Natalia

BNC @ Kennedy Center 2011: Mixed Bill & Don Q

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Has there been any casting for NBC's performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music?

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La Magia de la Danza opener at the Kennedy Center. Was that FUN last night or WHAT? Extraordinary evening of classical dance - that's pure, unadulterated classical dance, my friends. As one rarely sees anywhere else on earth nowadays. No out-of-whack penchees. Perfect 5th landings from the men. No glossed-over steps; everything crystal-clear. Nothing punched-out for the sake of extremes. Easy-as-pie multi-fouettes from women and the troupe's trademark centered and speed-changing pirouettes from the guys. Phenomenal technique and 'tricks' delivered in a nonchalant manner. No straining. So refreshing! [Well, Miss Viengsay did push the envelope with those Don Q pdd balances...but that is Kitri and she is Miss V, so all is forgiven...and I was right there, whooping and hollering with the rest of the audience...]

One after the other, the 'hits' kept rolling: Swan Lake, Beauty, Coppelia, Giselle, Nutcracker, Don Q, etc. The very young-looking lad (Osiel Gounod) dancing the pdd from Coppelia totally blew the lid off the house. His Swanhilda was also very impressive: Grettel Morejon. Then the audience went even nuttier at the end, with an instant standing-o for La Alonso. Welcome to Washington, mis amigos! :clapping:

Edited to add: Here's a peek at Osiel Gounod..the only thing that I could find on YouTube and a shaky picture, but you get the idea.

Here's another of Gounod, in Bluebird pdd:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlaCn-0al7c

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Edited to add: Here's a peek at Osiel Gounod..the only thing that I could find on YouTube and a shaky picture, but you get the idea.

Wow, he slices right through the air, doesn't he?

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....Wow, he slices right through the air, doesn't he?

Indeed. I Googled his name & there's very little info on him right now. The KennCen playbill lists him as Principal (one step below the very highest rank of 'Primeros Bailarines'). Most of the short reports on the internet seem to be from this season -- recent UK and Spain tours, e.g., in Spain, he was a sensation as the Jester in the full Swan Lake. Even though he is shortish, he possesses lovely lines and real elegance, like Baryshnikov. Gorgeous pointed toes in something as simple as a tendu pose. VERY engaging personality, even when just glancing at his Swanhilda...natural charmer. Love him! Not-to-be-missed!!!

Can't wait for tonight's DON Q opener, when Gounod is slated to dance the Young Gypsy...a role that, in the Alonso version, includes a bravura solo. It's a real shame that he doesn't yet dance Basilio (at least not on this tour).

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Don Quixote opener last night at the Kennedy Center did not disappoint. My 'Gypsy Boy' Osiel Gounod was as thrilling and scene-stealing as ever, e.g., after his solo, while the spotlight shines on Kitri, Basil and Don Q, there's a choreographed moment in which the surrounding gypsies react & the main Gypsy Lad (Gounod) performs a pirouette among crowd (spotlight on principals, not him) -- WHAT a pirouette, that went on for 20+ smooth, well-centered turns! I almost felt sorry for Alejandro Virelles, last night's Basil, who certainly is wonderful in his own way, if low on fire-power (not a jumper but a great turner, naturally charming and elegant of line).

Also impressive were last night's Espada & Mercedes, the long and elegant pairing of Jose Losada and Amaya Rodriguez. The tall Lissi Baez drew cheers for her Italian Fouettes as the Dryad Queen and petite Maureen Gil was simply fantastic as Amour, who, in this version, gets the traditional Kitri-Dulcinea variation. (Surprisingly, there was no Dream Scene variation for Kitri/Valdes.)

But the night belonged to Viengsay Valdes as Kitri, pushing the technical envelope even further than before (and I've seen her live in this role in St Petersburg and with Washington Ballet, plus we have her on the DVD filmed in Paris):

Exhibit A: During Act III pdd adagio, balances were held even longer than on Tuesday's gala, one balance going on for about 15 seconds, after which she s-l-o-w-l-y unfurls the leg that was in arabesque, bringing it forward to a front attitude, making a nonchalant face as if to say "OK, now I'll begin to lower it to the floor." Audience errupted into yells and bravos, right in the middle of the adagio. Then the piece de resistance...

