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MCB Program IV .Square Dance,Sonatine,Tarantella,Nightspot.


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 09:00 PM

Friday 28. Arsht Center, Miami

Tharp/Costello's "Nightspot"

How should i start Nightspot's review?. Correct, by being sincere . Fact: I didn't like this highly anticipated World Premiere . What happened...?, good question. First, let me highlight some nice stuff. If a face comes to my mind paired with some wonderful electrical dancing tonight, that would be that of Jeremy Cox's solo. Now, If i was to do a fast recounting of this ballet, i wouldn't really know where to start. The story...(Was any, wasn't...? (well, some others figure, I got confused trying to make some sense out of it) .The Latin flavor trying to be exposed by some dancers , like Isanusi's (is he the only one who knows how to dance a guaguanco...?) did little to make things better. The mish-mash of music and rythms was even more confusing. The music changed the whole time ...vals, cabaret-like, ballroom, even rumba and tango with no justified reason. Oh, and meanwhile everyone was spinning and jumping in and out, in and out like there was no tomorrow...continously. Some of the segments remainded me a pseudo-Balanchine bad try. Carlos Guerra, in his last appearance before having surgery, didn't seemed to look up to his regular physical capabilities. Some of his solos did little to make things better. It looked as he was dancing "Giselle" in that hideus red costume. His wife , Jennifer Kronemberg, is still a wonderful thing to look at, no matter what she does onstage...
What a whole mess. Didn't care to much for the whole thing. Maybe maņana I'll change my mind.
I guess I'm still cranky, because after the performance, i realized that my car was almost stolen outside the Center. :) Otherwise, my review could have been probably softer...who knows
Square Dance Tarantella and Sonatine coming next...

#2 Jack Reed

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 02:24 PM

Cristian, was Sonatine cut? You could have had a nice little treat with that, I think...

#3 leibling

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Posted 29 March 2008 - 07:11 PM

Sonatine was cut for the opening night gala- it will appear for all other shows, though.

#4 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 07:54 AM

I'm reviewing for Dance Now, so should be brief. I'm afraid that even without having my car nearly stolen I don't have much more affection for Nightspot. This is a work made unfortunately not by the Tharp that choreographed Deuce Coupe, but by the one that made Americans We or Movin' Out. It's an awful lot of money spent on something more appropriate for Broadway.

I've never seen Miami City Ballet at home, so glad for the chance. Square Dance got a very fresh performance. They take the tempos in Balanchine very quickly here - it makes the works seem more immediate and depending on your mood less portentous or less substantial. They also cover a *lot* of space here when they move. The trade-off is balances can be shaky when you're moving that much - as seen in Jeanette Delgado's performance which was mostly a triumph of motion, but sometimes wobbly.

The most interesting variation from what I know is their version of Tarantella - done to piano solo rather than orchestra, also at a sharp, quick tempo. It takes the stuffing out of it and makes it less of the star vehicle it's starting to become. Phrasing is different here - things I know as the end of a phrase happen at the beginning or middle - the dips in second position plie for the woman are in the middle of a phrase and aren't such a big deal. I was also pleased to see Sonatine again. Does anyone know the reason (ownership?) why it's out of rep at NYCB?

#5 bart

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 05:07 PM

Thanks, Leigh, for the insights and comparisons. You mention sifferences of tempo, phrasing, and presentation that many of us, not deeply familiar with the current New York City Ballet, would not be aware of. I'm glad I'm a Dance Now subscriber and will be patient until your full review appears.

Cristian, -- and other Miamians -- please don't let too much time pass before you share your impressions about the rest of the program. It opens here on Friday and it would be nice to have something in my head to compare with when I see it.

#6 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 09:25 AM

Cristian, -- and other Miamians -- please don't let too much time pass before you share your impressions about the rest of the program. It opens here on Friday and it would be nice to have something in my head to compare with when I see it.


bart, I want to apologize if i sometimes get delayed on my comments. I'll try to get better at it, i promise... :flowers:

