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Miami City Ballet: Program 1Balanchivadze's "Swan Lake", "4 T's"..and...


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#61 bart

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 03:02 PM

Most of the ground has been covered so beautifully, but here are a few personal thoughts:

The Programming: I agree with Macaulay and others who think this is a beautifully designed program. I don't know who started the historical analysis, but by the time MCB came to the Kravis in West Palm, Villella was using the same "classica" to "modernist" to "post-modernist" analysis that Macaulay used in his review. It makes sense, whoever thought of it first.

The Balanchine Version. As I've said before, I saw Balanchine's first version of this -- with the 4 Cygnets, without the Valse Bluette, etc. -- in the 1957-58 season when I was a teenager. It's the first Swan Lake I payed close attention to. It's my version of choice, though I love the full-length when it's done grandly, musically, brilliantly as I remember the Bolshoi doing it during its New York visits and as I've seen in Kirov films. This IS the entire ballet if one accepts the expendabilitiy of Rothbart as character and his creation, Odile, and if you can do without the variations. I agree with Natalia about the addition of the gorgeous Valse Bluette. I'm delighted to see the Cygnets gone and to see the 2 solo swans with such marvellous dancing opportunities.

As to story line: Balanchine's version actually tells me more about the nature of the Odette/Siegfried relationship than most others I've seen. In the central part, the section devoted to the pas de 9 and the vals, there is actually something of a joyfulness to the dancing. This is an emotionally believable love affair. A kind of hope develops as the two dance -- or possibly the illusion of hope. Those of us who've been romantically in love may identify with the following. At one point, before the storm music really gets started, Odette seems to try, desperately, to pull the Prince away from danger towards stage right. He stops her and they become immersed in one another once more. Then he tries to pull her in the direction of stage right. They are heading in different directions and, blinded by love, cannot see it. It is only at this point that Rothbart appears. The music and the choreography have prepared us for what is going to happen, whether we notice it consciously or not.

Four Swan Queens and Four Princes:

Haiyan Wu danced Odette in our opening night performance at the Kravis. She is said to be one of Villella's favorite dancers. I am probably alone in having found her Odette to be a disappointment. Ethereal, yes. Delicate, yes. Vulnerable, yes. Technically amazing, yes. But as to dramatic impact, I have to disagree with others including Macaulay. The space Wu inhabits and pushes through seems smaller than it is with the other principals in the company.

This perfomrance was more Sylphide than Odette. Inside Odette is some of the real strength and wildness of a creature of the animal world. She's also a princess and, I believe, a true romantic. This mixture is, at times, augmented by anguish, overpowering love, great fear. Mastering some of the "swan gestures" of head and arms is not enough. Only in the last seconds of the piece, as Odette is pulled backwards towards her destiny with Rothbart, did I feel what the music expresses and what Balanchine managed to get from each of the Odettes I saw in his day.

Wu and her husband Yang Zou do indeed have an amazing stage rapport, and Zou was a touchingly attentive cavalier. Unlike many Siegfrieds, he rarely took his eyes away from Odette. Zou has a plushness of movement that is rare. Natalia mentions that they were couple in the First Theme of 4T's. And lovely they were. The night I saw this, she had just finished Swan Lake. The dancer who for a few seconds had become a mesmerising Odette now stood on a completely bare stage, after a short intermission, in black leotard and white tights dancing with the Prince, now in white tee shirt and black tights, to a lovely bit of Hindemith. Now that must be a challenge.

(P.S. of all the ballets I've seen Wu in, the one that stays in my mind the most is the girl in Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun. She's unique (in the Kent, Leclerq mold), untouchable (unreachable?), and unforgettable.)

Next was Mary Carmen Catoya, the real revelation to me this weekend. She's an amazing technical dancer, but in the past couple of seasons she is becoming much more. More expressive. More individual. Subtley musical. Deeper. I loved this Odette. Natalia has mentioned Seay's series of pique pirouettes around the stage. All 4 dancers speeded up the music noticeably at this point. Wu's pirouettes were lovely. Seay's were fascinating. But Catoya's were in character; they were perfect and also frightening. Classicism expressing panic.

I should mention -- because no one else has -- that this Siegfried was Rolando's younger brother Daniel Sarabia. I haven't seen much of him since he joined the company. He's a wonderful Prince, subtle, caring, emotionally expressive, elegant, and quite capable to dancing any of the choreography that Balanchine throws at him. Catoya plus Daniel Sarabia equalled, for me, a world class cast.

Deanna Seay was a powerful Odette in a different way. Macaulay is right in commenting on the imperfection of her line and especially her feet. But she can dance anything, and her presence draws your eye away from technical defects towards the quality of her movement. This was the Odette who was most torn between her human and swan personas.

I do believe that having Rolando Sarabia as her partner helped. Every ballerina he partners seems enlarged and deepend. Possiblythe feel they can trust him 100% to present them at their best, although I've seen some bobbles with lifts from time to time, though not at this performance. It also helps that he's amazingly self-contained yet attentive, glamourous without being classically handsome. And any man who can jump so beautifully upward and land so softly in perfect fifth (multiple times) must make a ballerina's heart pound just a little.

