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Edward Villella on video: clips only


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#31 Farrell Fan

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 01:10 PM

Nice anecdote Phaedra, thanks.

#32 papeetepatrick

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 07:19 AM

'The Man Who Dances' must be unique in terms of its documentation of an overscheduled period in a dancer's career. Is it? Because none of the things on Nureyev or any of the female dancers give anything like the detail during this period when Villella collapsed in a matinee and then did 'Rubies' at the evening performance. He is in agony at all points offstage in this group of performances. I wonder if this was a pattern, this overscheduling. He doesn't even say no to Melissa Hayden when she needs to have him fill in for someone else during the period. It's a remarkable film, because those moments in his dressing room when he goes into these exclamations of ecstasies about the 'soaring' have an almost maniacal repetition to them which is very effective--just short jabbing phrases about the same thing over and over. It sounds slightly crazed at first, until you begin to realize that it's just that kind of verbal repetition that makes it so you really understand precisely what he means by the ecstasy he got in dancing. It is much better than any dancer I've ever heard talking about the sensation of dancing, because it is so enraptured that it is still attached to the dancing he's thinking about ('I feel really good right now', he says after a performance, 'although it will be different tomorrow', or something close to that). With other dancers, the talk of the dancing is more detached from the sensation itself. Patricia McBride was exquisite whenever she appeared or danced, and as a result of never speaking once in the film, was like an ethereal being around his intensity--without even mentioning that to see her dance is always to love her--she is perfect. I also very much liked that it was really about Villella more than it was Balanchine. Balanchine was fully respected, but he was not every other word the way it is in some documentaries about Balanchine dancers. It is enough that he owes everything to Balanchine and his choreography without having to say 'Mr. B'... 'Mr. B, this'... 'Mr. B. that'... every few seconds (and in the rehearsal with McBride with Balanchine in which 'he didn't want to be photographed', you still get fleeting glimpses of Balanchine, which is nice). This film of a Balanchine dancer was more like Nureyev's 'I am a Dancer', which might be unique among Balanchine-dancer films, and could be because Villella was Balanchine's great male star. As a film, I definitely find it better than any other I've seen about a particular dancer at work, better than Nureyev's films and better than any of those by and about other Balanchine dancers. The old Martha Graham film from the late 50s, early 60s is the only one I can think of that comes close to being a really fine film about the dancer and his/her art. There's just infinitely more about muscle and bone, how the muscles 'think' and behave, than in any other dancer films I've seen.

#33 Helene

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 02:25 PM

According to his autobiography, he danced as much as he did because he needed the money to fund a very costly divorce.

In "Prodigal Son" he describes his morning routine, and he could only crawl when he got up until he had had long bath and massage.

#34 Quiggin

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 02:52 PM

Phaedra:

I cut my teeth on Villella dancing on TV during the sixties, when they still showed ballet on television (remember that?)


That, too, was my first exposure to Villella and to ballet--on tv--Villella leaping in a full circle around a studio in stark and distorted black and white. I thought now this is really dazzling, I could really watch a lot of this sort of thing. But then I seem to have dropped the ball on that project for many years. That's perhaps why I feel compelled to go to so many performances now, to correct for that loss, but with somewhat less intense balletic experiences.

I like Patrick's take on the film, which I haven't yet seen. Villella may not have mentioned Mr B so much because he was avoiding him and working intensively with Stanley Williams, or so it seems from what I recall from "Prodigal Son."

Incidentally, there is a lovely picture of Nureyev and Stanley Williams for sale now on ebay. It's not inexpensive.

#35 rg

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 02:59 PM

somewhat off the ballet angle of this thread not connected to the points brought up by Mel re: the 1930s, this trading? card from the 1936 Olympics shows 4 of the sprinters from those games: [left to right, if i've got the German text correctly] Frank Wykoff (USA), Paul Hanni (Switzerland), Ralph Metcalfe (USA), and Jesse Owens (USA).

Attached Files



#36 bart

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 03:03 PM

This has been a remarkable thread for me -- especially since I've found myself, since moving to Florida, listening frequently to Villella's pre-performance talks for Miami City Ballet, and watching him interact with his dancers and others in his company.

