cubanmiamiboy

MCB Program IV

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From the MCB website.

Dances at a Gathering — Jerome Robbins’ masterpiece. Ten dancers, live Chopin piano music, endlessly beautiful and original invention – a celebration of dance, dancers…and life. Back for the first time since its triumphant premiere here four years ago.

Program IV also includes Who Cares?

Broward Center: March 12-14, 2010

Adrienne Arsht Center: April 9-11, 2010

Kravis Center: April 16-18, 2010

Anybody went to the opening last night...?

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I have to wait until April. For some reason, the MCB blog has been untypically quiet about this program. I suppose this is not the time to bring up complaints about MCB's refusal to discuss casting before performance .... but ... casting IS rather important in Dances.

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bart, I was going to go to the opening last night, but I couldn't make it on time after work. I might go tomorrow to the matinée, so let's see.

Oh, BTW...(and I hope not to get to repetitive about it, but..)-BOTH Dances at a Gathering and Who Cares? are new to me.

Any suggestions...?

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Cristian, I hope you'll love the performance(s). We recently had a long thread on Dances, here:

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=31284

It's an hour-long work for 5 women and 5 men, and it repays, I think, sitting back and just watching. I like to think of myself as an accidental onlooker who just happened to be strolling along a country lane one evening at dusk. I notice that a group of young people people have come together on a lawn or possibly in a well-manicured field. A country house is visible in the distance. Quite miraculously, a pianist is in attendance -- Francisco Renno, I hope -- to play a bit of Chopin. I stop, lean over the fence railing, and .... watch. When all the dancers have left the stage, I go on my way, musing and wondering about what just occurred.

As for Who Cares?, I think of it in the category that Villella frequently calls "just entertainment." If you like Gershwin songs-- and there are about 15 of them in this piece -- you'll like Who Cares? There's a big opening for the full cast, some strong romantic work (like the title song), great opportunities for scintillating female dancing (eg., "Fascinating Rhythm"), plus a kind of grand finale. The tempo and energy build towards the end of the program, as adagio is left behind.

Only the very cynical or those who are actually brain-dead manage to leave this ballet feeling less then happy.

For me, the key is watching what the dancers make of both these works. There are amazing opportunities for dancers to go beyond the steps. Being familiar as you are with the individuality and potential of so many MCB dancers, you will find that plenty to look at, think about, and ... I hope ... enjoy.

MCB has the women for Dances (Carranza will be in it, for example), but I can't think of a current man who can do justice to the original Edward Villella role. He's the one who dances first and, later on, touches the earth with the palm of his hand.

My casting fantasies for Who Cares? include Rolando Sarabia in the male lead danced originally by Jacques d'Amboise and Jeanette Delgado and Jennifer Kronenberg in just about everything else. :P

P.S.: If you like Dances, you have to learn the color-coding by which dancers are identified according to the color of their costumes. I've never gotten the knack of this, but it's obligatory if you want to be accepted in serious Balanchine circles. :wink:

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P.S.: If you like Dances, you have to learn the color-coding by which dancers are identified according to the color of their costumes. I've never gotten the knack of this, but it's obligatory if you want to be accepted in serious Balanchine circles. :wink:

Ha ha, so true! I can keep track of a few, but certainly not all of them!

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Christian, I don't know if watching You Tube clips before seeing a work onstage is always the best policy, but here, if you like, are two clips of the first variation, by Manuel Legris and by

.

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Broward performance.

Dances at a Gathering

Christian, I don't know if watching You Tube clips before seeing a work onstage is always the best policy, but here, if you like, are two clips of the first variation, by Manuel Legris and by
.

Thanks, Kfw for the clip. Legris is certainly always a pleasure to watch. If anything, I should say that Renato Panteado did honor this soft, poetic approach-(he opened the work today).

NOW...(and please, please, just consider this as a superfluous/amateurish view/approach to this ballet: I did not click with it. Needless to say, as soon as I got home, I watched Giselle...always my best antidote.

Still...there were factors that I know made today's performance especially dense and heavy: I was tired and hungry, plus it was a matinée-(I am NOT a day person at all. A while ago I had given up matinées performances, but because I couldn't make it on Friday, then I decided to go for the daytime. Not good).

I don't have my program right now. As soon as I locate it, I will take a look at some notes I made and also will identify today's casting.

Of course, I will give it another try here in Miami.

Who Cares?

Only the very cynical or those who are actually brain-dead manage to leave this ballet feeling less then happy.

bart... :wink:

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I like to think of myself as an accidental onlooker who just happened to be strolling along a country lane one evening at dusk..........When all the dancers have left the stage, I go on my way, musing and wondering about what just occurred.

bart, what a great "place to stand" when watching Dances. This really speaks to me. Well done!

