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Miami City Ballet All-Balanchine (Program III)


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#1 bart

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 08:25 AM

I saw 3 of the performances at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach before it moves on to Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

The program became "all-Balanchine" at almost the last moment. According to Edward Villella, a number of injuries -- including several male principals and soloists -- forced the cancellation of the "Fox Trot" section of Villella's own Neighborhood Ballroom and its replacement by Serenade. I have enjoyed Neighborhood Ballroom in the past; it's a sleek, stylish and theatrically savvy work. But the new program allowed us to see a wider range of Balanchine -- and gave new opportunities to a couple of excellent younger dancers.

Serenade: MCB performs this as I remember from NYCB in the early days, as a dramatic ballet -- almost as far i the direction of a story ballet as Balanchine allows -- which takes place in a world whose inhabitants just happen to be beautifully trained classical ballet dancers. Miami takes this ballet very seriously and has more than enough resources to dance it at the highest level. The opening tableau was made even more stunning by John Hall's lighting and by Haydee Morales' version of the Karinska costumes (somehow softer and more ethereal than I remember from the past).

The first cast leads were Deanna Seay, Tricia Albertson, and Patricia Delgado, with Yan Zou as the first partner and Didier Bramaz in the role Villella has described as the "dark angel." This is Seay's kind of ballet -- she was also an exceptional Caroline in Lilac Garden and in one of the more introspective solos in Dances at a Gathering -- and she danced it beautifully and movingly. Albertson, the fast bravura role, seemed comfortable and confident. Patricia Delgado continued to surprise as the woman who brings in the dark angel and escorts him away when he is through. Her dancing this year has depth, suppleness, and confidence that have turned her, for me, one of the more interesting dancers in the company.

Yang Zou is a beautifully correct dancer, light in his jumps and, at this early stage of his career, somewhat light in the effect he makes on stage. Bramaz (the dark angel) is a dancer who captures the eye by the calm way he goes about creating clean and elegant classical movement. Without showing off, he's also an attentive and very helpful partner. His was a slightly aloof, and therefore rather mysterious, figure -- a slightly impersonal messenger from another realm. On the Sunday matinee he switched to the first male role, becoming a more ardent, more human and passionate partner.

The second cast -- Jennifer Kronenbrerg, Jeaneette Delgado, and a corps member, Amanda Weingarten -- were less dramatic. These were dancers first. The story element seemed to fade a bit. Kronenberg was almost too beautiful at the beginning, too obviously the most glamourous and talented woman in the class, showing none of Seay's nervousness and giving no anticipation of some of the more troubling events that occur later on. Her emotionalism -- a kind of emotional disintegration? -- was gradual and very compelling. More than almost any other dancer I've seen in this role, she built up to the conclusion and made it seem inevitable, deeply sad, and oddly promising.

This was a great opportunity for Weingarten who, I confess, I've never focused on her in the corps. In a big solo role she had beautiful line (I have a vision of a couple of arabeques with arched back). She was in command the space around her and had the stage presence to fit in well with the principals. I hope we'll get to see a lot more of her.

A quibble about the ending to this ballet: it takes quite a bit of time to set up the lift, which undercuts -- for me -- the final vision of the woman being carried off as she cambres back with arms outstretched. Apparently Balanchine, in the absence of male dancers, hired several strong men would could execute a lift and walk, and not much more. I wish he had rechoreographed that particular bit.

Pas de Dix At 19 minutes, this was a little short for a full act. The impact has to be big to carry that off. For me, only one of the casts made that kind of impact: the second cast of Jeanette Delgado and Renato Penteado. Delgado -- younger sister of Patricia, and now a "principal soloist" -- is one of those smaller firecracker ballerinas, bursting with technique, who can occasionally oversell -- and over-smile -- in her performances. Here she kept the salesmanship in control and let the technique speak for itself. The result was scintillating. Pentado -- injured for much of last season, but back to normal this year -- has a lot of the burden of filling in for injured male principals. He was dancing at his best this weekend.

Mary Carmen Catoya, dancing with Penteado, did a superb solo variation. She has amazing technique, and -- when she is aso projecting emotional energy, using her eyes, and relating to the audience -- she is a world-class dancer. If she can sustain this throughout a performance -- as she did dancing Sugarplum with Rolando Sarabia a few months ago -- she is a thrilling performer.

Rolando Sarabia made a kind of return from injury partnering Deanna Seay in yet another cast. In the December Nutcracker he brought out qualities of passion and grandeur in Seay that I'd never seen before. With him, she blossomed. For some reason, chemistry and even timing were quite off this time around. Both were tentative and seemed out of sorts. During the curtain call, she fell into a curtsy abruptly and he bumped into her from behind. Something was wrong, and it dampened the entire ballet.

