MCB Program IILa Valse, Nine Sinatra Songs, Aurora’s Wedding
Posted 11 January 2008 - 12:43 PM
Posted 11 January 2008 - 01:17 PM
Cristian? Others? Will you have a chance to see it at the Carnival Center?
Posted 11 January 2008 - 06:18 PM
My original plan was to attend to all of the performances, but...last minute changes due to -(what else )- classes made me cancel tonight, but i'm going for sure tomorrow night. I'll report back.
Cristian? Others? Will you have a chance to see it at the Carnival Center?
Posted 12 January 2008 - 09:06 AM
And what a review it is - I clicked to find out which one was the miss (have to entertain my pneumonia somehow) and....
Here is what the Miami Herald had to say:
City Ballet: 2 hits, a miss
Last up was Aurora's Wedding, the third act finale of Marius Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty, which should be put to sleep.
MCB did this famed classic set piece for the gala opening of the Carnival Center in 2006, and presumably the company felt it needed to make use of the elaborate, borrowed American Ballet Theater set and costumes again. They're stunning, a gorgeous, glittering set piece, but they still can't give life to what's essentially static and sometimes silly choreography and some of Tchaikovsky's least charming music.
Posted 12 January 2008 - 09:54 AM
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Posted 12 January 2008 - 09:36 PM
This was certainly the highlight of the night, which, otherwise, would have been a total failure. Le Valse was perfect. I don't know if is Villela's knowledge of Balanchine's style or what, but he certainly put MCB's dancers at their best tonight with this ballet. Maybe it's just the fact that I'd never seen it before, and the more Mr. B i get, the more i can't describe all the emotions that i feel after watching his ballets Wow, what a powerful piece. The leads were Haiyan Wu, which was magnificent, and a last minute change got another dancer to substitute Renato Panteado partnering Wu. I hate to say that i can't remember his name, and i know it wasn't either Cox or Guerra. I'll find out later, and will post his name, because he did a terrific job. Wu looked so vulnerable on her dancing, and at the same time, she had a total control over technique and choreography. I really loved her. The corps were also great. They all delivered a high dose of elegance in their dancing while certainly creating a disturbing atmosphere , particularly toward the end, when the Death (Jeremy Cox) shows up to seduce the girl. It was really effective and somehow strangely beautiful. The neo-romantic costumes and the elegant set gave the performance the right support. Bravo!
NINE SINATRA SONGS
Sorry to Tharp's fans, but...by song # 2, i was wondering what kind of ballroom competition was she watching that inspired her . By song # 5 i was almost asleep...by song # 8 i was counting the light bulbs on the theater balconies...(didn't realize before, but there are a lot!). By song # 9...better not tell. Note: No pointe shoes.
What happened here....? I couldn't tell. The whole thing was the most disconnected and non convincing performance that I've seen in a long time. There were substitutions at the last minute . Rolando Sarabia, again, didn't perform as announced as Desire, and instead we had Renato Panteado , which i like but seemed to be under rehearsed for the role. Also, he and Mary Carmen Catoya (Aurora) seemed to be totally strangers to one another. They looked uncomfortable , and i could NEVER believe that these two were happily dancing to one another, let along getting married. Catoya was a total non-smile act during the whole performance, and looked as she was forced to be there. Technically, there were OK. His variation was fine (nice 5 th landings ), her variation too (great balances) and the fish dives were beautiful , but overall, their partnership was a disaster. I won't even talk about the rest of the production. I just want to mention Jeanette Delgado as Princess Florine. She was the only one that looked interested in bringing some life to this embarrassing death corpse. Alex Wong as Bluebird is also worth to mention. He delivered clean high jumps and lightness as the role requires...but...i don't know, i still don't get his characterization. Also the music seemed to be played in a veeeeeery slooooow tempo. Oh well, i guess that watching the Sizova/Soloviev DVD just before going to the theater didn't help a lot either...
Posted 17 January 2008 - 06:46 PM
Oh, BTW bart , the Center was recently renamed as Arsht Center, right after one Adrienne Arsht dropped a nice $30 million to relieve its imminent bankruptcy. Carnival Cruise Line, with its former $10 million donation (which they took back immediately after they knew of the new deal) is out. Ms. Arsht, with her fresh bigger/yummier contribution, is in. Bienvenido a Miami!
Cristian? Others? Will you have a chance to see it at the Carnival Center?
but back to the MCB Program II...
Posted 19 January 2008 - 08:16 AM
No doubt they will be celebrating Arshtival in Rio this year.