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Who Cares?
Only the very cynical or those who are actually brain-dead manage to leave this ballet feeling less then happy.

bart... :wink:

:P :blush: Looking at that quote, I realize how juvenile and extreme it is. I want to apologize. It is obvious that ballets like this are not to everyone's taste. (Well ... not at first viewing, anyway ??? :wink: )

Christian, your post made me curious about what Arlene Croce thought of this ballet. In one of her anthologies, there's a 1970 piece, "Balanchine and Gershwin." It shows that even Croce had a certain amount of ambivalence about the ballet when she first saw it. Here's how she begins:

"The title of Balanchine's Gershwin ballet, Who Cares?, has a double significance. It means, Who Cares what we call it ("as long as I care for you and you care for me"), and it suggests that the piece is an elegant throwaway. That's how it looks, too -- like nothing much."
These dances are standard pop Balanchine, which is to say a lot of jaunty, bright high kicks and pointwork -- a little square, a little heavy with repeats, and too impressively ironical in the manner of Western Symphony and Stars and Stripes, two of the Fun House's major exhibits. [ After a slow opening ] .... the ballet suddenly picks up, finds its own life [ ... ] the invention tumbles forth, so does the applause, and we realize that what we're going to see is not a clever foreigner's half-infatuated, half-skeptical view of a popular American art form; we're going to see the art form itself, re-energized.

Croce likes the ballet more and more as it develops.

Everywhere, the tight choreography sustains an almost unbelievable musical interest. IAs if it weren't enough for Balanchine to give us dances of extreme tension and wit and elegance, he also gives us back the songs unadorned by their usual stagy associations. "Stairway to Paradise" isn't a big production number [as it is, for instance, in the film An American in Paris **], it's one girl covering ground in powerful coltlike jumps and turns. And in the duets, the emotion is more serious ... for not being acted out.
** My addition, not Croce's.
Fred and Ginger, Fred and Adele, George and Ira, George and Igor ... it's easy to be seduced by the nostalgia of it all, but the remarkable thing about Who Cares? is how infrequently it appeals to that nostalgia [ ... ] [T]o put it as simply as I can, this wonderful ballet enriches our fantasy life immeasurably, as works of art are meant to do. [ ... ] [T]he ballet was a beaut.

P.S. Thanks for those YouTube links, kfw. My own preference for this role is for dancers who are not as grand and emphatic as Legris and less effortful and (to me) clueless than Valastro, but it's good to be reminded of the choreography, no matter how it's danced.

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Very true, Bart. Legris and Vaestro did not do it for me either. The beauty of Villella's performance is that one felt he was making it all up as he went along--nothing calculated---only felt---but that is also intrinsic to the choreography.

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Yes, it must feel improvised, and because Legris (and to a lesser degree Vaestro) anticipates, indeed even dances ahead of, the music, it loses that aura. I did like Vaestro's earthiness.

As for Who Cares?, I fell in love with it the first time I saw it. Then I read reviews that dismissed it as schlock and decided that the critics may have had it right. But it was hard to overlook the wonderful inventions and the happy innocence of the ballet. While most people cite the various pdds and solo variations as the meat of the ballet, I have a soft spot for the female quintet, Somebody Loves Me. Yes, even without Renee Estopinal as the central dancer, it continues to delight me.

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I agree about Villella, atm711. I will never forget the impact of that first season of performances. I sometimes think of this as possibly Villella's greatest role, although it lacks the bravura for which he was famous. The last NYCB dancer I saw perform the man in brown (I can't bring myself to write "brown boy") was Damian Woetzel, who also had much of the quality you describe.

I just wish one of the men at today's MCB were this kind of dancer, but I can't think of anyone.

Dances is well coached at Miami, where people from the Robbins Trust are regular visitors. But -- even though EV himself is on hand -- it's possible to coach steps and phrasing but not personality. I know this run of performances will be beautifully danced. But I'm praying for more than that.

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Needless to say, as soon as I got home, I watched Giselle...always my best antidote.

:huh: Good man, that's the spirit!

I need a second run. Definitely.

I look forward to seeing what you think when you do.

bart and carbro and atm711, thanks for your comments on the clips. They helped me see more by watching more closely.

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Needless to say, as soon as I got home, I watched Giselle...always my best antidote.

:huh: Good man, that's the spirit!

:wink:

I need a second run. Definitely.
I look forward to seeing what you think when you do.

