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MCB New York City Center

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A very interesting New York Times interview with Edward Villella about the performances next week

Dancing for Mr. B, and Everything After

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Based on what I have seen in the last two years....

starting Wednesday, January 21st

Be There Or Be Square !! ( Big Smile Intended !! )

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(from New York, NY) It's a fine article, but I can still quibble: IIRC, the photographer's name has always been given on MCB publications (programs and publicity), including some I happen to have brought with me and which I just checked, as Joe Gato, not Joe Gates. Will The Times regret the error?

Edited by Jack Reed

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Jack, I look forward to seeing you at City Center. Some of us meet in the outer lobby during intermissions (by the ticket booths). See you there?

Susan

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(from New York, NY) Okay, nysusan, unless I get involved in something inside, as I definitely will Saturday evening when some big Florida supporters of the company are throwing a bash on the mezzanine. As I revert to my old impressions of NYC, though, as a town just flooded with people, I wonder whether we each know how to recognize the other, although, as I continue to think about this, I also remember what the circle of friends I developed here "in the old days" told me, namely, I don't look like a New Yorker. More like a certain Scotsman, actually, as I've been told more recently.

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(from New York, NY) Actually, in this below-freezing weather, there must be a better meeting place for BTers!

Anyway, the company opened in the New York City Center with Symphony in Three Movements, led by Jennifer Kronenberg and Jeremy Cox. This is the city I used to see about forty performances of Balanchine's company a year in, although not in this theatre, and I suppose the familiarity of the surroundings otherwise put me in a frame of mind to expect what I saw in those days, and so what I heard seemed maybe a little bit slow and what I saw on stage looked a little bit crowded. (Of course, Balanchine made Symphony in Three Movements in 1972, having moved from this theatre to the New York Sate Theatre with its larger stage in 1964.) Those are my quibbles with this performance, the rest was just so good: You know how we are more critical of a color photo than of a black and white one? How we have issues with it because it's closer to reality? This performance was close to the reality of what Symphony in Three Movements is for me, having seen it many times supervised by its maker. As it went pulsing along, something from the recent interviews of Villella about the cost of producing here came into the back of my mind. Around two-thirds through the first movement, I thought, This company looks like a million bucks!

(On the street after the performance, one of my professional dance-writer friends of long, extensive experience in New York told one of the dancers, "I haven't seen classical dancing that good in a long, long time", and suggested the company would be welcome on a regular basis. This person sees a lot of dance in the course of her career.)

Whatever I heard, I saw; it was not always obvious, (to someone who practices suspension of disbelief in the theatre) exactly what the causal relationship was between what I heard and what I saw. They were united, and it was right. It helped that it was far better lit than anything I have ever seen in the Broward CPA. This is New York! (I will say, since the music was recorded, that the company gets better sound in the BCPA, especially at the bass end of the spectrum.) And at the end, the applause was so sustained, I thought Symphony Three, as we used to call it in the old days, was going to get an unprecedented curtain call for the three lead couples. It didn't, but I had a sense that this audience knew when it saw a good thing. This is New York!

La Valse featured Deanna Seay as the Girl in White, as I had hoped, although that moment of revulsion, when she throws the black flower of death away from her, seemed perfunctory this time. But otherwise, such as her throwing her upper body back as she dies in death's arms, she was truly tragic, and the culmination of the whole eerie spell of the ballet.

In the Upper Room is a dance I'm getting a little tired of, as we have been saying on another thread, although I am still happy to see my favorites when they appear, Catoya in her unassuming sharpness, Seay with her silken phrasing; these dancers give the piece focus for me -- except when they're both active onstage!