Oh, BTW bart , the Center was recently renamed as Arsht Center, right after one Adrienne Arsht dropped a nice $30 million to relieve its imminent bankruptcy. Carnival Cruise Line, with its former $10 million donation (which they took back immediately after they knew of the new deal) is out. Ms. Arsht, with her fresh bigger/yummier contribution, is in.
I was at Friday's West Palm opener last night and will also be attending tonight and tomorrow. Will post after seeing the various casts.
But I just wanted to say that what I saw tends to confirm the doubts about Aurora's Wedding. A friend who has seen just about every major Sleeping Beauty in New York City since Danilova made a comment that I thought I'd never hear from her --- and certainly never thought I'd agree with. "I wish they had used a recording."
The orchestra -- which had just played Ravel's music for La Valse in a rich, sophisticated manner, with pulsing rhythms and beautiful tone, could not handle the Tchaikovsky score. The dancers, too, had difficulty adjusting to a style of movement and projection which is a foreign language to them. I had forgotten just how difficult Petipa is to dance accurately, and with the correct accents and feeling.
One more thing: La Valse. What an extraordinary theater piece -- eerie, coldly sensual, full of beautiful movement, especially the bewitching port de bras, all uncannnily aligned to the music. The entire company made this piece their own, even the youngest and newest dancers. Balanchine's technique and spirit still reign at MCB. Onward ... in time ... to Petipa?
More about the rest later.
Posted 19 January 2008 - 08:49 AM
Posted 19 January 2008 - 11:16 AM
Yes for Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm. I don't know about Naples, where the Naples Philharmonic did Nutcracker.
Does anyone know if the orchestra is the same for the different venues?
I should add that up to this point I was enormously impressed by the orchestra -- the Opus One Orchestra -- and especially its very dance-attentive conductor Juan Francisco La Manna. They really did a spectacular job with the three very different scores for Jewels, including the Tchaikovsky Diamonds section. Thus the surprise about Sleleping Beauty.
Posted 19 January 2008 - 05:54 PM
Posted 22 January 2008 - 08:21 PM
-- 20 minutes to La Valse,
-- 2 minutes to Sinatra Songs, and
-- 3 minutes to the company's first production of Aurora's Wedding.
If that is an indicator of the level of his involvement in each of the 3 pieces, it may explain why La Valse was by far the most successful of the 3 works performed during this program -- why Sinatra Songs, charming and lovely to look at, came across as a work in progress that is "almost there" -- and why Aurora's Wedding was, despite all the talent on the stage, was in the end a disappointment.
Villella -- who can be a master-story teller and word-spinner when he wants to be -- was particularly eloquent on La Valse. His theme was that Balanchine wanted his dancers to be "poets of gesture" and that Balanchine was always taking the dancer and the audience "away from the literal" (i.e., away from "just the steps").
He spoke of "the fallacy that Balanchine never told stories"and repeated a story he's told before: about the time when Villella was struggling to get the look and the feeling that he knew was required for the role of Prodigal Son. Balanchine finally took pity on him and told him: "Byzantine icons, dear. Byzantine icons." That was all. But it was enough to send Villella to the museum where he got what he needed to make the role his.
Villella told the audience the "story" of La Valse. He described in detail the Death-and-the-Maiden plot and also the cultrual context -- mid 19th century allusions to work llike Poe's "Mask of the Red Death"; "contemporary" allusions (late 1940s and 50's) such as Dior's "New Look" and its influence on the elaborate,d eerie port de bras of the 3 women who open the ballet. It was fascinating.
During the Q and A, a woman asked him if he had ever thought of writing a book of ballet "stories." He said he would rather leave that to professional writers, but that IF he ever did such a book, he would call it "What I Tell My Dancers."
Villella, I gather, was very involved in the staging the revival of La Valse. He told these "stories" to his dancers -- each of whom can do the steps quite well, but all of whom have been born in a world that is far from that of this strange, powerful ballet. American kids nowadays don't go to balls -- nor have they for a long time. They don't waltz (nor can they see the waltz as a metaphor for anything); they've been warned not to surrender passionately to dark strangers who give them black jewelry and gloves. And when they do something self-destructive, it's more likely to involve drugs, speeding cars, or guns than dancing. Young dancers need assistance to enter into the emotions, code of behavior, and layers of meaning contained in a work like La Valse. They have to discover and enter into the poetry of the gestures. Villella clearly considers that helpling them do this was a priority.
In response, the company has made La Valse their own. Every dancer on the stage had the style. Some of the most exciting dancing came from the corps, a number of whom were company and school apprentices in their teens. It was quite wonderful to see the energy, conviction and execution.