Thanks for the encouragement, Kfw...I was feeling somehow aprehensive-(and a little embarrassed)- about presenting my first time impression on this iconic ballet.

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I did think at the time and still do that the dancer's personalities are key to sustaining interest in the work. Otherwise it can get a bit "mushy"

I saw this a couple of times early on at NYCB, and I would tend to agree with Richard's remark, because it's all lovely, but can get a bit boring unless the performance is really inspired. I was just thinking of 'Les Sylphides', which definitely is a Chopin-based ballet of genius, but it has a drive through it that is considerably stronger than DaaG, if I'm recalling the latter correctly (quite long ago, I haven't seen it in recent years.) Some sort of stronger sense of 'narrative' in the Fokine, is that it?

Ok Patrick, so reading your post has just done it. I think you just hit the spot and touched some sensitive issues that I had with my first and-(so far)-only run of DAAG.

First, and to be totally honest this time, I'll say it: I did get bored. I found the he dancing to be too much alike. I hadn't looked for any pre-performance references, wanting to have a fresh, "real" first look at it without a preconceived notion, and I guess I couldn't "see" all that has been said about it here. I perceived it as a long series of dances set to a very dragging rendering of Chopin's pieces. Oh, and also about Patrick's reference to "Chopiniana"-(which, BTW, is one of my all time favorite ballets EVER)-I sense that many factors of Fokine's ballet-(absent from Robbins')-makes it a winner : A complex, rich choreography for the Corps-(actually the actual USE of Corps), the costume design and in general the beautiful neo-romantic atmosphere of the whole thing. Finally, but surely an extremely important factor in my own balletic standards, the happy decision to orchestrate Chopin's pieces. Never been a fan of ballets set just to piano scores.

Plus...I found it a bit too long.

Still...I will see it again, for sure. In any case, one should be always open to possible surprises...(who knows...a different cast, or a faster tempi...)

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As I've said here before.....I am a huge fan of Dances. I absolutely love it, and I could watch it 7 nights in a row if I could (altho I agree with the thought that an arresting performance of Dances needs dancers who can bring the "characters" in Dances to life). I can also understand not liking it, and especially being bored by it.

My thought is this wide range of reactions has mostly to do with what one is expecting when one walks in the door. I don't mean expecting in terms of what Dances itself is, or what it is about, but rather what one is expecting from an evening at the ballet (with its none too cheap cost). I often expect to be thrilled and moved by the power of the dance I am about to see (Patrick uses the word "drive" perhaps in this way). If that's what I want from Dances, I'm not going to get it. Dances is very different (and that difference is a large part of what I love about the piece). When going to see Dances I recommend expecting to see beauty, to see subtlety, to see variation (in the sense of exquite differences in what might otherwise appear on the surface as similarity). But most of all I recommend looking for acting, personality, and character in the various roles (the separate roles usually named by the color of the costume and the sex of the dancer...e.g., the "brown boy"). Robbins has not made these characters obvious; it is all very subtle; but these characters make a journey during the piece that is the heart (I think) of what keeps the piece from being boring. It is the characters that have someone like me wishing that Dances was even longer. This aspect is also what makes it imperative that one sees the "right" cast. It has also been remarked (and I strongly agree) that the "space" of remembrance, or remembering, is a theme that helps tie the work together, and gives us, the audience, a "handle" with which to pull ones self into the piece.

And finally, I believe one has to hear the exquite beauty in the Chopin just as pieces of music. I do find the music totally captivating, but I can easily imagine this piano music not appealing to many. If one is not in the space of loving the music (and the music too must be played well), then it may be impossble to truly love Dances. In some ways this aspect of Dances is a crap shoot. You either like the these piano pieces of Chopin or you don't. I do love this music (specifically, I love how the mood or emotion invoked by each segment so often changes -- often very rapidly -- for me it is these sudden shifts that provide the excitement in the music of Dances).

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If one is not in the space of loving the music (and the music too must be played well), then it may be impossible to truly love Dances. In some ways this aspect of Dances is a crap shoot. You either like the these piano pieces of Chopin or you don't.

So then I find myself in a difficult position, as I DO love Chopin and still didn't "get" the 18 dance numbers...

Confession...at some point I stopped watching to start just listening, which proved to be more pleasant.

Anyway...I just found my playbill, and here is the cast of this performance. Maybe bart or Jack will get something out of this info, in relation with casting issues. I will also transcript some very few notes I scratched.

