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MCB Program IV

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jsmu, thanks for your long review. It's a privilege to hear from someone who remembers so much about earlier New York City Ballet dancers in these roles.

Program IV reaches us in West Palm Beach this weekend. I'll be attending several of the performances. I've seen them perform Dances before, but not Who Cares? As someone who can visualize each of these dancers as you name them, your report gave me much to think about.

P.S. There is indeed something strange about the casting of three men in Who Cares? I've been wondering what it says about the strength and depth of the MCB male contingent.

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P.S. There is indeed something strange about the casting of three men in Who Cares? I've been wondering what it says about the strength and depth of the MCB male contingent.

This is not unprecedented. As can be seen in the Balanchine Celebration video, splitting the male role has also served to display four different men. NYCB has split the role in subsequent galas, too, if I remember correctly.

If the rest of the program had been slanted heavily to feature the females, I would have understood the role splitting as a counterbalance, but with Dances, that's clearly not the case. :beg:

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Thanks for that clarification, carbro. I go back to d'Amboise, though I recall later performances by Robert La Fosse and Sean Lavery.

It seems to me that having one male lead creates a kind of over-arching story line that holds the work together. With different men, wouldn't the effect be more like a suite of separate dances? I guess I'll get the chance to answer my own question this weekend. :beg:

jsmu's memories of the original cast raises the issue of what happens when new dancers enter a ballet, bringing different strengths and personalities. Merrill Ashley, who I believe danced more than one of the parts during her career, including the Morris role to which jsmu refers to, was sometimes criticized for being miscast.

McBride was lucky to have danced (monopolized) The Man I Love and, especially, Fascinating Rhythm, for so long.

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Thanks for that clarification, carbro. I go back to d'Amboise, though I recall later performances by Robert La Fosse and Sean Lavery.

It seems to me that having one male lead creates a kind of over-arching story line that holds the work together. With different men, wouldn't the effect be more like a suite of separate dances? I guess I'll get the chance to answer my own question this weekend. :wub:

jsmu's memories of the original cast raises the issue of what happens when new dancers enter a ballet, bringing different strengths and personalities. Merrill Ashley, who I believe danced more than one of the parts during her career, including the Morris role to which jsmu refers to, was sometimes criticized for being miscast.

McBride was lucky to have danced (monopolized) The Man I Love and, especially, Fascinating Rhythm, for so long.

Yes. In fact, as carbro said, the only times the role has ever been split this way is in galas, when things are being done as excerpts; certainly not in repertory performances. I think it's a spectacularly bad move, not only because as bart says it's intended to be a kind of story line with ONE guy and three women, so to speak ( there is no 'plot', but that is quite different from complete abstraction), but because there is no virtuosity if a different man dances every pas de deux. There are several SMALL pdd in the section with the soloists before the principals appear; clearly it is a progression to larger and more virtuoso star parts and dances. This is one of the few Balanchine ballets which features a male role every bit as smashing as the ballerina parts, and piecing the role out ruins it.

The brilliant Ashley danced all three of the roles in Who Cares?, perhaps the only ballerina ever to do so; she began with the jumping role, moved on for many years in the turning role, and finally McBride's part until she retired. I did not see her in the Morris role, though I did see her exquisite performances in The Man I Love and Fascinatin' Rhythm more than once, but I think the occasional remarks about miscasting were probably made when the company was filled with rather brilliant turners. Ashley, as she observes in her book Dancing for Balanchine, had great trouble with turns when she got into NYCB, and her remarkable prowess in them later (passages such as the doubles opening into arabesque in Ballo della Regina, made for her) was probably due to the trial by fire of such roles as Morris' in Who Cares? She changed one diagonal, as did everyone who's danced it except the goddess Elizabeth Loscavio, but Balanchine certainly would not have kept her in the role for years were she inadequate. He doubtless saw it as 'stretching' her, as he did by putting her in Emeralds, Swan Lake, etc, and asking for more lyricism, more repose, and more softness--which was beautifully realized in Ballade.

The other lamentable thing about MCB in Who Cares? was its esthetic cluelessness. This is a ballet with music from and, basically, about the Twenties and early Thirties, and the qualities of high spirits coupled with the 'nice' and 'all-American' behavior of the time. When the ten dancers who do the five small pas de deux reenter the stage and wave happily at each other, the gesture is completely lost; MCB's boys and girls look silly and self-conscious in it. The giddiness of brilliant, showy social dancing as an outlet for youth, irrepressibility, and very elegantly sublimated sex is utterly absent; these look like well trained 2010 dancers going through the motions in what they see as a dated period piece. I very much hope Mr. Villella will insist the entire company watch some Fred and Ginger movies before their next revival of this ballet, at the very least.

