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Villella To Step Down from MCB


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#196 California

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 04:10 PM

But San Francisco is moving away from Balanchine - only two pieces are programmed for next year, a reprise of Scotch Symphony and Symphony in Three Movements . . .


I can't find this anywhere on their web site. Have they issued a press release somewhere? Symphony in Three Movements is one of my very favorites - might be worth a trip!

#197 Helene

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 04:12 PM

But San Francisco is moving away from Balanchine - only two pieces are programmed for next year, a reprise of Scotch Symphony and Symphony in Three Movements - and in the direction of Neumeier and Lifar - sort of bas relief, high drama works. So the continuation of a living Balanchine repertoire would seem to depend on City Ballet and Miami.

I think the reason it's true of SFB is that they take so many of the corps from the school, not SAB, and so many of their Principal Dancers were trained in Europe or Russia. The companies that take a bunch of their corps from SAB and/or who have trained with Balanchine disciples are performing small segments of the Balanchine rep and keeping it alive in both exposure and style. That's certainly true of PNB.

About Lopez, through much of her career as I saw it (until 1994), she was a limby dancer, but in the last few years I saw her, she found her center and became a much stronger dancer.

That review of Croce's wasn't the only one or her final word, although I think she was right in wanting the famous Balanchine "More!" from her. In her 10 June 1985 review of the newly revived "Firebird" for Merrill Ashley, Croce wrote:

If you are lucky, you see Lourdes Lopez as the Firebird and Helene Alexopoulos as the Princess-two handsome brunettes of the Chagallian sensuousness...

Lopez, the ballerina who fits it best, was given one performance, impressive in every way but somewhat too cautious.


I didn't that performance with Lopez and Alexopoulos, but one in the week before the "Nutcracker" later that year, back when they did a week of rep to start the Winter Season, and then again the following June with Diana White as the Princess.

Lopez was my favorite of the three -- Ashley, who I thought was rather harsh, and Kozlova, who I thought was too glamorous, along with Lopez -- although she danced it least often. I've written before that I thought Lopez was wonderful in Tallchief roles, like Firebird and Sugar Plum Fairy, and she danced with stature and clarity in "Theme and Variations", in which I saw her as part of the full ballet, "Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3" with Ib Andersen and in the Pas de Deux with Peter Frame for the 1988 Dancers' Emergency Fund benefit.

I think she worked very hard to become a better dancer, and that this will help her in her new role.

#198 California

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 04:16 PM


But San Francisco is moving away from Balanchine - only two pieces are programmed for next year, a reprise of Scotch Symphony and Symphony in Three Movements . . .


I can't find this anywhere on their web site. Have they issued a press release somewhere? Symphony in Three Movements is one of my very favorites - might be worth a trip!

It looks like it was just announced today. I found these news stories with help from Google:
http://www.sfgate.co.../DDO11O00DF.DTL
http://odettesordeal...pertory-season/

Just found it on their web site, too:
http://www.sfballet....on_Announcement

Single tickets go on sale November 14, 2012.

#199 Quiggin

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 04:22 PM

California

I can't find this anywhere on their web site.


The website is handsome but difficult to navigate - you have to go through the tiny media center link at the bottom of the page. Among the new pieces:

Wayne McGregor is creating his first commission for SF Ballet. The Company has previously performed two of his works: Eden/Eden and Chroma.


http://www.sfballet....on_Announcement

#200 mira

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 04:30 PM

[font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]Not to overlook PA Ballet - they continue to have an active Balanchine rep, with 5 (2 full lengths and 3 one acts) programmed for next season. Many of their dancers are SAB trained and they've taken 7 new SAB trained dancers in just the last 3 years. Interesting as well to note, that SFB has just offered contracts to two SAB trained dancers for next season.[/size][/font]

#201 bart

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 05:24 PM

Lopez was my favorite of the three -- Ashley, who I thought was rather harsh, and Kozlova, who I thought was too glamorous, along with Lopez -- although she danced it least often. I've written before that I thought Lopez was wonderful in Tallchief roles, like Firebird and Sugar Plum Fairy, and she danced with stature and clarity in "Theme and Variations", in which I saw her as part of the full ballet, "Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3" with Ib Andersen and in the Pas de Deux with Peter Frame for the 1988 Dancers' Emergency Fund benefit.

