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

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#31 bart


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Posted 20 April 2010 - 12:53 PM

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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