Exhibit B: During the pdd coda, the famous sequence of 32 fouettes began with -- how do you say it? There are doubles, triples, quads...but what is the equivalent word for a fouette of TEN spins??? :jawdrop: No joke - the first fouette was 10 spins around, perfectly centered, then on to some triples and doubles, ending in a solid series of singles, capped by a triple. (I think I got that right.)

Another night at the Cuban Ballet, with instant standing-o at the end of the show, and some of the wildest, loudest cheering for a ballet heard in this theater since, perhaps, Osipova/Vasiliev's landmark Don Q with the Bolshoi ca 2007/08.

So the sets and costumes were a tad tacky to my eyes? It really didn't matter. The movement, vem & vigor on the stage made this a five-star night at the ballet. Performances of Don Q continue through the weekend, each with a totally different cast of principals.

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I'm so glad you enjoyed the performance, Natasha. I wish I could have gone to cheer my people there, but my crazy work schedule didn't allow me to. A little trivia note....back when I was still in Cuba I belonged to the "Lornistas"....(fans of Lorna Feijoo), and so Miss V. was "the enemy"... :P . Now she's the reigining queen, as I can see. Good for her!! I really wish her the most of success in her carreer. :clapping:

Edited to add: I wonder why Mme. doesn't expand a little "La Magia" to include stuff from "Bayadere" and "Fille"... that would be good...!

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...back when I was still in Cuba I belonged to the "Lornistas"....(fans of Lorna Feijoo), and so Miss V. was "the enemy"... :P . Now she's the reigining queen, as I can see. Good for her!!

....I wonder why Mme. doesn't expand a little "La Magia" to include stuff from "Bayadere" and "Fille"... that would be good...!

Thanks for the little rivalry scoop, Christian. Speaking of Mme...guess who was sitting three boxes to our left at last night's performance? And guess whose box I had the audacity to enter during one of the intermissions? Aha...aha! You know who! This one went a lot better than our little foray into the Met's "royal box" last year. I got to talk at length with Mme and her very kind & handsome husband, Mr. Simon, with practically nobody else around us. This absolutely made my day...made my year, to be honest. No autograph - no photo or other 'fan' things. That would have killed the spell. This was a time to GIVE my respect and appreciation, not TAKE away.

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Natalia, you attempted to go into the MET royal box. :jawdrop: Usually the ushers there are ready to draw weapons if you don't belong there.

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Natalia, you attempted to go into the MET royal box. :jawdrop: Usually the ushers there are ready to draw weapons if you don't belong there.

LOTS of people were "paying homage" to La Alonso at the Met, at last year's ABT 90th B'day bash. No security guards that I could see. We got into the actual box and were standing close but there were SO many people milling around that it was impossible to get face time. The KennCen situation was so nice and easy. It was not a gala "homage night'...just a normal tour performance, so no 'buzz' around the Grande Dame. And it's not as if I barged in with a camera and autograph book, going ga-ga. I got the feeling that she is genuinely touched and enjoys talking with her admirers. For somebody so imposing and tough-as-nails -- which she had to be to overcome so many adversities in her life -- there's a certain down-to-earth manner there. Hard to believe but true.

p.s. Of course, she was dressed to the nines in her salmon-pinkish (Freed pointe-shoe pink!) silk dress and matching head scarf. Hardly incognito.

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And Natalia, remember that while out of the "Royal BOx" at the MET we saw Mr. Franklin coming out and had that delightful chat with him...? That's when he asked me where had I seen that vintage footage of him dancing the DQ PDD with La Alonso... :clapping:

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And Natalia, remember that while out of the "Royal BOx" at the MET we saw Mr. Franklin coming out and had that delightful chat with him...? That's when he asked me where had I seen that vintage footage of him dancing the DQ PDD with La Alonso... :clapping:

Absolutely, cubanmiamiboy. It was truly a ROYAL Box at the Met that night.