Katia Carranza-pink

Sarah Esty-yellow. ("Mischievous")

Patricia Delgado-mauve

Mary Carmen Catoya-green. ("Mazurca. Never on full pointe")

Jennifer Lauren-blue

Renato Panteado-brown. ("Devilish solo")

Rolando Sarabia-purple

Daniel Baker-brick. ("Athletic")

Renan Cerdeiro. ("Who's this?")

Daniel Sarabia-blue.

...and some from "Who Cares...?"

"PDD Kronemberg/Guerra. (The Man I love). Beautiful"

"Patricia Delgado. Red Solo. Tricks"

"Great Finale!!"

Not a lot, I know. :D

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So then I find myself in a difficult position, as I DO love Chopin and still didn't "get" the 18 dance numbers...

Interesting. Well, I was just speculating, and when one speculates, it often ends up as little more than BS :D:)

I find the relationship btwn the music and the choreography/emotion in Dances so totally integrated, that I find it hard to imagine loving one without loving the other. But to each his own. There have certainly been plenty of pieces that others love that I just don't get.

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For some reason, I suspect that there were casting/music tempi issues. I still have the three Miami runnings to come, so let's see...

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I've been thinking about this....

Yes, it must feel improvised, and because Legris (and to a lesser degree Vaestro) anticipates, indeed even dances ahead of, the music, it loses that aura.

It sounds true, but it doesn't fit the way I feel about Legris's performance, so I wondered where my difference comes -- since I respect your knowledge and taste so much, I usually find I agree with you.

The thing I realized is that for me, if I'm really listening to the music, sometimes I know what's coming -- even in a piece of music I don't know by heart. The composers who make me love them often set me up for what's coming, and when it arrives it's bot ha pleasure and a surprise and a fulfillment of expectations I didn't know I had.

I find Legris's brown boy EXTREMELY musical, , actively musical, like he's listening like Fischer-Dieskau listened to Gerald Moore. this music is intensely nostalgic, and it evokes something long-lost, partly forgotten, but that IS already there -- so you'd maybe attack it since you heard the downbeat coming and might want to twist your shoulders or twizzle the leg cuz that's where the grace note belongs....

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On Friday night I went to another running of Program IV, hoping to maybe "get" Dances this time, for which I had planned to bring a more refreshed, open, but still vigilant approach. It did not work. :D

At first I attempted to scribble my usual notes on the dancers, choreography and so on, but after some pathetic lines I realized that this wasn't working and gave it up altogether. From that point on I decided to just relax, so I sank deep in my chair and tried just to enjoy the whole thing without being too analytical. I think this was a better idea, for which the dancers and numbers were passing by freely while the mellow music surrounded everything to almost made me get TOO relaxed-(which prompted me to seat up again on my chair and try to be more alert). Next thing I knew the ballet was over, bringing down the house. The audience LOVED it.

Just a little final detail that I almost decided not to share given the high probability of it being considered silly or out of context, but which was something that stroked me from Dances. Toward the end of the ballet, the full cast gets together onstage facing the audience, one girl kneeling and the opening male character surrounded by everyone else. Right then and there they suddenly gazed upward at the distance at unison, then proceeding to move their heads slowly from left to right, like following something with their eyes...their look that of enormous sadness. Well, THAT little detail, believe it or not, moved me tremendously. It just hit me right away, reminding me of a very similar scenario from the real life. Thing is, in Cuba over and over we would go to the airport to say bye to friends or family members leaving the island for good, eyes following the plane disappearing in the sky without knowing when would we see them again-(in the case that it would ever happen). The last time I was in that undesirable position I was looking at the plane that was taking away my mother. Other times, whole families-(the reason for why the group of dancers reminded me of this)-would gather together to see their loved ones leave...eyes full of sadness.

Oh well...I know this is crazy, but still...I just wanted to share it.

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Cubanmiamiboy, I don't think that idea is at al far-fetched. I interviewed Peter Boal a while ago, and he talked about Robbins coaching him in Dances at a Gathering, and he said this about the beginning and the end.

He talked a lot about the opening solo. He told us “You are an older man, you’ve been through a lot, and you return to the dance studio where you first studied. You walk into that room, and you look at the barre over there, and you remember who stood there, and you remember that they were your friend, and you look over there and you think ‘I never liked that person’, and the teacher used to stand there and the piano was there. And then you begin to dance.” But it has to register at the beginning that this is a place that I knew when I was young.

The lighting definitely makes it seem like it takes place out of doors.

Yes, but whatever his own image when he choreographed it was, he felt that the ballet studio was the best metaphor for us to grasp. The ballet studio where we had learned to dance is our frame of reference. For others it could be the playing field I grew up on or the house my grandmother lived in. Everybody has the significant location where life and feeling and understanding really began, and for dancers it is the ballet studio. He wanted that sense of returning.