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jsmu, I very much appreciate the long experience with both works that you brought to the MCB performances. I have much less experience, so of course I had a slightly different take on the program and the way it was danced.

I think we agree on Deanna Seay's Woman in Green and Jennifer Kronenberg's Mauve and Green. I understand the quality of "monotone" that you found in Katia Carranza's Pink, but I found a lot more than that. This is the central role in the ballet, and Carranza is not Patricia McBride. But there was something to be said for her elegant dancing and her understated emotionality. I've grown to appreaciate Patricia Delgado, who I think has become a much more subtle performer and quite a versatile dancer. Delgado, dancing with the 17-year-old wonder apprentice Renan Cedeiro, did a marvellous Pink/Green pdd at the Saturday matinee.

Dances at a Gathering is one of my favorite works and it rarely fails to draw me in and bring me just to the edge of tears. I saw the original cast. I've seen a number of more recent great dancers in the roles. Speaking for myself only, MCB's version does not reach the emotional heights, but it is lovely dancing. It also had a story of its own. Villella speaks frequently of something Robbins said: that this was a ballet about the camaraderie of dancers working and performing together. I felt that connection among the dancers very strongly. There was less of Poland, less sense of aristocrats revisiting their memories, than I would have preferred and have become accustomed in subsequent years. My memory of the original cast is that they, too, danced a dance about dancers. The "ground" that Villella's character touches was -- for Robbins, for Villella, and (still) for me -- the floor of a studio or stage. Robbins once said that he would have liked to call it "dances in a rehearsal studio."

Among the interpretations I loved was that of young Sara Esty and Daniel Baker in the giggle dance. Esty, while not actually giggling, danced as though she were. Their movements were fast, clear as crystal, beautifully in sync, joyful, sunny, effervescent, you name it. A woman behind me said during the applause: "They're adorable." And they were.

As for Who Cares? I agree that MCB's approach doesn't have the feel and authentic style of the NYCB original cast. (I don't really remember the first few NYCB revivals and haven't seen this in 25 years.) I don't know if I would go as far as to accuse Miami of "aesthetic cluelessness," but I do feel, that they would have benefited from looking at videos of artists better versed in this style. (Like you, I found myself wishing that they had had a deep-immersion course in the Hollywood musicals of the day.) The corps clearly did not know what to project. Young dancers -- and the corps is VERY young, full of school apprentices and people recently out of school -- need direction. Otherwise, they full into a natural "Hey kids, let's put on a show" mode, and that is what we got.

Having said that, I guess I don't find this ballet as profound (either aesthetically or culturally) as some, so I many be less concerned abut keeping it pure.

I liked the principals much better than the corps or soloists. Jeanette Delgado -- back after missing 2 programs due to injury -- was amazing in Embraceable You and especially My One and Only. (Corps member Jennifer Lauren was quite good, I thought, in the same part, though inevitably not as finished.) Kronenberg was at the top of her considerable form in s'Wonderful and Fascinatin' Rhythm. Patricia Delgado surprised me by the way she handled the multiple shifts of weight, stop-starts, and jazzy effects in Fascinating Rhythm. Her performance was a real show stopper.

The men were weaker. They had an excuse. With the disappearance of Sarabia, Penteado and Guerra had to dance every performance of both ballets. They were clearly exhausted by the end, something you could see in the lifts and in less than usual accuracy with turns and landings. Yang Zou partnered well as the Green Boy, but the great treat was the student apprentice, Renan Cedeiro. Talk about progress in just a single year in the U.S. He's a natural stage performer, with long legs, expressive arms, a winning smile, and all the speed, flexibility, jumping, turning, concern for his partner, etc., that predicts a really good future.

In the absence of Alex Wong (out of this set of performances) and Cox (gone from the company), no one left has that American hoofer skill that Villella, d'Amboise, Woetzel had in New York. Recruiting men -- and a souple of strong classicists wouldn't hurt either -- should be a goal.

Also: they need more in the way of ballet master/mistressing. Deanna Seay not only has had a rich and wonderful career, she is (I'm told) a fine teacher. And she is very thoughtful about ballet. She cares about the art. I hope they are thinking of her when it comes to reconstructing their rather out-of-balance ballet mistress/ ballet master organization.

