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MCB Program II: Div.#15,Valse Fantaisie,Sl. on 10th AveJanuary 2010.


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#46 Jack Reed

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 08:50 AM

(from Coral Gables, Florida) Agree that Albertson was good in Divertimento, definitely something to be proud of, but -- assuming rivalry which may not exist to any great degree in this busy company (everybody dances most of the time, versus, say, the Mariinsky, I believe) -- there's not much in Albertson's performance for Catoya to worry about. IMO, she still "rules" this ballet, not that some of the others we've seen in the different principal roles are negligible.

Villella speaks (before the performance) of preferring this version of Valse Fantaisie precisely because, in this company, everybody dances, and it has four principals instead of two; okay, no real argument, but purist that I am, my reason for preferring it is that it is a superior ballet, much more complex and subtle, which I enjoy more and more whenever I see it. (Six times now.) For instance, toward the end, when the triangle plays the second time, the man is active upstage with one woman, and the other two alternately come down stage for a moment -- on diagonal paths from the central group upstage -- for a few solo sequences. I think Balanchine was more inspired by his music, including the way Glinka has instruments in the orchestra stepping forth momentarily from the ongoing waltz.

In Diamonds pas de deux, I have at the moment just a thought on the setting, a starry backdrop right down to the stage. This is different, and surprised me at first, but the normal "setting" is the rest of the ballet, a world of some dimension. That's absent, these times, and the stars supply an infinite space aptly in the place of that large choreographed world. At least, that's my current take on that. Seay continued to enliven the role. Fresh every time. It's not the only way we'll remember her -- The Girl in White in La Valse, radically different, is another -- but it's a fine one, very fine.

I'm beginning to get into the structure, at least, of The Golden Section, the organization of the music -- its time -- and the patterns of deployment of the cast -- its space. (I may never like it, but I'll know why.) Repeated viewings have helped, as well as sitting in row Q instead of row T.

Yeah, in Slaughter, I like Manning's 'do also, and I think she's the best Strip Tease Girl -- after Kronenberg, that is, for reasons given above.

#47 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 30 January 2010 - 09:20 PM

And, can anyone help me in understanding precisely what it is that makes Wong and Baker seem alike at times... ?

They are both crowd pleasers. They are both highly physical. They are not shy. Neither of them seems to have any problem with the "showing off" factor.

...and so different at others?


Baker makes his ballerina the star. Alex IS the star if dancing with someone else.

#48 Jack Reed

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Posted 07 February 2010 - 03:51 PM

Edward Villella's Pre-Performance talk, or what of it I could get down on my four visits to the Broward CPA performances which ended their run. Villella himself used notes this time, explaining that he had a lot on his mind and didn't want to deny us anything he had thought of about this. Several years ago, some of us regulars in the audience hoped he might publish his ideas about the ballets he presents, and although he declined at the time, maybe the existence of these notes moves that idea forward anyway. Meanwhile, here's what I've been able to assemble from my scribbles, and I hope other BTers who attended will add what they remember and add their comments, too:


Welcome to Program Two of our 24th season. We entertain. I like to give a varied program, and we have a balanced program of 18th, 19th, and 20th Century works, two choreographers of 20th Century music, in fact.

Divertimento No. 15 Mozart. The only Mozart work Balanchine choreographed to? Why? He had found the essence of Mozart, and never felt the need to explore Mozart further. When he choreographed Apollo, he said, I had more than I needed. He could eliminate. Divertimento No.15 is also reduced to what is absolutely necessary. Maybe.

Tutus give a sense of formality. Clear. Unencumbered. Unforced. Nothing romantic. Gentility prevails. A ballet of aristocracy. Ladies most gracious, cavaliers most elegant. Servants of beauty. Subdued classicism. No bravura. Punchy Symphony in Three Movements is bombastic by contrast. Elegance without ostentation. Cavaliers should basically disappear behind the ladies. Reserve. "Like cut crystal's delicate sparkle", without overwhelming. Ornamental with slight shadings of [remorse?]. Not a story ballet but a ballet about relationships, including the relationship of choreography to music, neither over- or under-danced, just enough.

Five ballerinas, three principal men, eight corps girls. Where is this from? He found it in the music. The music was his script.

In 1956, women were pretty good, but men were less good.

[I think Villella is right on here, even though his history is a little off. He has better things to do than to look things up, but there was [i]Caracole[/i], the precursor to this ballet, made to the same music in 1952, Concerto for Violin to the Violin Concerto in A, K. 219, made in 1942 and unseen for many years until revived recently by Tulsa Ballet Theatre, and Symphonie Concertante, to the eponymous music, K. 364, which has been performed more continuously since Balanchine made it in 1945. But his overlooking these earlier ballets led Villella to express the valuable idea, also expressed somewhere by Farrell, that Balanchine made a ballet to explore a piece of music. For me, this concept is the central one in thinking about Balanchine's art. That's how it looks, or should look, when his ballets are performed.

And Villella is like Balanchine himself, who overlooked these earlier ballets; when in 1956, the 200th anniversary year of Mozart's birth, he thought to give a Mozart ballet, it was Caracole, to this music, he thought of, but not being able to remember it, he made what we know as Divertimento No. 15.