Well, I bit the bullet and bought a last-minute ticket to today's 1:30pm matinee starring Barbara Garcia & Ernesto Alvarez...and the last chance to see Osiel Gounod in a featured role during this run(Gypsy Boy once again)! Also, I'm curious about seeing another Cuban ballerina besides Valdes as Kitri. I wasn't planning this at all but the Cuban bug has bitten, once again. Now I must hurry up and get ready.

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Yesterday's Saturday matinee Don Q by the Ballet Nacional de Cuba:

Barbara Garcia (Kitri) and Ernesto Alvarez (Basilio) conquered the Kennedy Center yesterday afternoon in every respect. As a couple, they were more balanced than the Valdes/Virelles opener, in which the lady clearly out-powered the gent. Both Garcia and Alvarez truly delivered the goods in all 3 acts, especially in the Act III pdd, in which they garnered a 'first' in my 30+ yrs of ballet-going: an instant standing ovation after the adagio (in the midst of the pdd)! Garcia's fouettes in the coda included a "four-corners set" (direction of the fouettes shifting four ways) towards the end.

The ensemble was full of delights, not only Osiel Gounod's Lead Gypsy Lad but also a magnificently turning Gypsy Girl (Amaya Rodriguez); an A++ Espada-Mercedes duo with Alfredo Ibanez (lovely double-tour jumps in assemble) and Jessie Dominguez; a light and airy rendition of Kitri's traditional Dream Scene variation by Grettel Morejon as Amour; and -- my discovery of the day -- the long and lyrical Etheysis Menendez delivering one of the most tastefully sublime Dryad Queen solos in our planet.

I am so happy to have bought the last-minute ticket to what turned out to be a magical performance. Cuba has more than one great Kitri in its ranks! Barbara Garcia -- petite and powerful -- has entered my Pantheon!

In general, this has been an amazing run. Most refreshing, for me, has been the rare opportunity of seeing a company in 2011 that dances with the academic purity of, say, 1960 or 1970s style. Nary an out-of-whack extension around. Some of the ladies may push the technical envelope but, in performing their feats, their positions are so wondrously pure. Finally, we see a top int'l company that doesn't try to turn every ballerina into a poor man's Sylvie Guillem. How very refreshing. I, for one, hope that 'globalization' never reaches Havana.

After the Cubans, the Danes have their work cut out for them to conquer the Kennedy Center audience, beginning this Tuesday. I hope that they can succeed. Let's see what the new Folk Tale and Napoli bring.

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Thank you, Christian! That 3rd clip (Kitri Act I solo) says it all. Amazing technique and guts - all of the time, throughout the ballet yesterday. I'm happy that you (not I) aluded to age...as, at first, I thought "un poco madurita"...but the thought disappeared quickly because she is petite and 'pert-cute' enough to get away with it.

It's a shame that it's so hard to find bio information on the current BNC stars and soloists anywhere. That, I believe, is the huge downfall of the otherwise-lovely coffee-table tome, Cuban Ballet, by Octavio Roca, i.e., that one buys it thiking that it has all of the inside scoop on the current (last 10 yrs) company and it turns out to be another bio-homage of Alonso. Practically ALL of the 'current' Cuban stars mentioned and pictured by Roca are exiles! We end up knowing more about the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami as about the current, actual dancers in Havana. And since I'm on my mini-rant about one recent book...the also-recent Jennifer Homans tome on the world history of ballet (Apollo's Angels) presents ZERO-ZILCH history on the Cuban ballet. If Homans would have devoted a few pages to Cuba, she would not have written her grim Epilogue that 'ballet is dead.'

Is there even an official BNC website with bios of the current dancers? There used to one and that URL has long expired and/or is very hard to access (computers tend to freeze). Right now, Christian, you are my A#1 source for information on current, active members of the BNC! :)

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I'm happy that you (not I) aluded to age...as, at first, I thought "un poco madurita"...but the thought disappeared quickly because she is petite and 'pert-cute' enough to get away with it.

Barbarita is just 43...she's just starting...see? :wink:

The problem I notice, Natasha, is that as soon as a certain ballerina or danseur is promoted and announced it on the site-(back when there were stil efforts to keep it current)-then, boom!, he or she joins the long list of exiles. I think they stopped the efforts of accuracy after the leaving of Correa, Carreno Jr. and more recently Frometa. It's just that the list is never completely "accurate" per se with the non stopping migration...