It's good to read about this because it places Lopez in context as a dancer. My memories of Firebird are probably fairly vivid because that was the first Balanchine ballet I ever saw (1957) I was especially nterested in it during its revivals. Helene, thanks for reminding us about the "Tallchief roles." By the mid-1970s lots of NYCB dancers had the technique to perform these roles. Lopez, it seems from what I read, was one of the rare dancers who had the personality and the stage presence to make these roles memorable.

I wonder if it is possible to "teach" these qualities. The Miami Herald statement says that Lopez taught a class at MCB earlier this year. Does anyone have an information about her involvement in teaching That's an important role Villella plays..

#202 sandik

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 09:37 AM

ViolinConcerto

But I can't completely concur with those of you who have said that a dancer's style will be transmitted to a Company when they become director.


It does somewhat, at least with the earlier generation of Balanchine dancers. Suzanne Farrell's company seems to have something of an introverted - working out from within - character, if that's her style, which did beautifully for La Sonnambula but not for Union Jack. Edward Villella and his company it seems to me is more outward directed and in the expression and sizzle of counterpoint and the complete realization of the architecture of the choreography. Helgi Tomasson's is about a certain elegance and honesty and beautiful finish of each dancer's entrance and exit, perhaps at the expense the overall effect of the choreography, at least Balanchine's. Croce said Tomasson's "grasp of style has about it an almost moral tenacity." It never seems dangerous or that it's about to break all the rules.


I think that part of what you're seeing has to do with size, however. With companies like Farrell's in DC, Miami or San Francisco (or PNB here in Seattle) you've got a medium sized ensemble that works on fewer dances at any one time -- there's a more hot house feel to the preparation and performance, and that may mean a more direct sense of emulation when it comes to dancers modeling themselves on their directors and coaches.

With something like Farrell's group, where she's staging works that were made on her, and in some cases bringing works back from the almost dead, that sense of lineage and heritage may be even stronger.

But San Francisco is moving away from Balanchine - only two pieces are programmed for next year, a reprise of Scotch Symphony and Symphony in Three Movements - and in the direction of Neumeier and Lifar - sort of bas relief, high drama works. So the continuation of a living Balanchine repertoire would seem to depend on City Ballet and Miami.


In the case of San Francisco, do you think that the fact they were led by working choreographers for many years (Christensen and Smuin) has anything to do with their performance of the Balanchine repertory?

#203 checkwriter

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 09:58 AM

I wonder if it is possible to "teach" these qualities. The Miami Herald statement says that Lopez taught a class at MCB earlier this year. Does anyone have an information about her involvement in teaching That's an important role Villella plays..


She taught at Ballet Academy East in NYC for several years, just before she left to head the Balanchine Foundation. A number of the blurbs say she was an 'administrator' there, which she was, but her main role was as a teacher in the graded level program. IMHO she was one of the best that they had there at the time, and the MCB dancers are in for a treat.

It also helps that (contrary to what some stories say) she wasn't so much a 'prodigy' as a dancer as she was smart, hard-working, and of course talented. In terms of "teaching" certain qualities, I think it's easier to learn from someone who had to fight to figure things out for herself than from someone to whom they came naturally. It's like trying to work with a math tutor - I'd rather work with someone who had to grind it through and can show me several ways to attack the same problem than with someone who instantly sees one way to get it done but has trouble doing it other ways.

#204 Helene

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 10:09 AM

In the case of San Francisco, do you think that the fact they were led by working choreographers for many years (Christensen and Smuin) has anything to do with their performance of the Balanchine repertory?

I don't think it has anything to do with the way they perform Balanchine, which I've seen numerous times over the last 16 years: their leader for the last 25+ years has been Helgi Tomasson, and there are few affiliated with SFB that were there for Smuin, and the rest of their rep has been decidedly, if not exclusively, neoclassical, which hones many of the physical skills needed to perform Balanchine. There have also been a number of Balanchine dancers, like Gloria Govrin and Elyse Borne, who worked for the school and/or company.