My respect for the man now is actually greater today than when I saw him dance regularly at NYCB, often on TV, and when I read his autobiography.

He really does love ballet -- not all of it, but especially the part of it he grew up at NYCB with and passes on to his own company. He loves the Balancine repertoire. He loves what his dancers are capable of doing. He respects his audience.

I also very much liked that it was really about Villella more than it was Balanchine. Balanchine was fully respected, but he was not every other word the way it is in some documentaries about Balanchine dancers. It is enough that he owes everything to Balanchine and his choreography without having to say 'Mr. B'... 'Mr. B, this'... 'Mr. B. that'... every few seconds [ ... ]

He talks about Balanchine much more now. One of the thrills of watching even the youngest MCB dancers is feeling that they are just one step removed from Balanchine himself. And that they feel the connection ... and the responsibility. :)

Figurante, if you're reading this thread, it would be wonderful to hear some of your own thoughts -- and your expereinces -- regarding these issues.

#37 papeetepatrick

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 03:44 PM

According to his autobiography, he danced as much as he did because he needed the money to fund a very costly divorce.


But this had already been going on in this film 3 years before there was marital conflict, and the current wife Janet was shown in it several times, including at their apartment and also trying to convince him not to do that 'Rubies' that night. It was hard to even find her listed on the internet, but they apparently divorced in 1970, 3 years after the performances focussed on in the film, which were in 1967, I think late fall. So he was already really over-scheduling, with the performances inside and outside NYCB. Do you think it was in his nature to want to perform almost constantly, despite the exhaustion? Of course, maybe he needed the money, they had a child, and then later I think he sued for custody, although others will know these details. The other sources I saw don't specify that Roddy is the child from the first marriage, and that there are two other children by his current wife. Anyway, Pat McBride was clearly not going through such troubles right then--but then my impression is someone in agony every time they're offstage is a very rare and especially heavy time, but in his case I suppose it may have been more frequent, I don't know.

I like Patrick's take on the film, which I haven't yet seen. Villella may not have mentioned Mr B so much because he was avoiding him and working intensively with Stanley Williams, or so it seems from what I recall from "Prodigal Son."


I like it when they talk about Balanchine regarding the dance--and would also have liked Balanchine to have been photographed in that rehearsal had he not objected. I just was glad to hear no recipes for coulibiac or roast veal and no personal advice or cute quips, a la 'Mr. B. always says...' That is all right sometimes, but it wasn't relevant to enormous physical agony, chiropractors and being determined to dance at any cost anyway. The absence of anecdotes of any kind was actually extremely refreshing; he seemed to be a kind of fantastically driven animal artist like Maria Callas, perhaps, and for this you need a solid individual profile first, secondly a disciple, which I thought came across--even if it was the only period in which he was quite like that: Alone. Anyway, thanks quiggin, I think you will love the film, and he's glorious in 'Rubies', not to mention 'Tarantella' and the others (even though in that 'Tarantella' you even see the exhaustion very pronounced onstage.)

Edited to add: There was a piece he was dancing called something that sounded like 'Palinkia', but it's not listed in the NYCB repertoire. What is this, please? Thanks.

#38 chrisk217

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 07:09 PM

There was a piece he was dancing called something that sounded like 'Palinkia', but it's not listed in the NYCB repertoire. What is this, please? Thanks.

It's the Divertimento Brillante from Glinkiana. Lovely :)

#39 rg

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 04:20 AM

the credits for the never-easy-to-say GLINKAIANA (or GLINKIANA) follow.
Villella was filmed in this for a 1968 CBC telecast called "Le New York City Ballet," on a bill that included CONCERTO BAROCCO, DIVERTIMENTO BRILLANTE and APOLLO (see NYPL cat. entry below).
it goes w/o saying this has not been released commercially and if it were to be put on themarket it would likely be minus the Villella/McBride pas de deux.

Glinkiana : Chor: George Balanchine; mus: Mikhail Glinka; scen, cos & lighting: Esteban Francés. First perf: New York, New York State Theater, Nov 23, 1967, New York City Ballet. The second movement, Valse fantasie, was subsequently danced without the other movements and was later spelled Valse fantaisie (not the same as Balanchine's 1953 ballet, Valse-Fantaisie).
*MGZB New York City Ballet. Programs. Spring, 1968. Variant spelling: Glinkaiana.

