Miami City Ballet Program IIFox-Trot: Dancing in the Dark, Mercuric Tidings, Ballet Imperial
Posted 12 January 2009 - 06:12 PM
Posted 13 January 2009 - 10:12 PM
OK, so on the first performance-(I know…last Friday, but better a late review than none, right…?)-I was a little bored by the second Intermezzo-(after “The Fox-Trot” and “Mercuric Tidings”, until the reward came at its most exuberant form under the name of “Ballet Imperial”. Another new-(for me)- BALLET… and definitely another visual pleasure. This was surely Balanchine at his most imperial mode, and needless to say, after the first two minutes of it I was loving it already. Now, IF I was to compare-(based on my very limited knowledge of Balanchine to what I’ve seen so far)-BI doesn’t really go to the top of the list. La Valse…Bourree Fantasque…Serenade…all those come first in my humble list. Nevertheless, BI was everything I expect from a BALLET as far as my devouring/amateur eye could see: the demanding technical feats for the soloists, the fluid Corps’ choreography, the powerful score…the big tiaras-(Karinska’s?), the beautiful footwork…on pointe.
On Friday night solos went to everyone’s favorite Mary Carmen Catoya who, looking as regal as ever, was singularly impressive in the performance. Catoya’s technique was, again, once of sharp attack and sparkling details. She danced with her usual partner, Brazilian Renato Panteado, who has proved again to know exactly how to get the best of this girl when paired with her. This sympathetic partner was given a few moments of glory and took full advantage. Panteado is a dancer of gentle, shapely phrases and a welcome lightness.
Oh, but back to the choreography. I want to mention a moment that I found particularly beautiful, in which I had a “deja-vu” from SL's Love Duet . At some point during the PDD, Panteado positioned himself behind Catoya, who was standing on one foot on pointe, and leaning slightly backward, she rested her body against him, while he slowly took one of her arms…then the other one…to finally embrace her in the most romantic gesture. Just like Odette and Siegfried. So beautiful…Right after this, he took her by her hand and they slowly walked around the stage...Panteado showing off his ballerina to an encircled group of girls, who took turns bowing before the couple as they were passing by. I will never forget this delicate choreographic detail. It was right there that I thought: “Petipa…and Balanchine…and back to Petipa”
On Saturday the solos were given to Tricia Albertson and Yang Zou-(a very promising boy…let’s watch him), the third girl given to Katia Carranza, who also danced the role the night before-(as I was just informed). This season I've noticed Albertson's dancing more bland, kind of slowed down. I don't know what happened to the fire machine I saw dancing "Rubies" with Jeremy Cox a while ago. Carranza is always a pleasure to watch, usually kind of a secure ticket to any performance. On Saturday she shined more than the night before, where she was more contained. I’m glad she’s back this season.
The end presented an exuberant mass finale in which the Corps, which has become one of the real strengths of the company, was given a lot to do. Here again, Villella’s boys and girls succeeded with accuracy and poise. I want to note the challenge of having watched this ballet on Saturday night from the 5th Ring…the upper level. It was a totally new experience from the the night before. The groupings and re groupings of the Corps were hypnotic from up there.
The sets displayed a set of elegant blue drapes flying across the stage against a plain backdrop . I just was wondering how could it had been with the old tutus and the Saint Petersbourg-rendering sets...
Yes...BI had all my blessing.
Posted 14 January 2009 - 06:32 AM
I agree, Ballet Imperial (with Theme and Variations and maybe one or two others) is one of Balanchine's most striking evocations of the old Imperial ballet he knew in his youth. It's a piece I'm fond of too.
I just was wondering how could it had been with the old tutus and the Saint Petersbourg-rendering sets...
Well, when I last saw ABT do it, about 3 years ago, they used classical tutus with the jeweled headresses. Their scenery isn't very elaborate though. I don't know what the odds are of their bringing this piece to your neck of the woods though.
I tend to think the classical tutus are a better match with the style of the piece but I guess the flowing gowns reflect Balanchine's later thoughts on the piece, as TPC2
Posted 14 January 2009 - 08:20 AM
Posted 14 January 2009 - 09:38 AM
(1) I also wondered about the costumes. I prefer what MCB actually did (tending to like a sleeker, more "modern" look in things). But you are right that it would have made more sense, if you're reverting to the Ballet Imperial name, to give it more of the "ballet imeprial" look.