Miss V has been the only list "veteran" for a while as I can see...

And while in the subject of Barbarita, here are some other clips...

In Chopiniana

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WXzaSaASnM&feature=related

In Nutcracker

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGGC5pJo1Qo

As Odette in her transformation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYVEHT047q0&feature=related

As Lissette-(Fille Mal Gardee rehearsal)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYs_VSfGXN4

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....Barbarita is just 43.......

That makes her Saturday matinee at the Kennedy Center all the more spectacular. She has technique and style that most 20-something ballerinas elsewhere can only dream about. We need to treasure every performance by all of these Cuban stars (those still based in Havana, not in exile) before their magic is ruined by globalization. Kudos not only to Mme Alonso but to Head Ballet Mistress Maria Elena Llorente and to all of the coaching and teaching team that keeps pre-globalization style alive in this pocket of the world. Heaven forbid that, some day, the walls crumble,some Euro-trashy director becomes head of the company and begins to impose 180-degree extensions on their Dryad Queens and Auroras. (By "walls crumbling" I mean artistically, not politically. China is still communist but its ballet has globalized.)

And ever wonder why the Cuban female stars last so long in Cuba? Would a dancer who begins and ends her career straining for 180-degree extensions still be a ballerina, in her full glory, at age 43 in any other world-class company nowadays?

Edited to add: About their website - here is a link to their biographies section...err, maybe it should be titled "Biografia" as there is only one. Guess whose? :blushing:

http://www.balletcuba.cult.cu/Biografias/biografias.html

However, the "Roster" page yields a few bios of the current Primas/Principals:

http://www.balletcuba.cult.cu/Biografias/integrantes.asp.htm

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And ever wonder why the Cuban female stars last so long in Cuba? Would a dancer who begins and ends her career straining for 180-degree extensions still be a ballerina, in her full glory, at age 43 in any other world-class company nowadays?

That was exactly the baseline for which I started that "Giselle/Dubois" thread. Giselle is coming up next at MCB, and if there's just ONE ballerina I would have LOVE to see in the role it would be Miss Deanna Seay, who just retired at the advanced age-(by nowadays standards)-of early 40's. For what I could tell, her technical abilities were somewhat diminished compared to, let's say, Jeanette Delgado, but there was something in her way of dancing, in how she projected herself onstage that I, even not knowing nothing about ballet, could tell only comes with age and the relationship dancer/stage. It is certainly a shame that dancers sometime decide to retire afraid of being ridiculed by our youth-centered society Some performances are certainly not for everyone, but I'm sure I would not have standed by myself in line to buy a ticket for the 40'ish Miss Seay's performance. As for many others, there are plenty of Somovas out there.

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2011-06-07 - I just traveled to Washington DC last week to see three nights of Ballet Nacional de Cuba: Tuesday and Wednesday I saw "The Magic of Dance". On Friday I saw "Don Quijote". I can't help it but say that I was so dissapointed specially with Don Quijote. The Magic of Dance had its beautiful moments, but the dancers were weak in some areas, some stumbled, some lost their balance, most didn't do any thing extraordinary. It was mostly very common. The Don Quijote performance was poor. Yes, the Latin flavor of the dances was appealing, but the talent and technique was lacking in most of the dancers. All very, very young and inexperienced. It is clear that the BNC has lost its main artery of talent and artistry. Sad. For so many years BNC was a treasure. I cannot speculate about the reasons for the exodus of talent, but I only hope that a new artistic director will bring new ideas, a new business model, new choreographies, more talent.

