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Miami City Ballet in Detroit 11-2-07 and 11-3-07performance reviews


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#1 chiapuris

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 12:01 PM

Performances of Miami City Ballet
at Michigan Opera Theatre, Detroit Michigan

Friday, November 2, opened a three-day run and the first appearance of MCB in Detroit at the Michigan Opera Theatre. The theatre has probably the largest stage in Michigan, and the only one that can meet the needs of the large ballet companies that visit a state that has never developed a viable classical company of its own.

And what a company the MCB has become! One could easily bandy about the term 'world class' without fear of contradiction, save for the fact that there was no accompanying orchestra.

The dancers, corps, soloists, principals are something else. Grounded, poised and ready to dance. Oh, so ready!

I happened to see Mr Villella during one of the intermissions on Fri night and went up to him to congratulate him on the performance of his company.

In response he said, “They know who they are; and they're all very musical”.
Indeed.

The run had one program, and at least the first two nights, the three ballets had the same casts both nights.

That was helpful for someone like me who has not been familiar with the company. I last saw them in Ann Arbor, several years ago, when they came to perform at the Power Center on the occasion of the Balanchine symposium organized by the University of Michigan.

This week's program started with Raymonda Variations, had in its center Agon, and finished with Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room.

Raymonda Variations (from 1961) may not be seminal Balanchine but it is an example of Balanchine's quintessential enterprise of extending the potential limits of the classical canon by reworking choreography from the remnant treasures of the 19th c. and with respect to the music of the earlier works: in this case Glazunov's Raymonda.

I don't recall ever having seen this work, being more familiar with two other reworkings of the Glazunov material: Pas de Dix and Cortege Hongrois.

RV consists of opening and closing group dances interspersed with variations of five female demi-soloists, a pas de deux for the principals as well as several variations for them.

The five demi-soloist variations set the problematic that Balanchine often gave himself: How can you extend the range of pointe work from what was practiced in the 19th c.?

The variations give his solution: finishing a jump (grand assemble) on full pointes, jumping from two pointes to one pointe, from one pointe to two pointes, and so on through an enriched vocabulary for the five variations.

The female principal's variations had beats (entre-chats-six) usually associated with male dancing. Then one remembers it was set on Patricia Wilde.

Another novelty of RV is the ending pose of the work -a variant of the 'fish dive'- for the principals. The female principal does multiple supported pirouettes center stage; on completion the male dancer walks downstage followed by the female principal running and leaping toward him with feet in tight fifth in the air; he catches her, lowering her torso close to the ground.

Mary Carmen Catoya was exquisite along with her gallant partner, Renato Penteado.
The five demi-soloists, both nights, were Ashley Knox, Jeanette Delgado, Patricia Delgado, Callie Manning, and Andrea Spiridonakos. I couldn't imagine a better cast.

Of Agon, all I'd like to say is that the cast was superb. In my recent New York visits, I haven't seen better.

Of the splendid Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra in the pas de deux all I could think of is Balanchine's (sparce) advice to the original dancers.
“…It's one long, long, long, long breath.”

The first pas de trois featured Andrea Spiridonakos, Jeremy Cox, and Callie Manning.

The second pas de trois comprised Didier Bramaz, Deanna Seay, and Alexandre Dufaur.

First-rate dancing from everyone.

My exposure to Tharp's In the Upper Room is limited to ABT's, and more recently, to the Bolshoi Ballet's rendition presented at the 7th International Ballet Festival earlier this year in St. Petersburg at the Mariinsky Theater.

If I'm going to play the rating game I'd have to go with the notion of authenticity of expression to the choreographer's intent. In that category, it seems to me, Miami City Ballet wins hands down. There's a gutsiness coupled with a clarity of direction, and thrust, and drive in MCB's dancers that strikes me as what Tharp is about and what she tries to realize in her choreography (at least for classical companies).

Have there been better 'china dogs' [Chinese temple guard dogs] than Jennifer Kronenburg and Jeanette Delgado?

Have there been better 'bomb squads' [women in red pointe shoes] than Leigh-Ann Esty and Sara Esty? (Someone correct me if I've got the wrong names- the two look like twins so I'm assuming I picked the right names. The program isn't much help).

Among the 'stompers' [running shoes crowd] the male trio of Alex Wong, Jeremy Cox, and Daniel Baker were outstanding.

A great evening; many thanks and congratulations to all at MCB.
Hope you'll be back in Detroit soon!

#2 bart

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 12:55 PM

Thanks, chiapuris. The program you saw is identical to one performed in Florida last January, with most of the "first cast" from that time. Your descriptions brought back a lot of memories. I could easily sit through another 4 or so performances of this program. It really shows the company off.

RV consists of opening and closing group dances interspersed with variations of five female demi-soloists, a pas de deux for the principals as well as several variations for them.

The five demi-soloist variations set the problematic that Balanchine often gave himself: How can you extend the range of pointe work from what was practiced in the 19th c.?

The variations give his solution: finishing a jump (grand assemble) on full pointes, jumping from two pointes to one pointe, from one pointe to two pointes, and so on through an enriched vocabulary for the five variations.

The female principal's variations had beats (entre-chats-six) usually associated with male dancing. Then one remembers it was set on Patricia Wilde.

I remember Wilde very well (though not, I think, in this ballet). It had never occured to me to compare her to Catoya.. But, now that you mention it, there is a steely, gutsy strength that Catoya brings to her performances -- qualities that seem surprising, considering her almost fragile appearance in repose.

Miami is doing Square Dance at its 3 home theaters in March and April. I saw this when I was a teenager and still can remember how astonishingly fast and precise Wilde was in the original version. Now I can add Catoya to my wish list for this ballet, something I never would have done without your post.

#3 SandyMcKean

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Posted 04 November 2007 - 01:33 PM

Strangely, PNB in Seattle is in the middle of its 2 week run of a program dubbed "Contemporary Classics". It is book-ended with Agon and In the Upper Room (the middle works are Kiss and Caught). I can't imagine a better way to do a program with that theme than with Agon to start and Upper Room to end.

PNB dancers were superb. I could name so many, but perhaps the only one recognizable to the larger set of BT members was Carla Korbes' debut in the PdD in Agon. Another milestone in her career brilliantly accomplished (I was there that nite - last Friday). Extraordinary. Well, another is known to you too -- Miranda Weese. Her pose and "NYC professionalism" anchored this young cast of "bombers" with her grace and elegance.

Like Miami (which I have never seen, unfortunately), PNB is a regional company that is taking it to the highest levels with each passing week. This is a company I think that still doesn't quite know just how good it is. Peter Boal seems determined to find out. If you were sitting there with me the last 2 nites watching them do Agon one minute and then Upper Room the next, you and I would both know it.

Miami and Seattle! Book-ends to the country in every way except for the simularity of being blessed by companies beyond what would otherwise be "normal expectations". Perhaps quality of life matters more and more these days to dancers too.

P.S. Please, please, please, NYC.....don't steal Leslie Rausch from us. You don't know her yet, but you're going to attempt to steal her from us one of these days, I just know it. Better than any group in the world, you friggin NY'ers know outstanding performers when you see them. Give us a few more years with her, please.


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