The dance was just a foot dance at first, with everyone onstage in white footgear and too much smoke to see their gray-clad bodies. No alarms went off though, and pretty soon we could see as we were supposed to. At the end, the crowd, especially behind me in the orchestra seats, cheered and stood, and Twyla Tharp and then Edward Villella came out for applause with the Room cast. Villella kissed Tharp on the forehead; as the line moved forward at one point, Tharp threw an arm around Alex Wong. Although I saw a number of people dressing for the cold at the end of the second intermission (after La Valse), the audience was overall pretty enthusiastic.

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I really enjoyed Sym 3 and La Valse, was less enthusiastic about In The Upper Room which is strange - I have always loved it and enjoyed it when I saw MCB do it in Ft Lauderdale (even with the fire alarms!) but tonight it seemed a little flat. Ms. Tharp came onstage at the end with Villella & Co and she seemed happy - so maybe it was just me.

Sym 3 looked very fresh and bracing on the smaller CC stage - especially the 1st and last movements. MCB seems to take more leeway with individual interpretations than I'm used to seeing - Kronenberg & Cox danced the main roles & her attitude was much more playful than what I recall at NYCB. Of course, I only remember Whelan in the role so that may account for some of the difference and that’s fine with me. I think any individual role is open to an artist’s unique interpretation as long as the style and overriding dance principles are respected - and I felt that they were. The arms are much more classical than NYCB's ever were (in my experience) but they do not sacrifice speed, attack, edge or energy to allow for the greater emphasis on epaulment which is what often bothers me when I see Balanchine performed by anyone but NYCB. This company dances with great energy and a great sense of engagement with the choreography and it’s a pleasure to watch.

It was good to see Catoya as the main “Ballerina Bomber” in the Tharp and she is also listed for the opening movement of Sym C - but I was hoping to see more of her!

In case anyone’s interested - here’s the casting for the principle roles for the run:

Sym 3: Kronenberg/Cox, Albertson/Wong, P.Delgado/Dufaur

La Valse: Seay/Guerra, Cox (Death)

Upper Room: Kronenberg, J Delgado, Wong, Cox, Baker , Albertson (stompers) Carranza, P Delgado, Catoya (Bomb Squad), Bramaz, Dafaur, Guerra

Square Dance: J. Delgado (Albertson on Sun), Cox

Rubies: Kronenberg/Penteado, Spiridonakos (Noelle on Sun)

Sym C: Catoya/Penteado, Wu/Guerra, J Delgado/ Wong, P Delgado/Cox

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When I saw Catoya do the ppd in Symphony in 3 Movements a few years ago in Miami, she was positively kittenish and adorable, which I found strange. Whelan, Watts, Leland and others I've seen at NYCB were more serious and other worldly, which I prefer. It seems a better reflection of the music.

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Sara Leland was fairly upbeat in Symphony 3 in Mr. B's day, IIRC, though hardly kittenish. The second movement is, of course, quite a gentle contrast to the overwhelming energy of the "outer" movements. Nobody looked very stern or frowning in the old days; that would lay too much of something else on the ballet, I think. Speaking of laying something on it, Cox seemed a little "stiff" in the sense of correct or proper in his movements, with Kronenberg. In particular, he gazed at her fixedly, instead of the more usual relaxed and varying regard. Cox has a lot of dance power, and sometimes giving something everything he's got is too much.

P.S. Yesterday afternoon I visited the Whitney museum for the Calder show, and afterward happened on an interesting little photograph in the Andy Warhol exhibit on 5M: A 1963 photo booth (like in bus stations of the time) shot of Edward Villella. People into movement might also enjoy the moving sculpture in the Calder show; those intrigued by drawings made with a single line might enjoy his wire sculpture. Stravinsky was among Calder's admirers; I don't know about Balanchine. He's long been a favorite of mine (not to bracket myself with Stravinsky, or anything!).

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Just back from this evening's performance, and I was happy again. Such vivid, clear classical dancing. Such good lighting! You could see the dancing really well. Also, I was closer to the stage than I can sit in the Broward CPA and still see the stage, not look up to it.