Le New York City Ballet 1968. 63 min. : sd. b&w.
Telecast on L'heure du concert, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Narration in French. Choreography: George Balanchine. Performed by the New York City Ballet.
Concerto barocco. Music: J. S. Bach (Concerto, 2 violins & string orchestra, S. 1043, D minor) Performed by Suzanne Farrell, Marnee Morris, Conrad Ludlow, and eight members of the female corps de ballet. Glinkaiana: Divertimento brillante. Music: Mikhail Glinka. Costumes: Esteban Francés. Performed by Patricia McBride and Edward Villella. Apollon musagète. Music: Igor Stravinski. Cast: Peter Martins (Apollo), Suzanne Farrell (Terpsichore), Marnee Morris (Polymnie), Karin von Aroldingen (Calliope).

if mem. serves, Villella restaged Divertimento B. in Miami but i don't know how long it lasted.

#40 papeetepatrick

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 06:37 AM

Thanks, chrisk217 and rg. I had read of Glinkaiana here numerous times, but never saw it. I don't think I even remember seeing it listed on programs, so that maybe it's not in the repertory that much; or I could have just missed it. Wouldn't really know Glinka's music automatically either. Is it still done by NYCB?

#41 bart

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 07:58 AM

Do you think it was in his nature to want to perform almost constantly, despite the exhaustion?


The absence of anecdotes of any kind was actually extremely refreshing; he seemed to be a kind of fantastically driven animal artist like Maria Callas, perhaps, and for this you need a solid individual profile first, secondly a disciple, which I thought came across--even if it was the only period in which he was quite like that: Alone.


These are (to me) remarkable and intriguing possibilities that open doors to Villella's career that I haven't seen explored before. Thanks, papeetepatrick. I'd be very interested to hear others' thoughts about these matters as well.

rg, Divertimento Brillante is listed (under that name) in MCB's repertoire, without dates. It must have been before we moved to south Florida in 2001. The only Glinka I've seen since then is Glinka Pas de Trois. Valse Fantasie is also listed in the MCB Rep -- twice, under the dates (versions?) 1953 and 1967.

Does anyone know why Glinkiana was quickly split up into separate short ballets? My dim memories of this from the late 60s was that it didn't really coher as a single long piece, anyway. It certainly made sense for Villella have offered the pdd separately when guesting or for tv. It certainly worked as an alternative to Tchaikovsky pdd, which everyone had already seen many times.

#42 canbelto

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 09:09 AM

Something else to consider:

In the late 1960s the company was undergoing an upheaval when Suzanne Farrell came onto the scene, and Mr. B started lavishing attention on her and her alone, to the detriment of the other ballerinas in the company. This affected the males as well, as the tall Jacque d'Amboise and Arthur Mitchell became the favored partners for Farrell, and the shorter Villella could not compete. From "Prodigal Son," it seems as if Villella did not resent Farrell so much as he did d'Amboise, with whom he had a testy relationship. Because of his enormous talent, Villella was able to hold his own and keep Mr. B's attention, but his overdancing may have been a way to make sure he stayed on the radar in the minds of both Mr. B and the public.

#43 rg

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 09:15 AM

the only section of the longer ballet still seen at NYCB is VALSE FANTASIE (from the '67 GLINKAIANA and performed by itself for the first time in '69). during the Bal. Cel. the ballet was was given in both the '53 version - still danced by MCB, showcasing one male dancer and 3 more or less equal female soloists - as well as the later GLINKAIANA version, reworked by Balanchine for 1 male and female lead, w/ an group of 4 women. this doubling-up however hasn't happened since, and i think all one can likely expect is the later version, until another celebrational season rolls around.
i don't know if any co. other than MCB does the '53 version nowadays, nor for that matter, what companies have the later version now in repertory.
(Fokine choreographed both the Valse F. (part 2 of GLINKAIANA) and the Jota Aragonese (part 3 of GLINKAIANA.) For all i know he might also have tackled at some point the Polka and the Divertimento B, (parts 1 and 4 respectivelyof GLINKAIANA.)

#44 Paul Parish

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 06:05 PM

I sure would like to see "the Man who Dances."

