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MCB Program IV"Dances at a Gathering", "Who Cares?"


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 01:24 PM

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...?

#2 bart

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 07:42 PM

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.

#3 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 11:43 PM

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...?

#4 bart

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 04:58 AM

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

#5 richard53dog

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 05:56 AM

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!

#6 kfw

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 07:29 AM

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 Simon Valastro.

#7 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 09:45 PM

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 Simon Valastro.


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:

#8 SandyMcKean

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 10:15 PM

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!

#9 bart

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 07:05 AM

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.

#10 atm711

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 11:19 AM

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.

#11 carbro

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 12:36 PM

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.

#12 bart

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 12:45 PM

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.

#13 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 01:40 PM

I need a second run. Definitely.

#14 kfw

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 05:51 PM

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.

#15 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 07:03 PM

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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