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jsmu, I very much appreciate the long experience with both works that you brought to the MCB performances. I have much less experience, so of course I had a slightly different take on the program and the way it was danced. My viewing was much influenced by your earlier long review, so I hope you will forgive me if I address this post to you directly.

I think we agree on Deanna Seay's Woman in Green and Jennifer Kronenberg's Mauve and Green. I understand the quality of "monotone" that you found in Katia Carranza's Pink, but I found a lot more than that. This is the central role in the ballet, and Carranza is not Patricia McBride. But there was something to be said for her elegant dancing and her understated emotionality. I've grown to appreaciate Patricia Delgado, who I think has become a much more subtle performer and quite a versatile dancer. Delgado, dancing with the 17-year-old wonder apprentice Renan Cedeiro, did a marvellous Pink/Green pdd at the Saturday matinee.

Dances at a Gathering is one of my favorite works and it rarely fails to draw me in and bring me just to the edge of tears. I saw the original cast. I've seen a number of more recent great dancers in the roles. Speaking for myself only, MCB's version does not reach the emotional heights, but it is lovely dancing. It also had a story of its own. Villella speaks frequently of something Robbins said: that this was a ballet about the camaraderie of dancers working and performing together. I felt that connection among the dancers very strongly. There was less of Poland, less sense of aristocrats revisiting their memories, than I would have preferred and have become accustomed in subsequent years. My memory of the original cast is that they, too, danced a dance about dancers. The remarkably intricate interplay of dancers in the group numbers was especially well done. The "ground" that Villella's character touches was -- for Robbins, for Villella, and for many of those from that early generation -- the floor of a studio or stage. Robbins once said that he would have liked to call it "dances in a rehearsal studio." It's a valid interpretation, and that is what I saw this weekend.

Among the interpretations I loved was that of young Sara Esty and Daniel Baker in the giggle dance. Esty, while not actually giggling, danced as though she were. Their movements were fast, clear as crystal, beautifully in sync, joyful, sunny, effervescent, you name it. A woman behind me said during the applause: "They're adorable." And they were.

As for Who Cares? I agree that MCB's approach doesn't have the feel and authentic style of the NYCB original cast. (I don't really remember the first few NYCB revivals and haven't seen this in 25 years.) I don't know if I would go as far as to accuse Miami of "aesthetic cluelessness," but I do feel, that they would have benefited from looking at videos of artists better versed in this style. (Like you, I found myself wishing that they had had a deep-immersion course in the Hollywood musicals of the day.) The corps clearly did not know what to project. Young dancers -- and the corps is VERY young, full of school apprentices and people recently out of school -- need direction. Otherwise, they full into a natural "Hey kids, let's put on a show" mode, and that is what we got.

Having said that, I admit I don't find this ballet as profound (either aesthetically or culturally) as some, so I many be less concerned abut keeping it pure.

I liked the principals much better than the corps or soloists. Jeanette Delgado -- back after missing 2 programs due to injury -- was amazing in Embraceable You and especially My One and Only. (Corps member Jennifer Lauren was quite good, I thought, in the same part, though inevitably not as finished.) Kronenberg was at the top of her considerable form in s'Wonderful and Fascinatin' Rhythm. Patricia Delgado surprised me by the way she handled the multiple shifts of weight, stop-starts, and jazzy effects in Fascinating Rhythm. Her performance was a real show stopper.

The men were weaker. They had an excuse. With the disappearance of Sarabia, Penteado and Guerra had to dance every performance of both ballets. They were clearly exhausted by the end, something you could see in the lifts and in less than usual accuracy with turns and landings. Yang Zou partnered well as the Green Boy, but the big treat was the student apprentice, Renan Cedeiro. Talk about progress in just a single season. He's a natural stage performer, with long legs, expressive arms, a winning smile, and all the speed, flexibility, jumping, turning, concern for his partner, etc., that predicts a really good future.

In the absence of Alex Wong (out of this set of performances) and Cox (gone from the company), no one left has that American hoofer skill that Villella, d'Amboise, Woetzel had in New York. Recruiting such men -- and a couple of strong classicists wouldn't hurt either -- should be a goal.

Also: they need more in the way of ballet master/mistressing. Deanna Seay not only has had a rich and wonderful career, she is (I'm told) a fine teacher, and she is thoughtful and articulate about ballet. She cares about the art and speaks its language. I hope they are thinking of Seay if and when they decide to reconstruct their rather out-of-balance ballet mistress/ ballet master organization.

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