The question of THE QUESTIONS...!
What WERE you thinking, Twyla Tharp?
MCB Program IV .Square Dance,Sonatine,Tarantella,Nightspot.
Posted 05 April 2008 - 08:13 PM
Posted 07 April 2008 - 09:24 AM
The change with the biggest impact was Rolando Sarabia in the central role. Patricia Delgado replaced Kronenberg's role as the character I think of as "the Siren." Mary Carmen Catoya and Daniel Baker replaced the excellent Katia Carranza and Jeremy Cox as the sidekick couple.
Every dancer in both casts danced wonderfully, and the ensemble made the many speedy shifts in movement style and energy-level and style quite effective. But the Sarabia/Delgado cast electrified (and made sense of) the story in a way the earlier cast had not. This makes a big difference when you're performing what is essentially a piece of "ballet theater."
Sarabia is a real star. He has the presence, stagecraft, strong technique, and machismo -- in other words, the weight -- to dominate the stage. He knows what it is to enter a room believing that he owns it -- and convincing you as well. He gave Carrie Manning a love interest to respond to. The beautiful and occasionally over-severe ice prince became warmer and more passionate. (Sarabia does seem to have this effect on all his women partners. Catoya and Seay were transformed in Jewels and Nutcracker, surrendering a bit emotionally and becoming stronger performers as a result.) The interactions between Manning and Sarabia became more complex. You could understand completely why Sarabia decided in the end to come home to Manning, and why Manning melted when she realized that was doing so.
Here's just one example of how Tharp uses ballet steps to advance the story. After his difficulties, the Sarabia character is on his way to learning the lesson of sticking to the woman who loves you. He begins a solo in which the bravura steps become signs of growing self-confidence, especially a series of pirouettes a la seconde that grow faster and more intense. His pirouettes completed, (and allowing time for a huge hand from the audience) Sarabia registers a self-satisfaction. "Hey, I'm back on form." Immediately afterwards, the Siren enters with her partner/pimp and is offered to him again. Sarabia things about it for a few seconds, smiles, and turns her down with a gentle wave of the hand. Those pirouettes helped make this possible.
Delgado's performance was a big surprise to me and quite an expansion of her range. It had an electricity and allure, a knowingness about sex and power, and an intensity that made Sarabia's fascination with her completely understandable. She made the most of basically unteresting choreography for the character and gave it an entirely new look. Some silly shoulder shrugs (put in by Tharp to suggest a that the character is a naughty girl) are both witty and genuinely enticing. You have to watch her, which was not the case witih Kronenberg, a dancer who in other kinds of roles is mesmerisisng.
Catoya and Daniel Baker were fast, charming, technically exciting on a new level for their parts. Every move had clarity and energy. It made me want to see more of them together. Catoya, is the fastest, most classical principal in the company. Here, she was a young kid. (Not unlike her remarkable, joyful Tarantella in an earlier performance.) Last season, Baker was picked by Tharp for a feature role in In the Upper Room. He's was an Apprentice at the time. Definitely a dancer to keep watching.
More on the various casts of Square Dance, Sonatine, and Tarantella later. Generally, however, my reaction to that portion of the program was
Posted 07 April 2008 - 12:12 PM
...the Sarabia/Delgado cast electrified (and made sense of) the story in a way the earlier cast had not. This makes a big difference when you're performing what is essentially a piece of "ballet theater."
Sarabia is a real star. He has the presence, stagecraft, strong technique, and machismo -- in other words, the weight -- to dominate the stage. He knows what it is to enter a room believing that he owns it -- and convincing you as well.
Grrr...why wasn't Sarabita cast for the Miami performances...?!?!
Posted 08 April 2008 - 11:26 AM
Villella pursues the strict old-line no-star NYCB policy. I wonder how Sarabia will eventually fit in. I have never had a chance to see him in an ensemble piece or in anything neoclassical -- Agon, for instance. He's also been absent or under-represented in several programs. At least one of these situations was an injury, perhaps more. I should add that his brother, soloist Daniel Sarabia, appeared in the second cast as well, dancing with greater freedom and intensity than I've noticed before.
Grrr...why wasn't Sarabita cast for the Miami performances...?!?!