Bourree Fantasque: Villella was moved to revive this after Susan Pilarre brought it back for the School of American Ballet a couple of years ago. At a pre-performance talk he mentioned that he hadn't seen it since 1958 at NYCB. That year was also my own first -- and last -- experience of this strange ballet -- actually a kind of stitching together of several different ballets that makes sense only when all the dancers join in a thrilling finale in the "we're all on stage dancing our hearts out" style of Stars and Stripes or Western Symphony.

The First Movement -- a spoof on ballet partnerships created for Tanaquil LeClerq and Jerome Robbins -- got a wonderful performance from both casts. Kronenberg and Jeremy Cox had a kind of chemistry that's based on the premise of an absurd lack of chemistry. It's hard to believe, as one watched them make this part of the ballet genuinely (though subtly) funny that they were also the finest Prodigal Son and Siren just a few years ago.

Second cast were the soloists Andrea Spiridonakos and Alex Wong. They were a bit more like kids, and the element of Tall Girl, Short Boy was more obvious. Wong's a natural in almost every role, and he has a stage sense that goes beyond that of most young ballet dancers. His reaction to being kicked in the head by Spiridonakos -- twice! -- got the biggest laugh of the weekend.

I love the flexed feet, the jumps and plies in wide second position, and all the neo-classical artillery that Balanchine brings to bear in this movement. It's fun, and the corps danced it with spirit, style, and -- as far as I could tell -- great technique. As in so many MCB corps performances, they created the illusion of spontaneiity, ease, and joy.

Second Movement: Here we switched to a kind of romanticism. Haiyan Wu -- supported by the impeccable partnering of Didier Bramaz -- was an obvious choice for the lead. She sailed through the part with great class and was a joy to watch. I also loved Patricia Delgado in the second cast.

One of the stars of the evening was the corps, performing movements like the tick-tock-tick-tock movement of the port de bras, with spirit, timing, and -- to me -- incredible synchonization. The Kravis opening night was only the third time they have performed this for a paying audience. Someone, they danced it like they had owned it for a long time and still loved it llike it was brand new.

My favorite soloists of the various casts were Jeanette Delgado and the very young corps member Daniel Baker. There were a few partnering bobbles, but both are natural dancers clearly in love with what they do.

The finale -- with each set of soloists leading a battery of corps forward in jetes, one after another, 8 times -- is thrilling and unforgettable. It makes you wonder: why isn't this ballet revived more often? Could it be the less-than-effervescent ho-humness of some of the Chabrier score?

I hope this productdion makes it to City Center when MCB visits NYC next season.

#2 Jack Reed

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 01:38 PM

(from Ft. Lauderdale, FL) Keeping in mind that angels enter our lives to bring us guidance, it's the girl who brings the boy in who's the angel. (Sorry to be blunt, but my time's up on a shared computer.)

#3 bart

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 01:55 PM

Keeping in mind that angels enter our lives to bring us guidance, it's the girl who brings the boy in who's the angel.

Maybe I misheard Villella. The context of his remark was a discussion of the role of the male dancers in the ballet. But I do see the point about the female character.

Hope you'll be at the Fort Lauderdale performances, Jack, and that we'll be hearing your reactions.

Will any others be there or at Miami the following week?

#4 iwatchthecorps

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 09:43 PM

Bart,

I attended Ft Lauderdale today and will do so again tomorrow. I also plan to see the performances in Miami next week. My brief impressions:

Seranade: This is only the second time that I have seen this ballet. I was very impressed by dancing of both principals and corps. I expected this to be my favorite of the evening. It came in third.

Pas de dix: I simply cannot take my eyes of Mary Carmen Catoya when she dances. She exhibits remarkable balance both in stationary positions and in turns. Tonight, she projected a strong personality and was a delight to watch. Callie Manning also caught my attention with fast, precise steps. I had hoped to see Haiyan Wu in the movement as I believe that this would have fit her style well. (Deanna Seay substituted in this performance)

Bourree Fantasque: Edward Villella, in his opening remarks mentioned that this ballet is rarely performed any more and that he could not understand that. I think that the audience agreed with him as the company turned in a very entertaining performance. So, there must be some reason that this ballet has fallen by the wayside, but for my simple tastes, it was fun and a great "closer." Perhaps there are technical reasons that more expert observers than I find objectionable.