And so Villella is right to point out the spareness of Divertimento No. 15; all of Mozart's music is spare in terms of density of notes: There just aren't a lot of them. Compare Tchaikovsky, who lays them on pretty thick at times. (Not to say one is better than the other, just to notice a difference.) And this time, there aren't a lot of instrument groups, just strings and horns, no other winds, no drums. But Mozart's music's effect on the mind is often all out of proportion to its impingement on the senses. He knew how to do a lot with a little, and Balanchine, sensitive to this, choreographed this music to have large effect with small casts, casts which would therefore have an unusually large proportion of principal dancers, the specific number fitting the variations and the episodes in the Andante exactly. According to Nancy Reynolds's "Repertory in Review", Caracole also had five principal women, three principal men, and a corps of eight girls.]


Valse Fantaisie 19th Century music. Glinka was the father of Russian classicism. The Imperial manner and style included a forced grandeur.

Plie' "squeezes out" the landing, down, slows attack. It's a little bit lumbering. Balanchine's plie' was not an ending but a beginning. Your heel doesn't reach the stage -- your foot goes down and up. We don't distort the music: Russians let dancers determine the tempo. Balanchine wanted the music played as written.

Three female soloists, one male. Not romantic. Not a romantic, a light relationship. He partners the ladies "young and safe [chaste?]", like in Bournonville's world.

This ballet is an artistic director's delight: He can showcase four principal dancers, or at least principal roles. [MCB cast it with women listed as corps dancers.]

We do many styles. The more dancers on stage, the better.

This ballet is dainty, lilting, fleet, and studded with brilliance.

The phraseology of it is wonderful. We make it look easy, not like athletics. It's Russian, but light, airy, moving, not looking effortful.

It disappeared around 1957 but Balanchine admired the music so much he returned to it.


Diamonds pas de deux. Deanna Seay has been with us twenty-one years. She's been here since she graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts, a mindful dancer. She dances from her mind. The Diamonds pas de deux is an homage to Tchaikovsky's Swan lake and Sleeping Beauty. Gorgeous.


The Golden Section, to music by David Byrne of The Talking Heads, four pieces. Twyla Tharp pushes dancers as far as she can. "The dancers storm the stage with positive energy." Four or five or six are partnering each other at the same time. Close to In the Upper Room. Ferocious. It terrifies me: My concern is about injury. A monumental challenge for the dancers, who are dressed like Olympic athletes: Seven men and six women. "What a Day That Was"


Slaughter on Tenth Avenue will not tax your intelligence. Its music is by Richard Rodgers.

Balanchine wanted a school to raise the technical level he saw when he arrived here in 1933. He didn't have a job, so he worked in films and on Broadway. He made a full-scale ballet inside a Broadway show. One reviewer called it "tip-toes with talent". [smiles indulgently] We have the 1968 version... This is an accessible ballet to be laughed at. A period piece, and a take-off on Broadway set in lurid bordello colors, with two juicy roles.

I am cast in it, but I don't play the Gangster, [dropping to a low, rough-guy voice] I am da Gangsta. [laughter]


As usual, there was question-and-answer after his prepared remarks:

Deanna Seay will perform again this season.

Q: Are record-setting athletes of old times the same as today? A: No... Dancers are unlikely to be bigger, but our minds drive our physicality; we are technically much stronger as a result.

$900,000 of the Knight Foundation grant must be matched to provide three years of live music.

What are we going to do next season? I'll tell you as soon as I get a budget. We'd like to get some Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, and Jerome Robbins ballets new to the company. For the twenty-fifth season. First we restored cuts we all took, before anything else. We have three or four programs in mind. Q: How about Theme and Variations? A: We'd like to do Theme and Variations, it's all the budget.

Travel plans? Some friends of the Paris Opera have seen us, Copenhagen, three cities in Italy, "London is curious".

Q: Twyla Tharp was different! A: You bet!

#49 bart

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Posted 07 February 2010 - 06:01 PM

Thanks, Jack. Much of what Villella said was the same as elsewhere. The big new information is the possibility of a visit to Europe.

It looks like there are a lot of fund-raising challenges ahead: not only the $900,000 to match the Knight Fund grant for live music, but Villella's wish-list for a Robbins, a Tharp, and a Parsons. (Not, I assume, the Parsons work recently panned mercilessly by Macaulay in the Times.)

AND there's still the expeacted Cranko Romeo and Juliet to think about. (I've already cast the two Delgado sisters, but am having difficulty coming up with Romeos to partner them.

When the time comes, let's have a new thread for a WISH LIST about new additions to the rep and relevant casting.

#50 Jack Reed

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Posted 28 February 2010 - 10:57 AM

Meanwhile, here's a bit of trivia (If you know of a better place to post it, let me know.):

Comparing Balanchine performances today with those of his time, as some of us Old Audience do, the question of tempo comes up, and while I was thinking about MCB's Program II, which included the earlier version of Valse Fantaisie, I timed the performance of the later version on a video from the mid-70s (led by Leland and Clifford). The music there runs almost exactly 8 minutes; the MCB performances ran almost exactly 9 minutes. FWIW. (I still like the earlier version more.)


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