I LOVED "Square Dance", which was also a first timer for me. The quick tempo of the baroque music, the lightness of the dancing, the graciousness of the poses, the simplicity of the set and costumes and among all the beautiful dancing, that of Jeanette Delgado and Jeremy Cox in their solos, was enough to make SD my favorite, second only to Bourree Fantasque which still tops my newly created Balanchine list, and followed by Serenade...(so far). I've always loved watching dancers doing entrechats, and wow, did i get to see a lot of them...Congrats to the Corps again. They showed a nice uniformity which gave the ballet the right feeling.
"Tarantella" was danced over the three days by Mary Carmen Catoya/Renato Panteado, Tricia Albertson/Alex Wong and finally my favorite cast, Jeanette Delgado/Renato Panteado. Delgado and her endless wide smile gave to the piece a latin flavor that suited very well its folk feeling . Panteado seemed to have more chemistry with her than with Catoya. Wong put some funny accents to it, and Albertson was kind of contained on the role. Yes, the tempo gave it by the pianist was faster than when i've seen it with orchestra, but particularly Delgado/Panteado seemed to be totally comfortable with it.
"Sonatine" , as Leibling said, was cut from the opening night, (why...?). What a beautiful little gem. I absolutely adored its subtle feeling and high doses of lyricism. On Saturday petite Haiyan Wu was like a little bird, fragile and light. On Sunday, beautiful Deanna Seay gave the role more grandeur and nobility.
Looking forward to hear impressions from other Floridians. :)

#7 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 05:16 PM

I got a second viewing on Sunday as well. I thought Albertson's reticence (paradoxically) looked better in Tarantella than Square Dance. I needed more accenting from her in that role. Delgado in Tarantella is almost overkill. That girl can't dance to a piano solo, she *needs* an orchestra. Deanna Seay was just plain old lovely in Sonatine - a very conversational and subtle performance, and Didier Bramaz partnered her well.

Nightspot? The choreography looks a bit better on a second viewing. But the story's no less dumb. For all the hoohah and fanfare, it's just not a very consequential work.

And thank you to Christian and family for the tours, the hospitality, the Cuban food and tooling around South Beach with the top down!

Now if only my flight would leave MIA . . . Next stop, London!

#8 bart

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 07:56 PM

I just got around to Alistair Macaulay's review in the NY Times. (See LINKS, April 1).

He agrees with you both, Cristian and Leigh, and in excruciating detail. This made me appreciate all the more his thoughts about the company in its more typical repertory:

I caught the second and third performances of this program. Each of the three Balanchine ballets that preceded "Nightspot," "Square Dance," "Sonatine" and "Tarantella" was danced at a level exemplary by any current standard. When you think how stylistically different these three are, the Miamian achievement becomes more remarkable yet.

In the Balanchine the dancers of "Nightspot" display the subtlety and complexity of which Ms. Tharp deprives them.


The range of MCB's rep is something that those of us who get to see the company regularly can be proud of.

Macaulay singles out a couple of young dancers for special praise: Alex Wong in Tarantella and Jeannette Delgado in Square Dance and Tarantella -- and the only slightly older Jeremy Cox in Sonatine and Square Dance.

Now that I know I don't have to look for hidden modernist genius in Nightspot, I hope I can just sit back, tap my toes on the floor, and enjoy being manipulated by a theater pro. I'm glad that the Tharp/Costello,Mizrahi names will be box office magic no matter what the specialist reviewers say. At the Arsht, Nightspot was greated with "whoops and cheers." Oh well, every company with serious artistic ambitions deserves at least one big hit on the pop front.

For the rest of us, however, it's the "choreographically first rate" Balanchine works on Program IV that provide the real excitement.

#9 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 04 April 2008 - 06:41 AM

And thank you to Christian and family for the tours, the hospitality, the Cuban food and tooling around South Beach with the top down!


:clapping:

#10 bart

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Posted 04 April 2008 - 07:51 PM

Just got back from my first performance. Square Dance was amazing: elegant, crisp, beautifully danced by all, but especially by Jeremy Cox. Sonatine was lovely and brought out qualities of warmth and lightness in Deanna Seay that I haven't seen beforfe. Tarentella -- Catoya and Penteado -- was brilliant technically and saucy and witty as well.

I actually enjoyed Nightspot, though it's a relatively inconsequential work and far from Tharp's best. I'll have a better grasp on this after viewing it a couple of more times.

Question: is it possible that Tharp has included a rather sly joke at the expense of Balanchine's Prodigal Son.

Among the denizens of the "nightspot" is a "Siren" who flirts with a naive young man. She enters borne aloft like a goddess or the prow of a ship by a group of men. A long flowing cape figures prominently in the action. The Siren tantalizes the young man, tantalizing him and reducing him to prostration and despair. The young man crawls back to his girlfriend (not his father) and is forgiven and consoled.

Sound familiar?