#5 Jack Reed

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 01:54 PM

(from Ft. Lauderdale, FL) Whoops! bart, you must have reported Villella's remarks accurately, for he said on Friday night that "This guy became referred to as The Dark Angel", while Saturday afternoon he was more equivocal. But the brief post I put up is the way I've always thought of the role and how I've heard it spoken of. Ah, well, post in haste, regret at leisure, right?

Undeterred by that gaffe, I will try a few more remarks in haste on a shared computer. iwatchthecorps certainly saw what I saw Friday night; Catoya was really phenomenal in her variation in Pas de Dix, and I would expect her to do that again Friday night in Miami. Everybody, go! (I'll be elsewhere on previous a committment.) She even had the opening-night crowd, not the best, in her control; they applauded all over the place in the opener, Serenade, which is understandable, but when they started to break out again, loudly, in her variation, they stopped abruptly as she continued; they too couldn't break their attention away from her. A real triumph!

But I liked Serenade with Seay quite well; her dancing was dark in the first sequence of jetes, and loooked like a harbinger even if you didn't know the ballet from before. She was in fact The Woman Who Falls, but on her re-entrance as the Girl Who is Late and then again in Tema Russo she is bright like the others, even smiling a little in T R at first (Zou was a good partner for her). So I liked this difference for what her dance intelligence brought to it.

I was glad to see Bourree Fantasque again, having seen it a few times at SAB Workshop in June, and liking Chabrier's tricky, witty, frothy music. And I really liked seeing another of the dancers called Jennifer Kronenberg, with her sharp, quick wit. Saturday afternoon, in Serenade we got the light, soft, clear, clean Jennifer Kronenberg -- all those at once, not bad -- and so: Will the real Jennifer Kronenberg please stand up so we can tell who you are? No, no, I mean, will the real Jennifer Kronenberg please keep on dancing? We love all of you gals!

Friday night the Catoya phenom reappeared in the third movement of Bourree! Wow! Jeanette Delgado acqitted herself well Saturdayafternoon, but, well... Actually the delight of that performance was her sister Patricia, who made the quirky turns under her partner's arm flow into a lovely sequence and then, as the music subsided and he moved away, bourreed down front to us and let her smile subside too, unusually for her, and making her dance more complete in this way.

More when I have a chance.

#6 iwatchthecorps

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Posted 23 February 2008 - 07:27 PM

What a difference a day makes.... Perhaps it is the fact that I now have seen Seranade for the third time, but I must say, today's performance made a real impression on me. Maybe its that I knew what to look for, but the performance simply felt different from the performance yesterday. Today, I would say that this ballet, while still not my favorite, was a close second.

Pas de Dix: I was impressed with Rolando Sarabia. It is the first time that I have seen him dance. He has a look that is fundamentally different than the other men in MCB. His physique reminds me much more of a San Francisco Ballet Dancer. I liked his dancing but felt that the choreography was not as interesting as it could be.

Bourree Fantasque: Wow..I liked it again this afternoon...I am astonished that this ballet has fallen out of the rep. Maybe if/when Edward takes this to New York that will change.

I am really looking forward to next week in Miami.

#7 Jack Reed

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 09:45 AM

Well, Saturday night's (the 23rd) Serenade was a little different, I noticed; after all, even the same cast will come to something a little differently each time, if they're good, and the ballet is something alive to them, as they are to these dancers, this company. Seay's "darkness" was mostly gone, and the ways she got up from the floor were not routine moves anymore -- she knew she had to get up, and these moments, while hardly the whole ballet, were a little blank Friday I thought, but Saturday it looked as though she felt a calling or something, making it time to rise again. Little details like this will change a ballet for us, too.

Seay also subbed for the ailing Wu in Bourree Fantasque 2nd movement again, and Catoya appeared only in the third movement of this, with Penteado, her only partner this weekend; they're superb, together or separately!

There was news of Carlos Guerra: He is expected to dance the first installment of Program IV, in Miami, only, and then have his surgery.

Skipping back to Pas de Dix for a moment, this version does not have the male quartet number I've read about: It's ensemble with principals, female variation, female variation, variation with two women, princial male variation, principal female variation, ensemble-coda. Jeannette Delgado Saturday night gave a very creditable account (with Penteado; his large, shapely clarity, continuing the dance from beginning to end in his variation pleased me better than Rolando Serabia Saturday afternoon, with Seay, but Serabia showed flashes of briliance); but nobody but nobody dances like Catoya! And the audience likes it very well, every time.

Those waves of grand jetes toward the end of B. F. are almost too much, but not quite!