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2011-06-07 - I just traveled to Washington DC last week to see three nights of Ballet Nacional de Cuba: Tuesday and Wednesday I saw "The Magic of Dance". On Friday I saw "Don Quijote". I can't help it but say that I was so dissapointed specially with Don Quijote. The Magic of Dance had its beautiful moments, but the dancers were weak in some areas, some stumbled, some lost their balance, most didn't do any thing extraordinary. It was mostly very common. The Don Quijote performance was poor. Yes, the Latin flavor of the dances was appealing, but the talent and technique was lacking in most of the dancers. All very, very young and inexperienced. It is clear that the BNC has lost its main artery of talent and artistry. Sad. For so many years BNC was a treasure. I cannot speculate about the reasons for the exodus of talent, but I only hope that a new artistic director will bring new ideas, a new business model, new choreographies, more talent.

Hi, Cuban... :tiphat:

Some fellow members of this board I'm sure would expect me to contradict your statement, but reality is...I do agree with it. Long story short, I haven't seen my homeland company since 2001, when I left. Back then the company was facing was it is said to be the very last breath of the old school wave. The "Four Jewels" were not longer dancing-(two of them had passed away, sadly)...the "Three Graces" were in exile after years of neglect and were not actively dancing any longer, and only-(for me)-Miss Lorna Feijoo personified that aura that characterized those great ballerinas. Same with the danseurs, after the departing of Acosta, Carreno and Sarabita. I never got to see Barbara Garcia-(I think she came from Ballet de Camaguey, another company), and as I have said already, Miss V was "the enemy" :) . Anyway...I've seen the videos and I do agree with Natasha that Garcia and Valdes have strong technique, but to be honest, I haven't seen dancers of the caliber of Esquivel , Josefina, Charin, Acosta, Ofelia, Marta or Sarabita. Miss V could be a potential candidate, but she still misses the "princess" demeanor onstage for the Auroras and Raymondas.

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.....I haven't seen dancers of the caliber of Esquivel , Josefina, Charin, Acosta, Ofelia, Marta or Sarabita. Miss V could be a potential candidate, but she still misses the "princess" demeanor onstage for the Auroras and Raymondas.

I can't disagree with you, cubanmiamiboy, because I did see "Super Jewel" (Alicia), the Four Jewels and the Three Graces in 1978 in Puerto Rico, which will be hard to top in any era. The two men in the recent DC tour who are of the old school calibre, to me, are Osiel Gounod and Jose Lozada, neither of whom was given the role of Basilio in the weekend Don Qs.

Where I strongly disagree -- and I believe that the majority of the enthralled Kennedy Center audience last week will disagree - is in CubaninUSA's assertion that stumbling and losing balance was "very common" in last week's performances. No way! I have reviewed my detailed notes and the only stumbles in the initial Magia de la Danza were in two partnering off-moments: Swan Lake pdd, in which Arencibia and her partner finished one of the last supported pirouettes sloppily (and any mishap near the end of a piece is magnified) and a botched supported pirouette by Valdes/Virelles during the diagonal in which Basilio steps away from Kitri and she balances while posed in back attitude. Valdes was unable to take the final pose because of a partnering error with the axis of the pirouette. The BIG problem, as I see it, is the relative lack of firepower & partnering inexperience by some of the male leading soloists. Plainly stated, the men who should be the huge stars right now have all left.

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.....I haven't seen dancers of the caliber of Esquivel , Josefina, Charin, Acosta, Ofelia, Marta or Sarabita. Miss V could be a potential candidate, but she still misses the "princess" demeanor onstage for the Auroras and Raymondas.

I can't disagree with you, cubanmiamiboy, because I did see "Super Jewel" (Alicia), the Four Jewels and the Three Graces in 1978 in Puerto Rico, which will be hard to top in any era. The two men in the recent DC tour who are of the old school calibre, to me, are Osiel Gounod and Jose Lozada, neither of whom was given the role of Basilio in the weekend Don Qs.

Where I strongly disagree -- and I believe that the majority of the enthralled Kennedy Center audience last week will disagree - is in CubaninUSA's assertion that stumbling and losing balance was "very common" in last week's performances. No way! I have reviewed my detailed notes and the only stumbles in the initial Magia de la Danza were in two partnering off-moments: Swan Lake pdd, in which Arencibia and her partner finished one of the last supported pirouettes sloppily (and any mishap near the end of a piece is magnified) and a botched supported pirouette by Valdes/Virelles during the diagonal in which Basilio steps away from Kitri and she balances while posed in back attitude. Valdes was unable to take the final pose because of a partnering error with the axis of the pirouette. The BIG problem, as I see it, is the relative lack of firepower & partnering inexperience by some of the male leading soloists. Plainly stated, the men who should be the huge stars right now have all left.