Jeanette Delgado's dancing in Square Dance in particular stopped the show; the applause was so determined they could not continue, and she deserved it. I was happier with Cox too, both in this and in the last movement of Symphony in C, but the star of C and of the evening, for me and for the man in front of me, was "the girl in the first movement", Mary Carmen Catoya: "If she'd do something else, I'd come back and see her," he said. "What amplitude, musicality, and scale." "First moment to last?" I ventured. "First moment to last," he agreed. (I thought of saying that he should have seen Catoya's two Tchaikovsky Piano concerto No. 2s last weekend, but then I thought it might be a little cruel...)

Rubies, the ballet that hooked me on Balanchine-ballet in the late 60's, had the requisite brilliance most of the way through, though I thought the pas de deux had some soggy spots. I saw quite a lot of the original cast, and that is quite a high standard; this company comes much closer than any other I've seen in many years, in the entire Jewels "suite". (I'm not looking for an imitation; the performances years ago didn't look like an imitation of anything.)

Wu's performance in Symphony in C was quite admirable, a further advance for her, but...

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I was there too last night. Jeanette Delgado was incredible in Square Dance. Breathtaking speed, goregeous footwork and warmth that glowed and radiated throughout the theater. I've seen this ballet many times at NYCB, but last night's MCB performance was the best performance of the lead female role I have ever seen.

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Thanks, Jack, and others, for making this alive to those of us who can't be there.

Alistair Macaulay in this morning's Times, writes a wonderful tribute to the company, without mentioning individual performances. Macaulay is that rare Times chief critics who actually spends time -- and thought -- watching key regional companies regularly, and therefore becoming familiar with their style, rep, and dancers. He knows MCB, as he knows several other companies outside New York. Good for him!

Here's an interesting quote from the article:

As a dancegoer, I feel I have much to learn from watching this company; I hope others feel the same. (It was good to see New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater dancers among Wednesday's audience.)

"Much to learn" -- imagine, the chief dance critic of the nation's most influential paper admits that he has things to learn and WANTS to learn more. Wonderful!

It's great that the MCB dancers can be seen by some of their peers in New York. I hope that the MCB dancers also get some time (and free tickets) to watch their NYCB fellow-dancers as well.

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I'll add my bravas too for Jeanette Delgado in Square Dance. Fantastic! Strong as heck technically, but also warmly womanly with a bright, big smile. She was the star of the evening for me, as she made everything look so easy and fun, while most of the (many) ballet dancers in the audience knew just how difficult her part was. Btw, Jeanette also danced the (jumper lead) third movement of Sym in C, just as fully. Wow!

For me, Janie Taylor's Square Dance at NYCB was my ideal. She's done this wonderful ballet approximately 2-3 times, I saw 2. However, J. Delgado gave an amazing, new flavor with her bold style. I'd run to see either lead again, any night.

Jeremy Cox was also very good, and interesting, but he took many liberties with the choreography in his solo of Square Dance that I didn't like.

Must point out Michael Sean Breeden in demi-soloist parts of Square Dance and Sym in C. I had always admired him and his dancing while he attended SAB. Still an elegant, poetic, handsome dancer with polish, I was so happy to see that Michael was getting a good share of demanding Balanchine ballets to learn/dance/enjoy!

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Agreed that Jeanette Delgado was superb in Square Dance; I too, think that she's the best female lead I've seen in that role (I wonder why Ashley doesn't dance it over at NYCB? She would be amazing too, I think). Nikolaj Hubbe remains the best male lead I've seen in Square Dance. I also agree that the star of Symphony in C was Catoya, I couldn't take my eyes off her, she was just gorgeous. I thought that she would be a much better choice for the Adagio. Wu looked to be a bit too nervous and fragile, and very unsteady during that key moment when the dancer has to touch her head to her knee. Catoya has the amplitude to really bring the Adagio to life. I was a little disappointed with the Rubies performance, I must admit. None of the leads were as good as what I've seen at NYCB, and the partnering looked a little rough to me. I will say that the corps throughout the evening were fantastic, every step clearly etched and very musical. Would that NYCB danced Balanchine as clearly and as joyfully.