Of the casts I saw, Haiyian Wu and Jennifer Kronenberg were outstanding Women in White. Wu, a lyrical dancer who can sometimes err on the side of blandness, was mesmerised even more than attracted by Death (an elegant but effectively understated Jeremy Cox). Sweet, innocent and slightly passive at the beginning of the ballet, she now rushed heedlessly towards him. She became beautifully frenzied, delighted by his gifts, thrusting her arms into the black gloves and dancing with what I can only call abandon. It was an astonishing transformation, but completely convincing.
Jennifer Kronenberg came to the ball more confidently that Wu. She was looking for a good time but also slightly bored. She had been to balls like this before. She toyed a bit with the man who wished to be her partner. She did not so much reject him as use him up and leave him in her dust. When Death (Cox again) appeared, Kronenberg herself seemed surprised at the suddenness and power of her attraction. Everything was more sexual. She seized the black necklace greedily but eased her arms into the black gloves more deliberately and erotically than it is usually done.
Standouts for me as the team of "3 Fates" performed by Callie Manning, Andrea Spiridonakos, and Tiffany Hedman. Jeannette Delgado and Coryphee Michael Breedon were a fleet and graceful first couple, anxious to get to the ball. Katia Carranza was haunting as the the woman in the 3rd couple -- the one who keeps retreating from her partner until she is eventually drawn away from him. Her escort, Yang Zou, looked puzzled by it all but partnered the 3 Fates elegantly.
The corps seemed to have no problem with the speed and coordination. They appeared to be driven by the changing pulses of the waltz but everything -- hands, feet, carriage of head and chest -- always remained in the required style no matter how complicated the patterns got. I was especially impessed by the the way six lines of dancers passed back and forth while Guerra carried the dead girl upstage, and by the tkhey cicled, jumping, around the body of the girl, accelarating into a crouching run that seemed to become faster and faster, continuing even as the curtain fell. What an ending!
You might compare the three performances on this program by thinking of different ways that people go about acquiring a second language.
MCB gave the dancers of La Valse a total-immersion course in the language. Edward Villella, with his long experience and veneration of Balanchine, is with them every day. As a result, even though they're not native-speakers, they sure sound like the real thing.
The Miami dancers are well on their way to speaking the language Tharp and Sinatra Songs as well. But they're not fluent, and speaking colloquially comes and goes. You know that they will get it in time, but they're not there yet.
What about Sleeping Beauty? To extend the metaphor, it seemed that they'd learned this language from tapes produced by non-native speakers. (Indeed, this most difficult and complex of all ballets was staged for them by a teacher at their own ballet school.) Most of the words and almost all the grammar were there. But the tone and accent for the most part were off. Despite the beautiful costumes and impessive set, those on stage were still, clearly, contemporary Americans one step removed Petipa and the mythological world of fairies and princesses.
Posted 24 January 2008 - 10:52 AM
Haiyan Wu and Jeremy Cox were once again a fine first couple in "Softly as I Leave You." From their entrance they make you aware of just how beautiful classic ballroom dancing can be. Wu's grace and willowy flexibility fit the music perfectly. Wu projecte happiness and even a soft kind of rapture. Cox -- with a couple of beautifully modulated multiple pirouettes -- was a fine, attentive partner.
Jennifer Kronenberg was back in "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)," this time with Carlos Guerra. Tipsy and gently humorous in their first appeareance, the couple sobered up for the reprise and for the finale -- both of which showed Kronenberg's sweeping legwork and Guerra's partnering very well.
The older, deeper couple -- in "All the Way" -- were Deanna Seay on Mikhail Nikitine. In some ways this was my favorite partnership of the evening. Nothing flashy, nothing grand, nothing funny: just the closeness and hand-in-glove quality of a couple who had lived and learned to be together.
I also delighted in Patricia Delgado in "Domani" (with Alexadre Dufaur and Daniel Baker in different performances) and Katia Carranza in the apache dance, "That's Life." Delgado continues to grow and surprise: she was a fireball in ruffled red dress. Carranza, small but sexy and also dressed in red, was as good as I can imagine anyone being being tossed around by gum-chewing Renato Penteado. She gave as good as she got. I don't know how, but even though this couple had probably gone through the same routine a hundred times, the love buried deep at the heart of their world-weary, combative relationship came through.
I much preferred Tharp's 1980s ballet, which I've seen several times over the years, to her earlier Deuce Coupe or her shortened Sinatra Suite. The structure is simpler: 3 couples dance in turn, and then together; then 4 more couples dance. In the end, all the couples come together for a reprise of "My Way."