#8 Jack Reed

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 11:47 AM

Sunday afternoon, 24th February, was another strong performance, almost like Friday evening: Catoya was in Serenade, in a secondary role -- as "Tema Russo" begins, she's in the middle of the five -- and although any role with her in it might no longer be secondary, she has too much good sense, too much good taste, to grab attention in what she does; so she gave us an outstanding but properly modest rendition, and, as you may be ble to tell, my admiration for her continues to grow.

Wu still being out, she was subbed for by Jennifer Kronenberg -- I'll make it Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg, like it is on the cast sheet -- as the Girl Who Falls, etc, etc, etc. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not complaining how this role winds on through the ballet; it gives whoever is in it -- and Villella has some nice women -- a big opportunity to unfurl some fine dancing and some characterisation too, if they so choose. Kronenberg is an interesting contrast to Seay, shorter, apparently, but larger, apparently, in motion. Longer arms and legs, especially advantgeous in Serenade, where she danced brightly and expansively early on and also fully realizing the unearthly drama at the end -- I mean, she has her mortal side, but the three also seem to me pawns of the supernatural, the boy the most clearly, of course, and the girl who brings him in, whatever her character-name might be, most clearly an agent of the supernatural.

In Pas de Dix, I got an actual response to my rhetorical request for the various Kronenbergs to dance on -- she came back on and, in due course, began her variation here with head well up to announce this would now be very much in The Grand Manner, and having introduced it that way, she proceeded to perform it grandly. Were we suddenly back in Old Russia? Had she been listening to Villell'a introductory remarks about how this ballet shows where Serenade came from?

Whatever her method, which I suspect is more physical than intellectual, and power to her, it was yet a different Kronenberg before us now, and a superbly different rendition of a different part from just minutes or hours ago. Her partner was Rolando Serabia, who had danced the previous matinee with Seay, and this time I thought his variation was better organizeed at no cost in brilliance. I'm sorry to differ a little with his fans here, but I still prefer Penteado in this for the way he fits clear small gesture into clear large phrases fitted into sequences clearly placed about the stage.

The first movement of Bourree Fantasque featured Andrea Spiridakos and Alexandre Dufaur, and this pair seemed to me to have an edge over Allynne Noelle and Alex Wong at Saturday's matinee by more deftly and easily participating in the subtle and not so subtle ballet humor in this movement. If you can't have Kronenberg and Cox in this, that is, who the evening audiences got: This star pair may have been a tad less good as a comedy ensemble, though, and seeing Spiridanakos and Dufaur combine was a different treat in its own right.

Wu had been cast in the "searching" 2nd movement; and although Villella seems to think of Bourree Fantasque as a rousing finale, which the third movement certainly is, building and building with those eight waves of massed grand jetes diagonally across the stage, and beyond, there's -- well, there's always "more" to a Balanchine ballet, isn't there? -- more in this case being the searching-finding-losing kind of pas de deux in this 2nd movement, which resonated for me with the events of the last movement of Serenade, only here the whole business is "lighter", and instead of an apotheosis, there's that bang-up finale.

So, a wonderful program, as one person remarked to me as it ended Friday evening.

#9 bart

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 12:21 PM

Bourree Fantasque: Wow..I liked it again this afternoon...I am astonished that this ballet has fallen out of the rep. Maybe if/when Edward takes this to New York that will change.

This surprises me, too. Arlene Croce actually suggested that -- now that Tanaquil LeClerq and Jerome Robbins are no longer available to dance the first part -- NYCB should never have revived it in the 90s.

I guess some New Yorkers just get to see too much ballet. :angel_not:

As for me, I found that it grew on me. It's Balanchine tossing out one idea after another. Possibly it doesn't cohere. But it's a huge opportunity for a good companyto show off what it can do -- which may explain Villella's proliferation of casts.


Those waves of grand jetes toward the end of B. F. are almost too much, but not quite!

I agree! :clapping:


The first movement of Bourree Fantasque featured Andrea Spiridakos and Alexandre Dufaur, and this pair seemed to me to have an edge over Allynne Noelle and Alex Wong at Saturday's matinee by more deftly and easily participating in the subtle and not so subtle ballet humor in this movement. If you can't have Kronenberg and Cox in this, that is, who the evening audiences got: This star pair may have been a tad less good as a comedy ensemble, though, and seeing Spiridanakos and Dufaur combine was a different treat in its own right.

One of my performances had Spiridonakos substituting for Noelle, with Wong as partner. (So many possibilities!). Assuming that Spiridonakos learned the part with Durfaur, I would imagine that their partnership would be effective. Dufaur, French-trained, has grown tremendously as a stage performer in the past 2 seaons. I really like seeing him -- and her -- in the right roles.

