once wrote to a young Prokofiev urging him not to spread himself too thin when it came to musical styles. "But this will inevitably lead to limitations," Prokofiev protested. Diaghilev repllied: "A gun fires far because its aim is narrow." Details count. Focus counts. Here are two examples:

1) I noticed something in Emeralds this time around that I'd never noticed before. You hear a lot about water images in this ballet -- the green of the sea, etc. I'd never particulary felt this before.

Early in the ballet, the women of the corps are in a curved line, holding hands, moving forward and backward gracefully. The man lifts the ballerina who extends one of her pointed feet towards this wave. They approach it as if attempting to jump over it and into the sea. Each time the retreat. Then they run and bend, moving under and through the way. They separate and look about in wonder. Each cast did this, creating for an instant the image of a ballet beneath the sea -- and the suggestion that bending, yielding is the path to reaching it. Villella talks about "layers and layers," but he also provides details that make us see each layer.

2) One of the most memorable bits in Rubies is the brief episode of the 4 men, each reaching for the tall girl, each grasping an ankle or wrist, after which all four work as a team to support her while she slowly bends, extends, etc.. This was performed memorably by by the young Sunday matinee cast. Stravinsky at this point provides 4 short lines each of which crescendos and then ends abruptly (and in forte) as a man grasps part of what Villella calls "the filly."

There's an urgency in the music. This young cast captured that -- each man was right there are just the right time, freezing briefly as they grasped. I can still see the last of the 4 -- I think it was Daniel Baker -- and the slight freeze (or was that just an illusion?) before the interesting pas de 5 begins. A small detail, but the kind of thing you don't forget if you're lucky enough to be looking closely when it occurs.

The icing on the cake was the way that Noelle almost purred as she moved and as the 4 men scrambled to support her. Some have asked: Who is manipulating whom? With Noelle, as with Spiridonakos earlier, the answer was clear.

#32 popularlibrary



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Posted 20 November 2007 - 01:44 PM

Popularlibrary, the elements of women's empowerment and gender control which you note from the original performances now seem to be gone. For example, in Rubies none of the women -- both the McBride part and the tall girl -- seemed to be engaged in a power struggle. They were, however, toying with the boys while enjoying the game immensely. Is it possible that Farrell's interpretation in Diamonds was personal and possibly unique to her? Both Seay and Catoya in the Farrell role seemed to enjoy very much being presented, pursued, and courted by the man -- but not to take it too seriously either.

Thanks bart for that wonderful, detailed report, though it did make me sigh a bit for something of Balanchine that seems to be getting lost. Of course, Villella has to deal with the young dancers he has, and, not to be pretentious about it, a different age. And possibly (I'm in no position to know) he explains too much in an effort to avoid Mr. B's habit of refusing to explain much of anything ("What is this ballet about?" "It's about twenty minutes."). But there was a point to Mr. B's method, however hard it was on the dancers. They had to develop from within themselves, to find their own way to who they were and who they were in the role and the ballet. The results, as I felt them over the years, were a highly developed individuality, and a depth of honest interpretation I see far less often these days. Balanchine's people, possibly because he was so ruthless with them, got further and further into a role the longer they danced it. Explanations reflect only one source, and that not the interpreter's - they may help, but they also limit. I think Balanchine was right. It must come from within the artist (with guidance, to be sure).

To answer your specific question about Farrell. Of course her interpretation was unique to her, but others dancing the role found their own way to a similar country so to speak. Mazzo was more fragile, Kent more fugitive and elusive, but the drama in Diamonds remained, however it was inflected. It appears now to be gone, which means, to me, that something at the core of the work may be missing. If there was an irreplaceable interpretation, it was probably McBride's in Rubies. In my experience, she came closer to absolute uniqueness even than Farrell. More recent dancers catch some of her sparkle and wit, but apparently little of the darker qualities that made her so remarkable in The Cage or La Valse. She was always a bundle of unpredictable complexities - now joyous, now bitchy, now a delight, now flat-out wicked. And her musical phrasing was truly unique.

I'm going to try to give some links to several photos of Jewels performances from the early 70s. The first two are Kent and Martins, the third Mazzo and Bonnefous, in Diamonds; the last two are McBride and Villella in Rubies. I hope it works.






#33 tempusfugit


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Posted 22 November 2007 - 04:32 PM

I also saw the Saturday and Sunday performances in West Palm Beach. Found P. Delgado lovely and very expressive in the Verdy role; Manning was correct but cautious and much too constrained for me. The pas de trois, on the other hand, was as young, reckless, and crazily happy as I have ever seen it--a real highlight. This male part was made on John Prinz, at the time the rising danseur noble of the company, and Wong, although shorter and more compact, has not only freshness but promise of many mature virtues. Noelle was superb as the tall girl in Rubies (the exit with the penchees was indeed great, especially the vampish look as she vanished)--and speaking of vampish, Kronenberg is almost in the league of Farrell for the 'ginch'. I thought she was fascinating and completely assured in the McBride role-- a pleasure in every way, which I have rarely said since seeing McBride dance it. Although I very much liked Catoya in Emeralds, and find her dazzling in virtuoso roles, I did not think her at all suited to Diamonds. It is not a question of her brilliant and crystalline technique, nor of the large scale of her dancing (huge for a small woman), but of the sensibility. Seay, whom I have seen far too rarely, was gracious, poignant, retiring, poetic, refined beyond belief--a completely individual approach, utterly unlike Farrell, and equally as compelling and valid. Seay's elegance can hardly be overstated, nor can her generosity, understatement, and warmth.

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