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MCB Program I: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm BeachAllegro Brillante, Tch. PDD, Symphony in 3 Movements, Comp. B


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#61 jsmu

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Posted 11 November 2009 - 04:29 PM

Hardly anything could be added to that wonderful evocation of Nichols in Tchaik Pas,
except perhaps that to bravery and virtuosity and humor she added candor and
utter honesty. I also saw Feijoo do it, as well as Ashley, and both were as dazzling
as one could wish, but aside from that tape of Verdy and Villella (and the other
montage of Hayden, Verdy, McBride, etc, which was shown on a PBS Balanchine
special--remarkable in every way) Nichols is still my favorite. I imagine Delgado
is marvelous in it, judging from her Tarantella...

#62 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 November 2009 - 11:07 AM

When I attended the four performances in the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, I heard most of Villella's introductory discussion and his answers to questions afterward. His plan -- he used notes this time -- was pretty much the same each time, but different ways of putting things always seem to occur to him; these ballets are fresh to him, as they are to his dancers, evidently, judging by what we see when they dance, and I've tried to meld the different versions from my (very sketchy!) notes. I don't reproduce the smoothness and fluency of his delivery though, and so I refer you to the promotional videos in the MCB channel on Youtube, which Cristian posted in Post #1, brief though they are, for that quality.


Highlights from Edward Villella's commentary for Program I

There are lots of diversions easy to obtain, but this is not so easy to get, especially in difficult times; it's hard to put on , so we're grateful for all of you for being here.

I prefer a balanced, varied program, I get a kick out of allowing our dancers to work in those seven to ten styles we can dance.

Allegro Brillante was on our very first program. It represents 19th Century classicism. We began 24 years ago with Allegro Brillante because we were going to be a classical company and a Balanchine company. George Balanchine could choreograph in every area. Balanchine grew up just after the Tchaikovky era. He was influenced by Petipa, but followed a very independent line [of development]. A 20th Century genius re-interpreted what a 19th Century genius provided. We had the best of both centuries: Balanchine was known for his neo-classical works, but here's where he's coming from. Neoclassical motivation from a distant century. Russian bigness, American speed. Windswept. Flowing skirts. Balanchine represented 20th Century things, new, sharp, quick. No set: You step back, listen, and you saw.

Music, choreography, dancers. George Balanchine made this ballet in three days. He was a god! What's it about? He shows us all his background in 18 (sic) minutes. As the curtain goes up, four couples are already dancing! Very witty. Are the principal couple our host and hostess? There's no scenery to show a house. Well... there's an invitation into a manner and style about moving. An introduction to classical dance. "See the music."

We [dancers] are proficient at some things and not others, so other ballets [appeal accordingly], but Allegro Brillante appeals to everyone.

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. The story's not apocryphal, but bang on: Jealous ballerinas. Swan Lake premiered in two cities, and the Moscow ballerina insisted on new music for her, different from the St. Petersburg ballerina, and the new music became "Black Swan", and the earlier music was lost until 1953. This is much more challenging than Don Quixote or Corsaire [pas de deux]. This is light, airy, without heavy Bolshoi ornaments. [For example], we land in plie': A downward accent is Bolshoi; upward, Bournonville and 20th Century - you move on as you land, so the landing is not an ending but a beginning, to go on from.

It's typically Balanchine; not soppy. Distanced elegance about women, less emotional involvement between the two. Romantic, but not emotional. A period type of piece, but a 20th Century sensibility.

Company B: Paul Taylor was modern dance; he has classical sensibility, but it's not his main focus. We have more Taylor than any other ballet company. We want the most complicated art to present simply... Men going off to war, the women they left behind. This ballet evokes the '40's with gestures of the times worked in, the frivolity and delight of the Andrews Sisters, and social dancing. Oh, it's an anti-war ballet, undeneath.

What's the difference between modern and ballet? We land from a jump with plie'. In modern, accent is "down" and thick, it's hard on the thighs. We have more precise, formal placement, every part of our body; modern is more free-form.

You're going to have fun.

Symphony in Three Movements. Modernism. Stravinsky's sensibility affected by a terrible time, WWII. Neoclassic abstract choreography. Abstract - I mean by that, reducing large ideas to their essences and making them poetic.

I remember terror: We had to count, we couldn't hear the rhythms. We had a one-hour orchestra rehearsal the day of the performance, and then the curtain went up.