MCB's corps, enhanced by coryphees and apprentices, is the best I've seen in 7 seasons. So is the sense of well-oiled ensemble. This paid off in Square Dance , a ballet in which the corps works extra hard, often duplicating the fast movements of the principals, or playing follow the leader a beat or two later. The corps was a real star here. Whoever is working with them knows how to pass on the Balanchine gift. They had speed, sharpness, precision, energy, and the ability to move about the complicated stage patterns fearlessly and accurately. Every one I saw seemed to be thrilled to be there.
I feel I ought to get their names on record: Leigh-Ann Esty, Sara Esty, Kyra Homeres, Ashley Knox, Jennifer Lauren, Zoe Zien, Daniel Baker, Neil Marshall (alternating with soloist Didier Bramaz), Michael Sean Breeden, Alexandre Dufaur, Stephen Satterfield, Marc Spielberger.
In the lead roles, the frequent partnership of Patricia Alberson and Jeremy Cox were on top of their game. Alberston led the other women like an big sister who knows how to do everything just a little bit better. Albertson strikes me as an intelligent dancer. She seems to know why she's doing what she's doing. She has speed, but I especially like the slow part of the pas de deux, with its elegance and wonderful arm movements and expressive Balanchine wrists.
Villella coached the dancers. In his curtain-raiser, he stressed the formality, courtliness, and what he called "baroque" that this ballet demands. Cox, especially, learned the lesson well. He danced his solo adagio -- the part danced to Corelli's Sarabande -- in an almost dreamlike fashion, completely absorbed in the movement of arms, bending of back, and dramatic lunges into th stage. It's a wonderful solo, and Cox brought depth and a kind of introspective grandeur to it.
My favorite cast for Sonatine was Deanna Seay and Didier Bramaz. I wouldn't have thought of Seay -- with her seriousness and intensity -- for a role like this. But she brought great warmth and maturity to it. She sailed serenely over and through the rivulets of sound in Ravel's piano score.
I saw three casts in Tarantella. Mary Carmen Catoya was as fast, precise, spritely, and technically pure as anyone could be, and Renato Penteado -- sporting a red bandana on his head and an appealing hint of a beard -- danced more freely and effortlessly than I've ever seen him. Jeanette Delgado joined Penteado the next night: big smile, big moves, big speed, and lots of joy Alex Wong, dancing with Tricia Albertson, seemed to be having the time of his life. There was perhaps little too much adolescent mugging, but he reminded me of the Italian street boy quality that Villella himself brought to it. I'd like to see what he does with this part in a couple of years.
Posted 10 April 2008 - 10:42 AM
Ms. Tharp has re-entered the ballet arena with some of her recent Broadway theatrics in tow.
Those of you who live in the big ballet capitals get the chance to compare your thoughts to those of major reviewers on an almost daily basis. In Florida this is very, very, very rare. So it was good to have Greskovic here.
Macaulay's piece focused at length on his quarrels with Tharp's use (or misuse) of the music, leaving relatively little space to discuss what he actually saw. Greskovic respects Tharp's "meticulous craft." He gets quickly to the heart of the problem with the score itself:
... [T]he evident craft of "Nightspot" doesn't carry the work from start to finish. Mr. Costello's score changes, but it rarely climaxes; it includes nothing like the punctuational pacing that gives Broadway shows their bite, accent, and impact. Ms. Tharp's cannily constructed intermediate flashes of dance highpoints and artful groupings aren't readily supported by the score, and the ballet's momentum can become diffuse.
Greskovic also had the chance to compare the two dancers playing the lead. To learn more about the excellent Rolando Sarabia and what Greskovic thought of his performance, please click below and read the entire review.
Posted 13 April 2008 - 03:26 PM
So: Square Dance. Last night's cast was Tricia Albertson and Jeremy Cox. I generally thought she was technically very good but, as I often feel about Louise Nadeau at PNB, I wish there was a bit more confidence there. She revealed some tiredness in her echappes and gargouillades at the end, but that's understandable with, as Leigh noted, those fast tempos, which I generally appreciated. Cox was also technically secure, but I like my Square Dance man to have a bit more gravitas (a tempo problem too?)--so I guess I'm disagreeing with Bart a bit there. There was some weirdness in the couple's transition from the 1st movement into the first pdd--the hand giving/taking/bowing didn't really make sense, and it should, at least gesturally; it looked arbitrary. The corps was pretty much always great, precise but also playful, as it should be--although one corps woman needs to tone down the extra-dance gesturing/flirting with the audience a bit--she looked demented sometimes, esp. when she was standing on the sidelines (the whole corps does lots of gesturing when they are standing still, which looked a bit strange at times). But yes, they seem excellently rehearsed. Being a Philadelphian, it's a real eye-opener, as I don't think PA Ballet's Balanchine is up to this level.