Tharp fills the stage with movement even when there are only two people. It's movement that makes sense and actually builds to something, not the random doodling of Deuce Coupe. Each couple's dance is complete, self-contained, a little world for two. Each dance is faithful to the feeling of the song, but much more subtley and indirectly than in the earlier work. When the couples begin to dance all together at the end , their individual styles and stories are merged into an shared experience of lifts, turns, gliding. Very beautiful ... and somehow hopeful.
Aurora's Wedding, Petipa.
I've complained enough about this production.
But I haven't mentioned one big thing: the way the Lilac Fairy gets lost in all the action. A big problem with doing Act III as a free-standing ballet is that the larger plot is lost -- this is "Sleeping Beaty" without a context. Deanna Seay and Jennifer Kronenberg were lovely, and eached danced very well, but they were defeated by several things:
(1) turgid, slow and uneven tempi from the orchestra, very notable in the Lilac Fairy's big first variation;
(2) blocking which distracted from the Lilac Fairy's central role in the entire ballet;
(3) the need for coaching by someone who had extensive experience with, and who understood, the signficance and potential of this role.
I wish we had the chance to see these two fine dancers under more favorable conditions.
Most Promising Bluebird/ Florine: Alex Wong and Jeanette Delgado were a winning combination. They were fast, sharp, full of energy, and thrilled by their own -- and each other movements. Unlike the other cast, the story line of learning to fly was clear. With time and lots of performance expereince they could be truly world-class in these roles.
Something New in Fish Dives: One Aurora/Desire couple executed a series of three fish dives as a graceful, slightly tentative slide down towards the floor. Tchaikowsky's music goes "boom"; they performed "swo-o-osh." Mary Carmen Catoya and Penteado did it right.
The Concept of Monarchy Is Dead in Miami: The casting of the King and Queen seemed to be based on the principle: "Who's not doing anything tonight? Preferably someone under 20." This was part of a pattern of ignoring the regal, hierarchical assumptions that are at the heart of the ballet. I know that Act III all about Aurora, but it didn't make sense that almost every ignored the King and Queen, turning their backs on them literally for most of the Act. Even Aurora didn't seem to know who they were.
Is Aurora's Wedding a Tragedy? So you might think based on the facial expressions -- and the complete absence of smiles -- of one of the Auroras. Think Camille or Mimi at the end of their lives. Or possibly Marie Antoinette or Suor Angelica ascending the steps to the guillotine. Romantic agony. Not appropriate and very counter-productive, I would say.
Please Work-a on the Mazurka: This dance -- cut into two -- was a mess. Considering how wonderfully the same dancers performed mazurka in Diamonds only a month ago, I can only blame this on the people who who staged it this time around.
Just because you're a Good Fairy Doesn't Mean You Can Forget About Attack: Sara Esty as the Fairy of the Golden Vine was the only member of the fairy contingent to execute her hand and arm movements with the thrust, extension and precision calleld for by the choreography and demanded by the music. She was delightful and very musical. Others for the most part waved their hands or pointed their fingers as part of a blur of motion. They can do better, and they HAVE done better in numerous other ballets.
Posted 26 January 2008 - 05:01 AM
A post by Dale -- on the Ballet Videos forum -- led me to a video of Bluebird/Princess Florine's variation performed at a reacent New Year's Gala at the Maryinsky.
I definitely preferred Alex Wong's strong, light, Bluebird over the clunkier and duller version by Anton Korsakov. Watching this Kirov video makes me admire Wong's work even more than I have before -- especially considering his youth and inexperience in this kind of repertoire.
Yulia Bolshakova's section -- especially praised by Dale -- was a reminder of just why this pas de deux is loved and admired so much. Bolshakova (and the conductor) make it important.
You know from the Kirov that Florine is a princess, gracious and regal. There is time, for instance, to watch Bolshakova's beautiful port de bras. You see her listening to the singing of the Bluebird. She is always extending, reaching out. During these six and a half minutes you are entranced by the visualization of something very beautiful, told by brilliant story-tellers.
It was precisely this kind of artistic depth that was missing from the Miami. One of the artistic highlights in all ballet became, simply, an occasion for fast dancing. On that level it worked. But it went no farther, despite the potential of the young dancers Wong and Jeanette Delgado.
Did these young dancers, new to the ballet and to the style, get the chance to watch and discuss performances like this while preparing roles, I wonder? What about those who staged, coached, and conducted the ballet?
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