It has the greatest beginning of any ballet, startling simplicity, a line of girls in white and ponytails, later reassembled. "The home front" and "the war front". Pique' turns - one foot on pointe - Balanchine said, "radar". The power walk - mechanized vehicles. Helicopters; explosions [late, where the corps girls throw their arms up, IIRC], searchlights. There are war images, but you don't have to know, just listen and watch. In the pas de deux, there's suppressed sexuality.

Classical ballet is so analyzed and thorough; you can cross over to almost anything else. Company class includes syncopation.

Q & A: How do we maintain our repertory? We like to have people who have danced the work and remember it. As Balanchine said, it's taught body to body but also mind to mind.

Why do some dancers have favorite ballets? There are different kinds of challenge, depending on the dancer. What we're terrific at, or not. Balanchine always put us in a style or period where we looked good. I liked jumps and turns -- Symphony in Three Movements wasn't full out dancing: It was mental work! Terrifying!

More tours? We may be going to California in two years; we're talking. Go to Las Vegas? My wife won't let me. [laughter]

Was my daughter Crista with New York City Ballet? Never; she's ballet mistress here.

Do Miss Julie ? We have to consider what ballets we have, to surround it with.

How is South Beach? Going strong until 5 AM, I guess. [laughter] Miami Beach has been generous to us, it's our home; Miami has yet to give us a dollar.

What are Nutcracker snowflakes made of so they're not slippery? Chemically-treated paper.

#63 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 November 2009 - 11:11 AM

Regarding Symphony in Three Movements, Balanchine writes, in "Balanchine's Complete Stories of the Great Ballets", that

"... Choreographers combine movement and the ones I arranged for this music follow no story line or narrative. They try to catch the music and do not, I hope, lean on it, using it instead for support and time frame. If I were to relate that a boy and sixteen girls begin the ballet, that would not be very interesting, or that a girl in purple dances with eight others to music for clarinet, piano and strings soon follows. What is really interesting is the complexity and variety of the music, from the propulsive drive and thrust of the vigorous opening (which also closes the ballet) to the developed use, almost like a concerto, of the piano in the first movement, the harp in the second and the two together in the finale.
"The central movement, Andante, is a pas de deux. One writer has called this a 'strangely quiet, sensuous, meditative interlude with a pronounced Eastern tinge.' I had not thought of that but paraphrasing Stravinsky, how and in what form the things of this world are impressed upon my dance is not for me to say. ..."


The reference to Stravinsky's words is helpful. In the notes with Sony's release of Stravinsky's last recording of this music, he is quoted as follows, in part:

"The Symphony was written [between 1942 and 1945] under the impression of world events. I will not say that it expresses my feelings about them, but only that, without participation of what I think of as my will, they excited my musical imagination...

... in some inexplicable way a musical reaction to the newsreels and documentaries I had seen...

"... [It] is not programmatic. Composers combine notes. That is all. How and in what form the things of this world are impressed upon their music is not for them to say."


I think what these two artists are saying, they say to us to get us to listen (and to watch, too, in Balanchine's case); what Balanchine said to Villella he might have said to him for a slightly different purpose, maybe to give him something to hold on to in relating to his new role and not look like he felt lost in it: "... I couldn't really hear the music and couldn't count it. To this day I have trouble with this music." (Prodigal Son, Villella's 1992 autobiography)

So his performer's point of view gives Villella's remarks a little different emphasis -- "subjective" versus "objective", if you want -- but hearing Villella relate Balanchine's metaphors is fascinating; it puts us on those folding chairs with our backs to the studio mirror you see sometimes in pictures of Balanchine at work in rehearsal.

(Sometimes I've heard Balanchine quoted as applying the term "Balinese" to the pas de deux, and looking in Prodigal Son, I got the "Balinese" connection better: "[T]he word conjured up exactly what he wanted: Asian gods with many arms and legs." Watching the ballet, I've noticed a couple of places in the pas de deux where the man stands behind his partner, they each extend an arm to the side and with the other, join hands in front of her, and so on, and it's not obvious to me which arm belongs to whom: Here's Mr. B's "Asian god".)

#64 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 November 2009 - 02:30 PM

I think some people enjoyed Symphony in Three Movements when the Cleveland Orchestra was in the pit but not now when they hear a recording. This came back to me after I listened yesterday to the recording Stravinsky made of that music. It's so eloquently controlled and inflected, so clearly balanced it would be a great credit to a conductor of any age, let alone one age 79. Everything you hear "makes sense". It's a much better performance than the one MCB uses. I don't know which that is, but more importantly I don't know why they don't use the Stravinsky one. It has a second advantage in that it's recorded pretty "close" as was more the fashion in the early 60s than today, in other words, there's less "hall" sound on the recording, and so if it were played in a big room like the theatres MCB performs in, it would mostly have only that theatre's reverberation to blur the sound, not two acoustics one added to the other, which may be too much.