#11 carbro

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Posted 04 April 2008 - 08:27 PM

There's little likelilhood that this is a coincidence. :smilie_mondieu:

Does Tharp give any more parallels to B'chine's Prodigal?

#12 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 04 April 2008 - 08:36 PM

Hey bart...I wish i could have found Tharp's work just as an

inconsequential work ...



#13 bart

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Posted 05 April 2008 - 07:23 AM

There's little likelilhood that this is a coincidence. :smilie_mondieu:

Does Tharp give any more parallels to B'chine's Prodigal?

Those are the main details that I recall. The rest is a matter of feel. It just seems allusive, and oddly out of place in this particular work. Concidentally, Tharp's casting choice for the Siren, Jennifer Kronenberg, was a very effective Balanchine Siren back in 2005. Oddly, the Tharp version is not really dveloped as a character and has been given almost no interesting dancing to do.

Another parallel comes to mind -- though I doubt Tharp intended it or that she would be flattered by it. This morning, out of the blue, images of Massine's Beau Danube popped into mind. (I've only seen it on video.) Could Nightspot be a Beau Danube for the early 200s?

Each piece is light, somewhat frivolous, with lots and lots of dancing and rushing about. Each has choreography of the sort that is set TO the music rather than seems to emerge from it. Each uses familiar stereotyped characters and gives us dramatic situations which are not at all dramatic in effect. Each has a happy ending. Tharp's, in fact, seems to have two happy endings. For some reason, after the couples have all been reconciled and you assume that it's over, there's a kind of coda in which the Siren's boyfriend returns, spins and jumps some more. This is followed by another brief, and dramatically anti-climactic vision of of the happy couples.

If Tharp is playing Massine here, Costello is giving us a mildly hip contemporary version of one of those generic, hybridized Minkus/Pugni/Drigo scores, though with a mostly (but not entirely) Latin beat. I agree with Cristian's comment that the score seemed to be a "mishmash" of different dance styles. It's as if Costello wrote the parts and someone else put them in order and stiched them, aimlessly, together.

Nightspot is not profound. It's not dark, complex, richly textured, or particularly emotionally involving. It's not even, as Macaulay pionts out, particularly relective of ts own musical score. On the other hand, it's fun -- and it gives the dancers a chance to move at high speed and in a variety of directions. it is no more superficial than some of 19th-century, Third Act classical divertisssements I have seen. It's an entertainment, as were they. And it does have a a remarkable amount of classical ballet choreography on point, something I never expected. What WERE you thinking, Twyla Tharp?

#14 Justdoit

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Posted 05 April 2008 - 01:03 PM

Went to the first weekend of Program IV last weekend and have just now had time to sit down and write. We saw the program twice, first on Friday and again on Sunday. It was a very different audience from the premier to the Sunday matinee audience. Friday being a very social group in tuxes and gowns to Sunday's less formal, casual manner and attire.

I've seen all the ballets on the program before except Sonatine. Though very lovely, it was just too slow moving for me. I caught myself thinking of what we where doing after the show instead of focusing on the piece. Not a good sign. Have always liked Tarantella, but who wouldn't with that music and slap happy choreography? Square dance I prefer with the added dimension of the "caller." The last time I saw it done that way was by The Joffrey at the Kennedy Center years ago. It was very well executed with what MCB is becoming known for, their lyrical signature.

As for Nightspot. I did not expect a boadway type production with a story. However, I have to say it took a second viewing on Sunday (with orchestra seats) to develop a better perspective and opinion. I liked it. As bart may have said earlier, it was a pop piece and MCB can and should have those too. I actually liked the music though it was at times alittle rough in it's flow. The dancers were, as always, the ultimate performers giving it 110%. I too felt the long flowing red fabric reminiscent of Prodigal. However, it took on it's own quality, particularly when the male corp placed it over themselves looking somewhat like an undulating blood vessel, adding to the red hot theme carried out in costumes, lighting, and music.

Several in our party, not frequent attendees of ballet, loved it! One commented that it was the best they had ever seen. I couldn't go that far. I have many other ballets which come to mind when I think of the best I've ever seen. Like bart, I found it very entertaining. It definitely served as a much needed catalyst for bringing in new audience members. MCB, like most ballet companies, have to think of ways to attract and build their audience. Tharp's Nightspot provides that attraction well. We have to also note that the audience gave a standing ovation at each performance, often getting to their feet before bows even got underway.