Villella is a performing animal. I was once attending a conference he was speaking at, we both got caught in an elevator, and in hte five minutes we were tstuck in there he told me 15 stories at least, with FULL moxie and eyes sparkling. And I was nobody, dressed down, just there to hear the talks. THe man is an entertainer -- and so is Jacques d'Amboise -- they might well have been rivals, for both are hungry for the chance to make you enjoy their company. i'm a total fan.

Bart wrote: "Does anyone know why Glinkiana was quickly split up into separate short ballets? My dim memories of this from the late 60s was that it didn't really cohere as a single long piece, anyway. It certainly made sense for Villella have offered the pdd separately when guesting or for tv. It certainly worked as an alternative to Tchaikovsky pdd, which everyone had already seen many times.
[/quote]

Bart, have you SEEN "Divertimento Brillante"? From what I remember of the production RG mentions, the CBC broadcast, it could NEVER substitute in hte public's affections for Tarantella; it's not very likable, the music and hte dancing are both brittle and geeky and hectic in their phrasing -- the piano part is written so as to encourage capricious rhythms, sort of cadenza-like, so it never builds up any sweep or momentum -- it is the opposite in its appeal from Tarantella, which builds and builds and overwhelms us with delight.

The suite may well have felt "uncohesive." Valse Fantaisie is also odd - rhythmically odd, since (if I remember right) its phrases are 3 bars long -- DAAAH,dumbaDAHdah, DAAAH,dumbaDAHdah, which disturbs most hearer's expectations (since usually everything always comes in twos or fours), so hte whole surge of it -- and it does surge, surges a LOT, feels like pretty big waves on the sea of galilee...

Glinka is a VERY great composer, he is to Russian music what Pushkin is to Russian literature, the genius who could suddenly do everything when before there was nothing. When SF Opera did his "Russlan and Lyudmila" here a decade or so ago (with Bakst's designs and Fokine's choreography, same version Balanchine danced in as a student), everybody went out of hteir minds, because it was delightful as Rossini, spectacularly beautiful, staggeringly great theater, and capable of hilarity of hte most champagne-like frothiness and we had no idea. (Here's the overture: http://www.youtube.c...eature=related; a Russian would probably conduct it even faster. you'll notice when it works itself up to sounding Polonaisy, it sounds Tchaikovskian, like the finale of Diamonds or Theme and Variations.)

Amazingly inventive, and beautifully sustained. All Russians seem to revere him like Tchaikovsky; certainly Balanchine. Gergeyev conducts
the Mazurka from his "A life for the Czar" as the big musical finale to "Russian Ark," the ballroom scene at the Hermitage .

#45 Quiggin

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 10:11 PM

Canbelto said

it seems as if Villella did not resent Farrell so much as he did d'Amboise, with whom he had a testy relationship


Villella said in Prodigal Son that d'Amboise played some tricks on him--they may have been tests and puckish jokes of sorts, but Villilla took them quite seriously. d'Amboise may have wanted to be the only man at NYCB, in the same way Susan Sontag and Mary McCarthy wanted to be the only women among men.

I like Patrick's call (at least I take it as such) for a period of abstinence from stories about Mr. B's stories. For Balanchine the story materials may have been protective devices in a some way, so that the real Balanchine could really be thinking about the choreography and the next steps to himself.

Thanks Paul for the clip, it's a great performance of the Glinka overture--is it Barenboim? but he seems so vivacious. I don't think Glinka is the Pushkin of Russian music, maybe, not a bad thing, the bubbly Tatiana Tolstoya. Glinka doesn't develop as much as Tchaikovsky does I think. I do agree though that the music is champagne-like in the best sense.

Thanks too for the Russian Ark clip--it's a great film--the great one reeler of life (it's all done in one shot). I had forgotten how delightful and at the same time profoundly moving it is. Gergiev by the way is doing four Prokofiev symphonies here in San Francisco with the London Symphony Orchestra in March--single tickets just went on sale.

Gergiev also did the full, three hour version of Sleeping Beauty with LSO for the Proms--temporarily on line at BBC Proms What's On portal. Both performances got raves in the Financial Times.

Back to Villella...

Edited 8/26. Poster's remorse--too long.


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