#65 bart

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Posted 19 November 2009 - 05:43 AM

Thanks for those posts, Jack. I've printed them out to reread while preparing for this weekend's performances at West Palm. One quick thought before I go out: Villella said "Miami Beach has been generous to us, it's our home." He also expressed his gratitude to Miami Beach in his opening comments before the Open Barre performances last weekend. As to "Maimi has yet to give us a dollar," all I can say is: :) :blink: :dunno: :wub:

#66 Jack Reed

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 01:48 PM

You're welcome, bart. The Miami support issue is an old one, but still alive, evidently.

#67 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 08:18 PM

Before the West Palm Beach running start, I just want to add a couple of thoughts to the performances of Company B from Miami and Fort Lauderdale, basically focused on the dancers. Even with my inability to "get" Taylor's work, due to the several times I got to see it, made me go for certain dancers in in some roles more than others. So here I go:

"Bei Mir Bist Du Schon". It is a full cast display, BUT...Deanna Seay's characterization caught my eye during her brief solos...which didn't happen with Allynne Noelle when she danced the role.

"Pennsylvania Polka". The Esty sisters alternated in this piece with Marc Spielberger, who danced it in all the performances. Loved him in it...

"Tico Tico". Alex Wong was the favored dancer here, according to the audience's response...giving the character a sort of clownish interpretation, which people seemed to enjoy a lot, judging from the general enthusiastic laughing...(NOT ME INCLUDED... not my thing, I must say...). Ezra Hurwitz' toned down one worked way better for me...

"Oh Johnny Oh Johnny". Daniel Sarabia was good at it...but I preferred Stephen Satterfield...I don't even know why...(maybe he gave more soul to the role...?)

"I Can Dream...Can't I...?" Well...this VERY ambiguous piece-(which I would love to get some background about, if anybody here would be so kind to)-was Deanna Seay's COMPLETELY. Miss Noelle proceeded with a softer, cuter approach...which looked sort of cold, compared to Seay's story telling one...

"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy". Oh...that was Daniel Baker...he really got all those boogie movements...along with that nice full blond hair...

"Rum and Coke". Jeannette Delgado. How wouldn't she get it right...? She's personifying the very Cuban national drink...the Cuba Libre!!! :wink:


I'm doing this relaying on memory-(didn't write anything down)-so whatever is missing here, means that it didn't make that much of an impression in my less than perfect mind.

#68 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 23 November 2009 - 06:33 PM

West Palm Beach.

I made it for the Sunday matinee-(1:00 pm...!! usually my breakfast time :D ). Never been there before, but the one hour driving from Miami was fine. Unpredictable Miss I-95 was in a beautiful mood...generous and happy-(thank you dear!!).
The Kravis Center is a nice bright theater...warmer than the monolithic Miami's Arsht.
The cast was the same one as that from Broward's Sunday one. Kuddos again to Seay's elegant AB, Delgado/Sarabita's impeccable TPDD and everyone else, including the corps, from CB and SITM.
Highlight of the day; I FINALLY GOT TO MEET MR. BART!! -(Hey there pal :huh: ). I also had the pleasure to see Mr. and Mrs. Iwatchthecorps.-(hi there also! :thumbsup: ). Me, my mom and my girlfriend had a great time.

#69 bart

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Posted 24 November 2009 - 05:11 AM

It was indeed a pleasure to meet Cristian and Iwatchthecorps. The Kravis is a lovely house -- the most beautiful, I think, of the halls in which MCB performs. Iwatchthecorps, you've been in all four theaters. What do you think? Cristian, you've now been in 3 of the theaters, how about you?

A great weekend, all in all, which certainly confirmed nysusan's comment earlier in this thread:

The thing that I love about this company is that they dance with so much heart, and so many of their dancers manage to combine great technique with great interpretive skills.

A couple of the regulars who have subscription seats near mine referred to "they have so much energy," "they seem to love what they are dancing," etc. These are people who have seen a lot of ballet in their lives, but not so much as to get involved in quibbling and comparing. The Devil may be in the details. But I'm glad that that MCB's audience gets the Big Picture as well.