Tarentella: I missed the orchestra; the piano, way upstage, sounded far away. Not sure the lead woman (Delgado) always piqued on straight knees, but clearly she's a powerhouse--in line to do Don Q, no? I like the way she pulls into pirouettes, very powerful. (Still, it's hard to get Bouder out of my mind from last summer's performance at Saratoga.) And Penteado was certainly up to the task.
Sonatine was new to me, so I had nothing to compare it to. I thought Mary Carmen Catoya was pretty wonderful. Yet I couldn't help wishing that she and her partner, Alex Wong, were a bit more sophisticated in their approach, somehow--they lacked a certain maturity, esp. Wong, that the dance seemed to call for. Have to see it again, though, to be sure.
By the way, I spotted Acocella there. I wonder if she will write about MCB somewhere? (she just wrote in the NYker last week, so we know it'll be a long time before she writes there again).
I hope I can come for a longer visit next time!
Posted 17 April 2008 - 04:00 PM
Me too. Thanks, Ray, for adding your voice to the comments on MCB's new program.
I hope I can come for a longer visit next time!
Another excellent review is Susan Reiter's from DanceviewTimes, whose mostly positive about the Tharp piece while in no way considering it major Tharp.
"Nightspot" is both juicily entertaining and caustically honest about the nastier games people play in the pursuit of love. It's an extravagantly overripe eyeful, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns. The MCB dancers deliver vivid portrayals, plunging expansively into Tharp's demands. But what's missing is the sense of her taking classical dance into bold new territory, shaking it up and revealing it anew -- as she has done in her finest and most enduring works for ballet companies.
Posted 25 June 2008 - 05:36 PM
For example: Here's Leigh discussing the huge investment in this work --
Sometimes a white elephant is red. [... ]The company trumpeted a $1,000,000 grant to underwite a single ballet. [ ... ] What Miami City Ballet got for the money was unmemorable and inconsequential; a dance made not by the Tharp that choreographed shrewed commentaries on pop culture such as Deuce Coupe, but by the Tharp that decided to feather her nest by churning out pop culture instead.
And here's Leigh putting all that money and effort in perspective:
Looking at it in terms of comparison, I could not agree more.
Befitting its reputation, the company got a much higher return on its investment from Balanchine. Square Dance [...] Sonatine [ ... ] Tarentella [... ]
I also liked the way some of the Nightspot's story-telling absurdities are nailed. (I was much too indulgent about this, it seems to me now.)
After Guerra was seduced by Kronenberg, beaten up by Garcia-Rodriques and then rejected by Kronenberg, Manning forgave Gueerra and took him back. So what else is new? Carranza came out with a fan and a Tango generale ensued. Not that tangos usually involve fans, but this was less about anthropology and more about applause.
One more quote, which captures the conventionality of some of the choreography, something which puzzled me and which led me to assume (incorrectly) that some sort of gentle parody was intended.
Tharp's work for women on pointe is competent but surprisingly orthodox. Tharp has never really figured out ballet vocaulary for women; she's most comfortable choreographing for men. When women put on pointe shoes, Tharp heads to the classroom.
I wonder what the future is for Nightspot. With a pit orchestra and an onstage pop/rock band it would be expensive and complicated to tour with live music. On the other hand, the Costello score was probably composed with recording in mind, so using a dvd might be just as effective. And what about those Mizrahi costumes? To Leigh, they "look as if he lifted them from his workout line for Target stores (perhaps the one he did in 1987), then dipped them in a vat of red dye and a ttacked them with a Bedazzler"? Oh well, they'd probably pack well.
Posted 27 June 2008 - 12:00 PM
Posted 27 June 2008 - 04:56 PM
I wonder what the future is for Nightspot.
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