(2) Interesting point about Albertson. I've also noticed a change in her dancing this year. Blander. You mention, "slowed down," which may be it. She always struck me as having the potential to be one of those wonderfully quirky versions of the really exciting Balanchine dancer, one who makes the choreography seem risky, newly invented and unexpected.
Posted 14 January 2009 - 10:04 AM
I was lucky enough to see a cast that included Nina A, Gomes and Monique Meunier in the second ballerina role. The combination of the costumes (tutus & tiras), scenery, brilliant choreography and performances that combined steely technique with theatrical inclination added up to one of those performances that will live on in my memory forever. There was no scenery chewing involved, but layers and layers of meaning revealed through the dance. You got the feeling that this was more than the interaction of 3 dancers and a corps but a look at the fading last days of the era, a glimpse into a world that was on the verge of extinction. There was certainly a sense of loss in the relationship between the 2 principals but there was also a distinct sense of time passing them by. It was pure poetry, Balanchine style.
Posted 14 January 2009 - 10:07 AM
Posted 15 January 2009 - 08:15 AM
Last year I attributed this change to the influence of dancing with the magnetic Rolando Sarabia. But I notice that THIS year Catoya's regular partner, Renato Penteado, has also begun to look freer, happier, more expansive on stage. His variation in Ballet Imperial was a revelation for me. It's amazing how someone who has always been able to DO cabrioles, entrechats, and that whole armoury of steps, all of a sudden seems to be living and enjoying them. This freeing up has made him a significantly better partner. He was a good Sanguinic in November. As one of the 3 Pilot's Buddies in Villella's Fox Trot, he was better good: as jazzy and ineresting as Jeremy Cox.
It really is nice to watch dancers growing.
Posted 18 January 2009 - 07:41 AM
But now for some thoughts on what we have seen here so far:
This being MCB we're talking about, the dancers can often make their material look better than you realize it is when you think about it, so for me Fox Trot's justification depends on what the dancers can make of it; Kronenberg, as "Ava", gave what she had to do everything she had, including her restraining dance intelligence (she never overdoes, or substitutes), but it still wasn't enough for me, and early parts of the second pas de deux had downright embarassing moments. (If I had never seen her dance anything before, I would really want to see her in a real ballet after this one.) Alternating, Wu merely gave it her large, classic simplicity. Guerra's easy aerial elegance was the most effective in making something of "The Gal from Joe's", the second of the eight numbers, and Wong's ease in the spectacular tricks of "St. Louis Blues March", the fifth one, have been justifiably praised here, not to mention the four men with walking sticks who back him up, but the best-inspired and most musical number for me was the next one, "Back Bay Shuffle", where Villella's invention finally just flowed and flowed and looked like he really felt the music. The ensembles along the way were okay.
In Mercuric Tidings, though, everybody looked very good in everything, from the first moment to the last, although as the lighting was dimmer for the second movement, it was harder to see. This ballet uses three movements from the first two Schubert symphonies, two allegros to open and close and an adagio, or andante in between; sensitively musical, which Fox Trot did not seem to me to be, except for that one number, it's not exactly purely abstract: The slow second movement has two pairs of principals, one who dance early and then another later to a musical recapitulation; a soloist woman, and a three-girl corps, with everyone visible briefly at the end. In the first pas de deux especially, there's a bit of something, yearning or a quest of one for the other; human involvement of some kind.
Then in Ballet Imperial, the evening rose to its greatest height. (This is not just my idea; Villella made clear in his remarks Saturday afternoon that one of his ideas for the program was "build": Each ballet was at a higher level than the one before! That's a magnanimous thing to say, considering the first one was his own, right? Well, he's always seemed like someone with a large and generous spirit.)
Saturday afternoon Tricia Albertson, with Yang Zou, was large , clear, secure and lovely in the lead, while Zou was rather correct, hardly a sin in a ballet which depends so much on technique, as Crista Villella reminded us Saturday evening, filling in for her father in the pre-performance remarks. But, good as she was, Albertson was no phenomenon. That was Mary Carmen Catoya, who was at something like her old high level in this ballet on Friday night and then bettered herself, I felt, Saturday night. Renato Penteado was as classically clear as Zou but more than that; he brought just the right panache to his role, as Catoya's companion would need to. They are a superb pair.
And Francisco Renno seemed to outdo himself Saturday evening too. His playing throughout the weekend was distinguished, not least by investing what he plays with his left hand with as much life as what he plays with his right. From first to last, the concerto glowed with color, and sang.