When I came to the theater for the Sunday matinee I was praying for Jennifer kronenberg, my dream ballerina. I'm seriously in love with Kronenberg. And there she was -- the 4th Odette of the weekend, dancing with her partner in life Carlos Guerra. This was the most thought-ought performance of the four: every move, gesture, and swan-ism as good as it can be.

Kronenberg dances with her eyes as well as her body. And she's the most musical, I think, of the 4. Catoya's musicality is more subtle at times; she is willing to dance at times just a bit off the beat. But Cronenberg reveals the music as I think Balanchine wanted. Towards the end, as Odette is being drawn away from Siegfried and towards her destiny, there's a moment when the strings go "plunk." Cronenberg, precisely on the beat, shudders, tightens her torso, draws herself upward, and transforms her eyes to show that she is no longer aware of Siegfried. The arms begin to undulate. She bourrees backward staring blankly into space. It was at this point that Cronenberg brought tears to my eyes. Hope and love are over. Forever. The score says it, the story says, and Kronenberg's dancing says it.

Guerra's a fine and elegant dancer who doesn't always engage his face or eyes in what he's doing. On this particular evening, his partnering seemed a little inconsistent during the pdd. A couple of lifts ended awkwardly, whch I've never seen before. It was fascinating to see Guerra and the 2 Sarabias, all trained in Cuba, dancing this role. For me, it's a lesson that technique is not enough. You need to fill technique, as you fill a beautiful but empty vessel, with awareness and energy, even when the body is in repose.

The Swan Corp. Others have mentioned how incredible this choreography is. Natalia has described beautifully some of the effects, including the long line in which one swan after another bows deeply, in a wave, as the Price walks past them.

I watched this fine corps (several of whose members are Student Apprentices) from above (stage right and left) and from different parts of the orchestra. Each choreographic effect "works" from each location. My most vivid visual memory: two lines of swans cross each other, each dancer leaping through an empty space that cannot have been there fore more than a half second. Another visual memory: the swans responding to the storm music, panicked but still in formation, the fast concentric circles, and the way the seem to evaporate as the disappear offstage, leaving us alone with Odette and Siegfried.

#62 Jack Reed

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 03:17 PM

I enjoyed reading your wrap-up, bart. You don't leave much room for further comment. I agree that Kronenberg's was the most completely developed realization of the role, and I agree about Wu. Lots of appropriate virtues, part of a fine pair, but, still, less effect than the others, and it's not as though she's a little girl who'd be hard to see. But I'm reminded that ballet performance doesn't just serve the audience, or, if you like to think along these lines, Tchaikovsky and Balanchine, but also the dancers and their development. We will certainly see this ballet again, with Wu, too, and maybe we'll see who she becomes in it.

I already had some reason to think how each of the Delgado sisters looked like having become over the summer the older, yet more accomplished sisters of the girls they used to be, by the time I mistook Seay for Patricia Delgado Saturday night (in Broward). Seeing the lovely, supple phrasing of Odette's Variation, I thought, Look at that! Now that I know who it really was, I'm still delighted but less surprised: When we see Seay's name on the cast sheet, we anticipate some such little miracles, right, even if we don't know exactly what they will be?

I'm certainly seriously in love with Kronenberg's dancing (yes, yes, we know that's what you meant, bart), but I will admit that my heart went out to her last Spring when she couldn't dance because she was left without a partner when the company was running out of principal men. There have been only three instants in my life when I've wished I danced, and that one was the most recent, when I imagined for a moment volunteering, to help out a ballerina.

#63 bart

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 04:19 PM

I'm certainly seriously in love with Kronenberg's dancing (yes, yes, we know that's what you meant, bart), but I will admit that my heart went out to her last Spring when she couldn't dance because she was left without a partner when the company was running out of principal men. There have been only three instants in my life when I've wished I danced, and that one was the most recent, when I imagined for a moment volunteering, to help out a ballerina.

Jack, why didn't you TELL me! I knew there must be a reason for all those ballet classes over the past few years. I could have stood out there and done tendus and ronds de jambe all evening if she would have done the rest. :o :P

Still thinking about 4 Temperaments, which -- like nysusan -- I "love, love, LOVE." And about Upper Room, which gets more and more interesting each time you see it. So much is going on, and so much of it is fascinating and lovely. A single viewing can't even begin to capture all the pieces. And, I'm convinced, you need the pieces before you can really appreciate the whole.

#64 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 November 2008 - 04:38 PM

Jack, a while ago, when i had my first experiences watching MCB, one of my first posts in BT was about how beautiful Kronenberg looked onstage, no matter what was she dancing... If i may, i want to add that i've met her in person backstage, and she is certainly a physically gifted dancer, and a very sweet girl. I missed her Odette-(thanks to my car getting slammed right on my way to Broward that Sunday)-but I truly believe on the effect of her captivating manners. I would love to see her Kitri.


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