SFB, with 70 dancers is a lot bigger than Suzanne Farrell Ballet (28), Miami City Ballet (42 + 1 apprentice not announced for corps promotion), or PNB (42+4 apprentices). Of other companies that have/have had significant Balanchine rep are: Boston Ballet has 54, Pennsylvania Ballet has 32+4 apprentices, Ballet Arizona has 26+4 apprentices and Kansas City Ballet has 24 dancers. (The two largest companies in the US are NYCB with 87, far less than their largest at around 110, and ABT with 86.)

Even after significant cuts bringing the size down to 70, those extra 25 or so dancers make a big difference in the rep that SFB can present, and I think the programming challenges for that company are different than in the smaller companies. I think size impacts how much Balanchine they program, as well as the training of the dancers, especially the Principal Dancers, hired from outside the company, for whom Balanchine wasn't a given.

#205 sandik

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 10:31 AM

t also helps that (contrary to what some stories say) she wasn't so much a 'prodigy' as a dancer as she was smart, hard-working, and of course talented. In terms of "teaching" certain qualities, I think it's easier to learn from someone who had to fight to figure things out for herself than from someone to whom they came naturally. It's like trying to work with a math tutor - I'd rather work with someone who had to grind it through and can show me several ways to attack the same problem than with someone who instantly sees one way to get it done but has trouble doing it other ways.


I agree -- I've seen this play out over and over again, in many different situations. Someone that we describe as a "natural" (facility comes easily) may be a pleasure to watch and a challenge to analyze, but they don't necessarily have the objective understanding of "how" they do what they do.

#206 Helene

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 10:33 AM

From one of the interviews from the "Balanchine Celebration", she spoke about being afraid that she wouldn't "get" it, but that Balanchine assured her that "One day, you will know." Of course, not everyone was as prescient as Balanchine in seeing this, but it shows me she understands the importance of giving a dancer with potential that confidence that he or she will reach his potential.

#207 Quiggin

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 10:50 AM

sandik

In the case of San Francisco, do you think that the fact they were led by working choreographers for many years (Christensen and Smuin) has anything to do with their performance of the Balanchine repertory?


Lew Christensen and Jocelyn Vollmar had been Balanchine dancers, Christensen a late 30's Apollo and Vollmar in one of the first casts of The Four Temperaments. In the late nineties under Tomasson the company was doing Balanchine regularity, but there seems to be a change of emphasis as a result perhaps of teaching staff changes. A strong Balanchine coach left, and with Bruce Sansom as ballet master, there's been a move towards a MacMillan, Neumeier, Cranko esthetic. My sense is that the audience is more comfortable with opera-ballet type ballets - San Francisco is a good, if traditionalist, opera town - than modernist fare. Even Chroma seemed to be on probationary status the first year.

Regarding transmitting a role at SFB, there is a good Interpreter's Archive video of Helgi Tomasson teaching part of The Fairy's Kiss - the extraordinary solo Balanchine cobbled together for him out of two roles in the original. It doesn't quite take with the same haunted depth on Gonzalo Garcia, a more extroverted dancer, but I would have loved to have seen it performed here. I think PNB revived it last season.

Have there been any particularly memorable dancer/performances at Miami that have embodied a signature Villella style or approach - or too many to count?

#208 Quiggin

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 11:19 AM

Helene

I think size impacts how much Balanchine they program, as well as the training of the dancers, especially the Principal Dancers, hired from outside the company, for whom Balanchine wasn't a given.


Yes, the size allows double and triple casts - and big productions such as the wonderful Coppelia, co-produced last year with PNB, and Jewels three years ago with an especially good Emeralds.

However, sometimes it's just too big, with corps members wandering back and forth in loops in the background and defocussing the main action. SFB's Petroushka was an overstuffed thing - Diaghilev's stage and cast I assume was fairly small, more like the scale of Paul Taylor's version. I always wonder how different Balanchine's works must have looked when they moved from City Center to the voracious stage of State Theater.

#209 Helene

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 11:21 AM

Yes, the size allows double and triple casts - and big productions such as the wonderful Coppelia, co-produced last year with PNB, and Jewels three years ago with an especially good Emeralds.

Both of them superb, and well worth the trip to see them!

#210 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 02:17 PM

(Quiggin)

I always wonder how different Balanchine's works must have looked when they moved from City Center to the voracious stage of State Theater.


In the video biography of Balanchine, he says that he always envisioned a large theater and large stage and had composed with that in mind.


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