Posted 18 January 2009 - 08:29 AM
And yes, one just wants to see a real ballet after this kind of..dance...On my second night I even got to the theater after the first Intermezzo. No...no patience.
Ballet Imperial was my reward.
Posted 18 January 2009 - 03:34 PM
Re: Fox Trot. Strangely, this worked better for me as part of a full evening devoted to different 20th century social dancing styles, which MCB performed a few seasons ago. When the evening was ALL Villella, it actually cohered and developed. The whole, strangely to me, worked better than the individual parts. On its own, Fox Trot seemed slight and vulnerable, nothing more than something to fill the first act, before Taylor and Balanchine showed up. For me at least.
Kronenberg does bring amazing charisma and sex-appeal to her part. Wu, who had to expand her kusual range to take on the role, and who was quite lovely, could not carry it to the level of real story-line interest.
Guerra's character is the focus of the piece, anyway. Ava seems taken with him -- but then he gets distracted and a little too drunk -- so he loses her, without really seeming to notice, to someone else. In the meantime, she spends a lot of time alone at her table or with less interesting guys, while Guerra goes off to dance with his own cronies. When Ava is wafted out by "tkhe Pilot," Guerra dosn't even notice. This is ironical, I suppose. But something more "Warner Brothers" is desparately needed. When you do nostalgia/kitsch, you have to do it all the way!!!
Sorry you missed Kronenberg in Ballet Imperial. it would have been good to hear your thoughts about her as compared to Catoya. (I missed Albertson.)
Regarding Seay: she did not dance when MCB peformed the same program in West Palm so many weeks ago. Or, I should say, she did not dance in the 3 (of 4) performances I saw. I regreted this, but there were no major parts in this program that would have showed her off as she deserves.
Did you see both casts in the Taylor? It would be great to know your take on Cox/Delgado(Patricia) as compared to Baker/Delgado(Jeanette). All were wonderful -- but SO different. What did you think?
Only a couple of days before the City Center opening! I'm shocked to find that I'm actually NERVOUS, or over-exited anyway. And I'm not even a dancer!
Posted 18 January 2009 - 06:26 PM
Posted 18 January 2009 - 07:32 PM
Anyway, bart, I did see Kronenberg's BI this (Sunday) afternoon after I posted this morning and expressed my wish to see her in something "real". Would that I get what I wish for that quickly more often in life! Her partner was Guerra, and Albertson was the soloist! So this performance was one of the very top ones, and a fitting end of the little run for me: Tempos were a bit easier, which Kronenberg used for a grander, more regal rendition, I felt, a monarch more of this world and a little more variegated than Catoya's, who seemed to me a little more god-like. They're very effective approaches, each in their own way; if pressed to choose only one to see ever again, it might be Catoya and Penteado's, but perversely imagining this choice just makes me all the more glad I don't have to make it and that I got both, and in just a short span! What a company this is!
And as the soloist role seems to me to be a foil for the principal woman's role, it's all the more effective, that is, in raising our attention and appreciation of the principal by showing us someone close to her in more ways than one; and so the casting of Albertson, another tall woman, so similar in her way of moving she could almost be confused with Kronenberg sometimes, and also Guerra, whose personal "flavor" is more like Kronenberg's than, say Penteado's is, that this cast, seemingly made for each other, had such strength from unity that it ranked a close second to Saturday night's Catoya-Penteado-Carranza cast. (This was the performance that outdid the Friday evening one.)
By the way, I have been wondering why Symphony in C and not this arguably greater ballet is going to New York, and this afternoon Villella explained that this ballet has only one couple in it while Symphony in C has three.
I saw both casts in Mercuric Tidings, and I preferred Cox/Patricia D. vs. Baker/Jeanette D., because Patricia D. seems to me the more continent of the two sisters, and that's a virtue especially for this dance, not to mention Cox's greater presence. (Baker, new here, right?, looks a real comer, though.) As to the issue of Taylor dancers versus ballet dancers running earlier in this thread, I see the difference as more muscular and weightier -- that's not heavier, by the way -- versus lighter and more delicate; and I prefer the weight and authenticity of Taylor's dancers, but not by a whole lot. This was a very satisfying showing, and serves a further purpose in the relative absence of Taylor's company from this area. (There are darker Taylor dances which might suffer more in the translation to ballet dancers.)
Posted 18 January 2009 - 08:43 PM
Posted 18 January 2009 - 10:49 PM
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