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Thanks, Jack, and others, for making this alive to those of us who can't be there.

Dittos to that, I am enjoying every word here! Could someone address the size of the house? In New York are opening nights the big attendance performances or is it the weekend shows?

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(I wonder why Ashley doesn't dance it over at NYCB? She would be amazing too, I think). Nikolaj Hubbe remains the best male lead I've seen in Square Dance.

After Delgado's fantastic performance last night, my husband and I also discussed that A. Bouder would be great in Square Dance. Unfortunately, I guess she can't do every role in the rep. (Too bad!) I don't recall ever seeing Janie Taylor in Square Dance. I agree that Hubbe was a great interpreter of the male solo, but I also think Boal did an outstanding job in that role too. Last night's male lead was nowhere near their level. I though the lead couple in Rubies was very good, but not outstanding. The weakest link for me in Rubies was the lady who performed the "Tall Girl" role. She needed to use her legs like darting daggers. She was too soft and introverted. Also, she didn't have the high level of flexibility that is needed to make this role the eye-popper that it can and should be. I liked all the leads in Symphony in C except the second adagio movement. The partnering was shaky and there were lots of little bobbles that destroyed the beauty of this section. I hope the company returns to NYC soon, but I have a feeling that probably won't happen due to economic reasons.

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Here's Leigh Witchel, in Danceviewtimes, reviewing the program with Symphony in C, La Valse, and Upper Room.

http://www.danceviewtimes.com/2009/01/the-visitors-.html

I've selected a mixed-message response to In the Upper Room, because it isn't Balanchine and because so many of us have seen it somewhere in the world:

The company ended with a pulverizing version of Twlya Tharp’s “In the Upper Room.” The stage technicians gave the dance a wee bit too much atmosphere; the opening dancers were almost invisible in a smoke-a-thon. Still, they were heroic. A few, including Cox, were in all three pieces with no sign of flagging. Close to the end, Jeanette Delgado busted out into crazy daredevil aerobics. As the piece ground on, they seemed more and more blissed-out – I don’t know whether that was artistic direction or an endorphin intoxication shared by the audience.

The audience went wild for the marathon endurance of the dancers, but I find “In the Upper Room” loud and incessant – One Damn Step after Another with extra added smoke. I also can’t be the only person for whom Norma Kamali’s black and white striped pajamas have unpleasant concentration camp associations.

And: Thomas Phillips, also in DVT, reviewing the program with Square Dance, Rubies, and Symphony in C.

http://www.danceviewtimes.com/2009/01/brin...back-home-.html

Not far into Miami City Ballet’s curtain raiser, “Square Dance,” about the time when principal Jeanette Delgado tossed off her first set of perfectly etched garguoillades, this observer felt a familiar sensation from a long time ago, but that’s been absent in recent years: a sense that one had just put on a new pair of glasses with a better prescription, and was suddenly able to see more clearly and vividly. I’d call it the Balanchine effect, a product of his revolution in dance, in which he stripped dancers down to their elemental forms, turned them out to reveal every angle of the body, gave them steps that revealed the inner workings of the music, and taught them to do it as if it mattered – to mean what they danced. No dancer produced the effect better than Edward Villella, whose turning leaps could make you feel like you were being kicked back in your seat, even in the top balcony. Villella performed in the premiere of “Square Dance” at City Center, with New York City Ballet in 1957. More than a half-century later, with his own Miami City Ballet, he’s bringing it all back home.

This kind of reviewing, even when it's leavened with some doubts and/or suggestions, must be wonderful for Villella and for the MCB dancers. We have good enough dance writers in south Florida, but they don't get to see enough and they don't have the basis for comparing and evaluating that writers like Witchel and Phillips -- not to mention Macaulay !!! -- have. Close attention from the New York dance press, especially the top end, is a major honor all by itself.