It is unfortunate that no one has reported on the Sunday performance of DQ. Dani Hernandez and Anette Delgado stunned the audience with their performance, which was nearly equal to the Paris DVD version with the added advantage of live music. The Tuesday night DQ was disappointing, other than the number of on pointe balances by Valdez, but the lifts were not in the same league compared to the DVD with a much better Basilio, Romel. We had a hint of this wonderful Delgado/Hernandez pairing on Tuesday in Giselle, I hope Alonso eventually makes a DQ DVD with this pair and live music. It would be better than any of the 5 other DQs on DVD we own.

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2011-06-07 - I just traveled to Washington DC last week to see three nights of Ballet Nacional de Cuba: Tuesday and Wednesday I saw "The Magic of Dance". On Friday I saw "Don Quijote". I can't help it but say that I was so dissapointed specially with Don Quijote. The Magic of Dance had its beautiful moments, but the dancers were weak in some areas, some stumbled, some lost their balance, most didn't do any thing extraordinary. It was mostly very common. The Don Quijote performance was poor. Yes, the Latin flavor of the dances was appealing, but the talent and technique was lacking in most of the dancers. All very, very young and inexperienced. It is clear that the BNC has lost its main artery of talent and artistry. Sad. For so many years BNC was a treasure. I cannot speculate about the reasons for the exodus of talent, but I only hope that a new artistic director will bring new ideas, a new business model, new choreographies, more talent.

Hi, Cuban... :tiphat:

Some fellow members of this board I'm sure would expect me to contradict your statement, but reality is...I do agree with it. Long story short, I haven't seen my homeland company since 2001, when I left. Back then the company was facing was it is said to be the very last breath of the old school wave. The "Four Jewels" were not longer dancing-(two of them had passed away, sadly)...the "Three Graces" were in exile after years of neglect and were not actively dancing any longer, and only-(for me)-Miss Lorna Feijoo personified that aura that characterized those great ballerinas. Same with the danseurs, after the departing of Acosta, Carreno and Sarabita. I never got to see Barbara Garcia-(I think she came from Ballet de Camaguey, another company), and as I have said already, Miss V was "the enemy" :) . Anyway...I've seen the videos and I do agree with Natasha that Garcia and Valdes have strong technique, but to be honest, I haven't seen dancers of the caliber of Esquivel , Josefina, Charin, Acosta, Ofelia, Marta or Sarabita. Miss V could be a potential candidate, but she still misses the "princess" demeanor onstage for the Auroras and Raymondas.

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Thanks,Natalie, for all of your great insights re performances last week at Kennedy Center of BNC. I was disappointed that I was unable to attend Thurs. "Don Quixote", so I appreciate your review all the more. I was there for 3 of performances and concur with your well-expressed assessments. This is one of my favorite companies as my training was very similar. One of my teachers in NYC was Leon Fokine, who had been one of Alonzo's partners and colleagues at time of revolution (Incidentally, expected us to do triple pirouettes from knee).

I remember one of the directors of Bolshoi very wisely saying that a dancer doesn't become an artist until they are 35 years..... great technique, yes,....but not matured or experienced enough to be a true artist. One can't make a flower bloom too soon; it needs nurturing. Otherwise, will blossom quickly and fade just as quickly. This is my concern for those who have defected and become superstars in other companies.

Yes, we should cherish all these precious moments of Cuban ballet stars while we have the opportunity to do so. Alas, globalization will invade their ballet training and repertoire soon enough.

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Hi, Cubanmiamiboy: Brings back fond memories of this company.....will never forget Alicia Alonzo's final performance of "Giselle" with Jorge Esquival at the Met. The audience went wild with enthusiasm. I believe that she was in her 60's, but her artistry and that of Esquival etc. would rival any of the young stars of today. I am sorry you couldn't be with us this past week at The Kennedy Center.

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