I'd say it was a magical milestone for the company and they should be proud.

#15 bart

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Posted 05 April 2008 - 08:07 PM

I'm just back from performance #2. I enjoyed Nightspot even more the second time. I'd be tempted to call it "charming." THARP'S NEW WORK "CHARMING" SAYS BALLET TALK. Kiss of death at the box office?

Rereading the NY Times review and several others, I think the problem that some people have with this piece is that it is NOT what they think a Tharp work -- especially one dealing with the Miami club scene -- ought to be. Were critics looking for hard-driving stomping, or "serious" Tharp, or social commentary, or something, and therefore disoriented by what Tharp actually produced? The world Tharp -- not a noted club-goer herself -- has imagined is surprising gentle, slightly daffy, violent only on a playground level (tiffs and macho posturing), full of flirtations and momentary snits. It draws heavily on imagery from a gentler pop culture past. There's no booze, no drugs, no serious violence. A bouncer behaves like an avuncular assistant principal at the 8th grade prom. Key characters show great kindness. People are looking for fun in a way that reminds me of sock hops more than contemporary nightclubs -- and some are looking for true love.

A second viewing brought a few more reminders of (homages to?) other works..

(1) The Siren and her man are nightclub entertainers. At one point they perform and then pass sthe hat. Think Fellini doing vaudeville. Think Nino Rota in his oompah, hurdy-gurdy mode. Kurt Weill without the bite.

(2) Then there's the fight scene between the protagonist and the Siren's boyfriend. Think Robbins. Think Riff and Bernardo in "West Side Story" without knives and without any serious injury being done.

I agree with justdoit about the effectiveness of the crimson cape. Maneuvered and manipulated by the corps men, it takes on different forms (snake, ocean waves, body wrap, barrier). It holds the eye and stays in the mind, although it does distract from dancing going on elsewhere on the stage.

As to the decor: a dark, mostly back background with changing spots and other kinds of lighting that illuminated the dancing and helped focus your attention without being distracting. No show-off light effects, thank goodness. I liked the Mizrahi costumes, almsot all in a variety of reds and fuschias. The tones are warm -- not the abrasive darker or super-bright tones one might expect from a contemporary club setting -- and the variations from costume to costume are suble. They show the dancing body well. They suggest a kind of daffy eccentericity rather than super-cool trendiness. Again: not what one would have expected.

Several in our party, not frequent attendees of ballet, loved it! One commented that it was the best they had ever seen. [ ... ] MCB, like most ballet companies, have to think of ways to attract and build their audience. Tharp's Nightspot provides that attraction well. We have to also note that the audience gave a standing ovation at each performance, often getting to their feet before bows even got underway.

I'd say it was a magical milestone for the company and they should be proud.

I agree both with you and with your friends. I hope that this attracts new audiences and keeps bringing them back.

These relative newcomers might be surprised to learn just how much classical ballet Tharp is giving them.

Here are just a few of many possible examples:

Katia Carranza, sweet and touching in romantic tutu and carriying a Kitri fan, leaps (classical grand jete) into the wings with Romantic two-arms-in-front Giselle port de bras. (I forget the name.)

Carlos Guerra spends time thinking about the new girl while doodling through combinations of assembles, pirouettes, etc., all with impeccable port de bras.

His sidekick, Jeremy Cox, mimics kick-boxing while performing grands battements with perfectly pointed feet.

Calllie Manning, stunning as the rejected girlfriend, unfolds long, perfectly formed arabseques when she's not arguing with Guerra and ocassionally pushing him around to get him to straighten out his life.

The villain (or ringmaster), Isanusi Garcia-Rodrizuez, whips off powerful pirouttes a la seconde, barrel turns, etc. It's a thrilling performance with the best dancing he's done since coming to MCB.

These are not isolated examples. Long sections are almost entirely classical ballet with an overlay of contemporary pop gesture, movement, and attitude.

Nightspot ends up giving the audience big swatches of BALLET dancing performed by very talented clasically trained dancers. Of course the piece contains a number of other movement styles, especially in the early Latin dancing phase and during Fosse knockoff that has Jennifer Kronenberg doing Chorus Line with a derby tipped forward over her brow. AAs the piece progresses, libretto, choreography, and even Costello's music morph gradually into an old-fashioned story ballet. By the end, all the couples are reconciled. Order (that quality so much loved by the Tsars) is restored. I know that I'm exagerrating, but doesn't that sound just a bit like Petipa?


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