Yes, “I am remembering”, or “I am remembering too much”. It is an important thought, but it is also a passing thought. And the final gesture at the end of the ballet of touching the ground is hard to put into words without sounding awkward, but it is a place where I lived, where experiences happened, but it is just a place. I must say that Robbins would die all over again if he knew how many words I am using to describe this!

It is all about memory, and everyone has an individual reaction. Mary

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I attended two performances of Dances/Who Cares? this past weekend, and I must say

it was probably the most disappointing show I've ever seen MCB give.

Dances, which was made on and for stars (McBride, Mazzo, Kent, Verdy, Villella,

etc, ad infinitum), is not successful without the charisma which those stars brought to

it in addition to their superb dancing. Katia Carranza in pink was her usual lovely and

lyrical self, but rarely rose above a monotone; Tricia Albertson was, sadly, just as

inadequate as the Girl in Yellow as she was in the jumping role in Who Cares? (these

are probably the worst two miscastings ever of this perfectly fine dancer, calling for

jumps and acrobatic tricks she simply cannot do with any style, scope, or panache);

Carlos Miguel Guerra couldn't manage all of his choreography, and the extremely fine

Renato Panteado looked taxed to his absolute limit in Villella's solos, especially the one

to the A minor Etude, Opus 10, no. 2 (close to the end). Only the divine Deanna Seay,

whose retirement is a tragedy for us, and the nearly as divine Jennifer Kronenberg rose

to the occasion; they both danced the Girl in Green, with interesting differences: Kronenberg

was more flirtatious, lighter, and slightly more of a coquette, while Seay was a grande dame

rather like the Hostess in Les Biches--dazzling. Kronenberg was also compelling as the

Girl in Mauve, with an utterly piercing moment after her partner deserts her near the end of

the girls' trio to the A minor Waltz, and Amanda Weingarten, who is still in the corps, was

very promising in this role as well. And, sadly, Dances was by far the best dancing of the

performances. Who Cares? is also for stars, and I have never seen MCB put on more mediocre,

undistinguished Balanchine dancing; ONLY Kronenberg in the McBride part was at all

good (especially in The Man I Love; the weight shifts and breakneck coda of Fascinatin' Rhythm

were difficult even for her); the young corps dancer Jennifer Lauren may be a 'good turner' in

a quotidian sense, but she was completely incapable of even a simplified version of Marnee

Morris' drop-dead virtuoso variation. The role is, sadly, usually dumbed down/made easier

even at NYCB--especially the one notorious diagonal from upstage right--but the turning

ballerina in Who Cares? should not be falling out of her double fouettes, nor struggling with

the speed throughout. I was sorry to see Lauren so woefully miscast; she seems to be an

appealing and attractive dancer. The absences of Mary Carmen Catoya and especially

JEANETTE DELGADO in these technical firework displays were beyond lamentable; I am not

a devotee of Patricia Delgado and she was suited to neither the turning role nor the McBride

part--one could not help but think of her sister in both. There was also an extraordinary

bizarrerie which I'm surprised Mr. Villella put on and the Balanchine Foundation countenanced;

imagine my surprise to see three men listed partnering the three Who Cares? ballerinas, when

of course the role made on Jacques d'Amboise is a tour de force with three pas de deux and

a dynamite variation-- for ONE man. Had this occurred with an announcement, and only at one

performance, it might have been due to the injury of, say, Rolando Sarabia; but it clearly

was not a one-off. This was more disturbing even than the subpar dancing throughout. I should

mention Sara Esty and especially the wonderful, leggy, tall, vibrant Allynne Noelle in the smaller

pas de deux; Noelle has great presence and style.

I certainly hope not to see this sort of denatured Balanchine ever again from MCB, which has been so

brilliant in so many others of his ballets.

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Well, THAT little detail, believe it or not, moved me tremendously. It just hit me right away, reminding me of a very similar scenario from the real life.

Silly? Are you kidding me???? That's it......that's "Dances". Robbins got to you; and for your sake I'm glad he did. I find it particularly striking that this moment that moved you so was about something you were remembering. For me, "Dances" is all about remembrance and remembering. It ain't a coincidence that your feeling was one of remembrance from your own life.

Cargill says all this extremely well; I won't even try to add anything.

P.S. cubanmiamiboy, in keeping with this theme, and quite seriously, your description of you remembering that plane, and of Cubans generally remembering planes, quite moved me......I totally got this about Cuban culture from your shared words......THANKS.

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