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I'll add my bravas too for Jeanette Delgado in Square Dance. Fantastic! Strong as heck technically, but also warmly womanly with a bright, big smile. She was the star of the evening for me, as she made everything look so easy and fun, while most of the (many) ballet dancers in the audience knew just how difficult her part was. Btw, Jeanette also danced the (jumper lead) third movement of Sym in C, just as fully. Wow!

I'm so happy to hear about Jeanette's success. She has become such a force in the Company, and is looking so alive and happy in her dancing!...As I said earlier, she is my first choice as Kitri...

PLEASE, EDDIE, GIVE US A DELGADO/SARABIA D.Q!!! :)

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Friday 23rd Wednesday night was eye-popping but tonight was riveting. Part of the reason was that I had a first-row center seat in the first balcony (called here the Grand Tier) instead of row M in the Orchestra; from here I could even see their makeup as such, and the perspiration down the front of Kronenberg's leotard at the end, not the only resemblance to Leland of years ago.

But a major part of the reason was that what may have been opening-night nerves had settled, and the dancers looked like they might have realized the audience likes them.

So Symphony in Three Movements was all happy, smiley? Hah! These dancers are too serious and too smart about what they do for that. Expressions were mildly serious, as the ballet seems to me to require, with some positive regard for each other emerging in the tenderest part of the pas de deux, toward the end. More important, the dancing, if anything, seemed stronger and more vivid than Wednesday, more focused and energized, if that was possible.

You know the diagonal line of white corps which opens (and closes) the first movement? They extend an arm upward, and then a progressive change in pose makes its way down the line, from the back toward the front. This change begins with a deliberate yet not exaggerated turning around of the raised hand that can typify the whole evening, right from the first move we see: Clarity within a natural, easy flow. It gives their dancing life and beauty.

I thought Jeremy Cox's sterness of attitude toward his partner in the pas de deux much softened and improved, but if anything I found it effective in La Valse, where it could be taken as Death's hypnotic dominance of the Girl in White, although this novel approach didn't produce the deep chill I got from Francisco Moncion decades ago.

It was the first role I saw Moncion in, and he moved like a stiff old man. I knew he was the oldest one in Balanchine's company, and I thought it was nice of Mr. B. to give him something he could still do. Of course, he was replaced in due course by a much younger dancer -- who moved like a stiff old man. Aha! So maybe something has ben omitted from Cox's coaching, and in time this role will acquire more of its former power. (Meanwhile the story is carried to its conclusion.)

From closer range, La Valse also seemed more vivid. I will report, though, that while an old friend from the Balanchine days thought "the ensemble was like what City Ballet used to be, but I'm less impressed with her [seay]." "Small?" I asked, and my friend agreed. Personally, I have learned to pay closer attention to Seay because of the rewards I get when I do.

Houses Thursday and Friday I sat in the lower balcony, and Thursday the rear third had only some people in the first rows, with some more Friday, but I couldn't see downstairs. Wednesday I sat in the Orchestra, which was pretty full right to the back, but I couldn't see upstairs.

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Jack, thanks for your fine reviews.

bart, thanks so much for citing these two articles. I particularly like Tom Phillips very interesting and complimentary review.

Since you are a very committed MCB observer, I would like to ask you a question. He makes one statement that I would like to get your or anybody's opinion on.

He says that the company, "....is clearly taking Balanchine in a new direction, Russian neo-classicism with a Latin flair."

I can kind of understand the "Latin Flair", but "New Direction"...."Russian Neo-Classicism" I don't visualize at the moment.

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PS--If he possibly means, what I have felt is, a more pronounced and very fine element of 'refinement' in the MCB dancing style, then I can understand this wording.

In any case--Congratulations and 'Rock On' !--Miami City Ballet !

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