On the applause meter, Alex Wong is clearly the audience favorite, followed closely by Jeanette Delgado, and the male variation in Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (especially Renato Penteado and Rolando Sarabia). Both were superb. Wong, dancing to Tico Tico in Company B, defied the laws of physics and managed to convey the frantic quality and even desperation of his character. Delgado danced EVERYTHING as though the roles ahd been made for her: one of the most perfectly finished Allegro Brillantes I ever recall; a star-quality Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, which actually even had her partner Rolando Sarabia (a rather reserved performer) smiling; and a fluid Rum and Coca Cola which made you think she had actually been reared and trained to dance in Trinidad. Delgado even took a corps part in the Stravinsky -- as did fellow principal Tricia Albertson, who at one point was dancing with a student apprentice as a partner. This kind of flexibility.

But there were many highlights.

-- The programming/ wonderfully constructed, with something (high level, of course) for everyone.

-- Casting: Villella moved his principals around and gave young corps members important opportunities. You have to see multiple performances to get a sense of the talent/depth of this company.

-- About the younger dancers. Neil Marshall: funny and authoritative in Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny. He wore nerdy horn rims and was full of himself, as the lyrics call for. The girls swooned, as a preened, toyed with their affections, and finally ran off with all the girls in full pursuit. Rebecca King's Rum and Coca Cola was lovely -- flirtatious, a little on the innocent side (considering the lyrics), and just the kind of girl those young guys would be rolling on the floor to get close to. The fluency of her movement wasn't Caribbean, but it was perfect in the context: an American coed dancing in a Latin style, as so many of them actually did in those days. All the student apprentices (and, I suspect, regular students) in the corps for Symphony in 3 Movements: The ballet is demanding and very hard to dance. The girls in white set the tone in the beginning, and you can't have a weak performer there any more than you can have in the Kingdom of the Shades scene in Bayadere. They were all impressive. I could pick out a couple of apprentice boys who did even more cmoplicated work in the Stravinsky and the Taylor. Fernan Cerdeiro and Alexandre Ferreira from Brasil. I think they've been here less than year, but they held the stage as though they'd danced this choreography all their lives. I wish I could have identified some of the girls. Amanda Weingarten -- dancing with Didier Bramaz in There Will Never Be Another You -- was touching and lovely. Bramaz will soon be off to war. Weingarten and he seem to know each other well, but there's reserve and sadness as wlll as intimacy. Towards the end he backs away and joins a line of slowly marching soldiers at the rear of the stage. She kneels, looking out over the audience, expressing loss and emptiness without even moving. Later, when the next number begins, she is slowly absorbed back into corps to dance the emotionally quite complex Bei Mir Bist Du Schon. It's a rich performance by both dancers, made even richer by their restraint and dignity.

-- The interplay of joy and deep sadness in Company B. It doesn't always hold together, but --after three performances -- I was in tears. Deanna Seay's performance in I Can Dream, Can't I? was one of the loveliest things I've ever seen her do. The cast has 6 girls, 6 boys -- the Seay character is the 13th, and is often alone when not dancing with the other girls. The fact that she is a bit older than the others makes the characterization even more touching. Two men appear in silhouette marching in slow motion off to battle. Time stopped -- the energetic youthfulness of the ballet stopped. It was a revelation.

-- More on Company B. I had never seen this before. I can see why it's such a crowd-pleasure, and there is much that is brilliantly done. Some of the bravura upbeat numbers began to get a little tiresome by my third viewing. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy -- danced with energy and film-star charisma by Daniel Baker -- runs out of choreographic steam in the second half, as though Taylor couldn't think of anything more to say. Jumping, spinning, grinning, and posing are marvelous when they are in the service of a good idea -- but can seem empty when they continue on and on for their own sake.

-- Symphony in Three Movements. For me, a great, great work. The pas de deux in the second movement is, right now and for the time being, my favorite pas de deux in ballet. It's obviously hard, but it demands a fluidity, sublety, and other-worldliness that make it (to me) closer to Swan Lake pdd than to most of Balanchine. Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra were astonishing. Control, fluency, mood, delicacy, attention to sculptural details: it was beautifullyi done and (for me at least) the most deeply moving part of the performances I saw.

A number of principles and soloists -- as wlll as long, lanky corps member Stephen Satterfield -- stood out in the lead parts in the Stravinsky. What complicated choreography they have. Villella said, in one of his pre-performance talks, that his classes are "rhythmic," which works for this kind of work. My head is still full of images of the way the Stravinsky leads moved to, on, and sometimes perfectly "off" the music. Villella talks about "watching the music." This powerful Symphony in 3 Movements was a textbook example of how that miracle can be achieved.


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