Did anyone else attend? We'd love to hear what you thought or anything that crosses your mind about the ballets or performances.

#10 perky

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 12:52 PM

As a Karinska fan I have to ask if the Bouree Fantasque costumes for this revival were based on her original designs?

#11 bart

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 02:08 PM

As a Karinska fan I have to ask if the Bouree Fantasque costumes for this revival were based on her original designs?

The program says: "Costume design by Barbara Matera after Karinsky. Costumes courtesy of American Ballet Theater." They certainly looked like the costumes I've seen in photos from the first NYCB run, though most of those are in black-and-white. The strange headdress that LeClerq wears in early photos from Part I has been simplified and made smaller.

#12 kfw

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 06:04 AM

(from Ft. Lauderdale, FL) Whoops! bart, you must have reported Villella's remarks accurately, for he said on Friday night that "This guy became referred to as The Dark Angel", while Saturday afternoon he was more equivocal.

In Suzanne Farrell's notes on some of the ballets NYCB is bringing to the Kennedy Center this week, she writes that

I have fond memories of dancing the Dark Angel, one of three ballerinas in the final movement.

.

Thanks for all the great, detailed reports, folks.

#13 bart

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 07:29 AM

Yes, kfw, there does seem to be a contradiction here.

Maybe Villella was thinking of the (male) Dark Angel in Orpheus, which he must have seen often while a member of NYCB. That Dark Angel, like the ballerina in the earlier Serenade, also escorts someone whose eyes are covered.

It's possible that the company's dancers, when they first saw Orpheus (1948), saw a similarity to the earlier Serenade (1935) and began using the label, informally, for that ballet as well.

#14 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 06:23 PM

Bourree Fantasque: Wow..I liked it again this afternoon...I am astonished that this ballet has fallen out of the rep. Maybe if/when Edward takes this to New York that will change.

This surprises me, too. Arlene Croce actually suggested that -- now that Tanaquil LeClerq and Jerome Robbins are no longer available to dance the first part -- NYCB should never have revived it in the 90s.

I guess some New Yorkers just get to see too much ballet. :tomato:


Thanks for all the interesting reports on MCB -- I do hope to see them in NYC if possible. However, I do not think that NYCB revived it in the 90's -- was it perhaps ABT?

And, I think the old saying goes something like: "you can never be too rich, too thin or see too much ballet."

#15 bart

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 06:50 PM

I do not think that NYCB revived it in the 90's -- was it perhaps ABT?

In the context of a review of the Balanchine Celebration, Croce writes about NYCB in 1993:

Curating does not mean worshippping relics; it often means the opposite. Was a new production of Bourree Fantasque (1949) needed to prove yet again that the first movement just doesn't work anymore? Created for two great comedians, Le Clercq and Robbins, on the intimate scale of the City Center stage, it cannot begin to explain why audiences of the time were left, in the words of one reviewer, 'limp with laughter.' I am sorry for whatever inhibition has kept Martins or, better, Robbins from replacing it, for the other two movements are worth saving. Legat and Beck would not have hesitated.

(from: Writing in the Dark, Dancing in The New Yorier)

I Googled and found the following, from a 1993 review by Anna Kisselgoff:

A more genuine revival on Thursday was "Bourree Fantasque," a whirlwind of kinetic wit that Balanchine choreographed to Chabrier's music in 1949. American Ballet Theater staged this effervescent plotless work in 1981-82 with Balanchine's consent. His own company had performed it through the 1950's, but a 1967 revival was short lived.

When "Bourree Fantasque" was being revived by Ballet Theater, Balanchine felt his jokes about inverting conventional ballet style would look dated. But Ballet Theater succeeded because it caught the humor of the first movement, with its tall girl-short boy duet. The dancers, experienced in the Romantic ballets, gave the second section the right perfume of elusive love.

Both companies have the same energetic platoons of cumulative ensembles to work up circling dancers into the third section's exhilarating finale, led frantically here by Nichol Hlinka and Nikolaj Hubbe. Kyra Nichols and Erlends Zieminch were more straightforward than necessary in the second movement. Only Darci Kistler and Damian Woetzel, in the first movement, seemed right, relinquishing Ballet Theater's broad humor for a sparkling elegance and chic.


I don't know about leaving the audience "limp with laughter" -- it would possibly take a pie in the Odette's face to do that nowadays. But I would definitely say that Jennifer Kronenberg and Jeremy Cox were in the school of Darci Kistler and Damian Woetzel: "elegant and chic."

The ABT production dates from 1981. I don't know its history after that.


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