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Villella To Step Down from MCB


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#241 Birdsall

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 07:36 PM

Yes, maybe the board was grumbling for a while and actually did not necessarily mean this as a mean move against him, but they really thought they were doing what was best for the company. We don't really have the financial paperwork or the conversations that went on to guide us in our thoughts....maybe they kept telling him he needs to scale back and even warned him for years, but maybe he ignored......for us audience members it seems sudden and harsh and cruel.....maybe the writing was on the wall, but he couldn't believe they actually would force him out (People do think they are pivotal in a company even though history proves that everyone is expendable). We may never know what really happened. I would think wanting him or letting him or allowing him to stay (whatever the case may be) for one last season could have been their idea of being nice. Of course, he didn't view it as nice (he was still being ousted), but maybe they were determined but also did not mean to hurt him.

There is no way to know, but as a Floridian, I sure hope MCB doesn't go down the tubes!!!! I hope the board really thought this through, although the latest article makes me worry......but I hold out hope. And even if he did some things wrong financially he still founded and built up the company, so I hope the board finds a way to honor him even if he might view it as hollow. I think someone in the company should do a special presentation for him at the final show. Like I said, he might view it as hollow, but I still think it should be done. I think it would be horrible for the final show to end and that's that and he's gone without a word.

#242 bart

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 06:03 AM

Sandy, I agree with your post. This has been a thread looking at these events from several different perspectives. That's why, I suppose, I haven't read the thread as a disagreement so much as a real conversation.

If we focus on the future -- and especially on the need for reconciliation -- I do think that the key figure is Edward Villella. I have known Villella as a dancer since seeing him in his first NYCB season and am full of admiration and gratitude for what he has accomplished with MCB. The accomplishment is overwhelmingly his, along with those he has hired and inspired.

Villella is the only figure in this story with real stature in the larger world of the arts. Now the time has come for him re-define his artistry, as it were, by encouraging all the parties -- especially those fractious Board members and real or fantasy potential donors -- to start working towards maintaining MCB's current artistic position and keeping it going into the future. After all, the MCB company and rep are Villella's legacy. He has a great stake, personally and professionally, in seeing that this continues after he has moved on.

Many forces in the MCB community (which includes 4 other major performance locations, audiences, and donor groups, not just Miami-Dade) need to be drawn together. Who better to do this than a master -- though soon to be emeritus -- Artistic Director like Edward Villalla?

#243 SandyMcKean

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 06:51 AM

bart, as usual for me, your words ring of wisdom. I sincerely hope your vision will turn out to be very close to what will happen. I have little doubt that Villella is getting lots of coaching from many quarters in the arts world. Certainly he is much admired....and deservedly so.

I feel a particular kinship with MCB (even tho I have never seen it). I believe MCB and PNB to be very similar companies: both dominated by Balanchine's legacy and dancers; both started by ex-NYCB dancers; both far from the American hub of ballet in NYC; both chock full of young Balanchine-esque dancers who dance with enthusiasm and a lack of the cynicism that plagues much of the modern world. And most amazing of all, and for which I am constantly grateful, both cities have companies considered to be among the best in the country -- far outstripping what might normally be expected for cities our size.

#244 Birdsall

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 07:06 PM

What does everyone think of the quotes from Lopez?


http://oceandrive.co...into-the-future

She doesn't want MCB to become a museum and wants some new, edgier choreographers to come in. She names Nacho Duato as an example.

#245 Helene

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 08:26 PM

Francia Russell and Kent Stowell brough Nacho Duato's "Jardi Tancat" to City Center in the mid-90's. I'd hardly call him cutting edge.

#246 Drew

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 08:33 PM

Hesitate to comment since I know Miami City Ballet only by its excellent reputation. But I will say I appreciated Bart's most recent post: It does seem as if VIllella is the one figure who can make at least a little lemonade out of all these lemons for what is in a way "his" company. I understand that he may feel hurt and anger, but hope he can find a way -- that still answers to his sense of personal integrity -- to contribute to a more positive atmosphere (if that's possible) as he leaves the company.

Might help too if Lopez would reflect more openly in interviews about the fabulous legacy she gets to inherit. Regarding the interview Birdsall just posted more generally: I wish the best for Miami City Ballet and for Lopez and she may well turn out a great director. I also don't think Forsythe --whom she also mentions along w. Duato--would necessarily be a bad choice for a contemporary addition to the company's repertory (though, of course, neither example suggests she is much interested in the Alonso-inspired Cuban ballet tradition that exists in Florida...)

BUT I wish all ballet company directors/administrators/critics would stop saying they don't want ballet companies to 'become museums'--as if THAT were the hugest risk plaguing ballet companies. I would much rather hear them say that they don't want ballet companies to become modern dance companies...I even wonder if this particular figure of speech (the company should "not become a museum") is something that they are taught to say at "ballet co.-director" retreats run by marketers.

I actually think there is always a bit of sleight of hand going on with the anti-museum talk: basically it means 'we don't want just to present older works and/or works in older styles...' but one is somehow also supposed to hear 'boring, stultified, frozen-in-amber works.' Well, Giselle and, for that matter, Concerto Barocco or, indeed, In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, are older works, but a great production of any of those ballets is none of those things.

The word edgy in this context, or any of its variants (edgier, cutting edge) has lost any serious association with something...well...genuinely EDGY...but I guess it, too, is a kind of marketing-friendly shorthand, in this case for newer works that are not based solely on classical ballet vocabulary/tradition. Which is to say some kind of eclectic "contemporary" ballet-modern dance hybrid that, incidentally, was already being done decades ago.

In fact, I am a fan who quite likes to see new works, including the occasional contemporary work--& was certainly pleased Atlanta Ballet did a McGregor work this past season in lieu of some of their more "pop" ballet repertory. But I would say that Villella by bringing in premiers by Scarlett and Ratmansky has done pretty well by new work--that is, new ballet work--certainly in his final seasons. And that is the kind of thing ballet companies, underline 'ballet,' should be doing (when they can).

[This was edited after I first posted to mute somewhat my criticisms of words like "edgy" and "edgier" etc.]

#247 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 09:11 PM

The main thing for me is not what she says but what she puts on stage, but she says some things in that Ocean Drive article Birdsall links to which make more sense than her remarks in the Metamorphosen trailer (about the perfect union of sound and dance, or something; I wonder what her take on Merce is in that regard), although some of them worry me:

“The Miami City Ballet dancers are phenomenal, but the organization is kind of limping behind it.”


Not sure what she has in mind, but their mainstream-style marketing might be improved. They avoid advertising in classical-music programs, and the "details" about the ballets they offer to ticket shoppers are mostly hype, and little help to someone who wants to pick what to try next on the basis of past experience; this is in keeping with other ballet companies in my experience over the years. I wonder whether under Lopez MCB's marketing will take up the contemporary ballet-marketing theme: Ballet is hard! Really hard! This brings into the theater people looking for what they will rarely see - I know, I sit next to them, and I find it gratifying to relieve some of their confusion.

“What I don’t want is Miami City Ballet to become a museum”


Uh, oh. This is what Peter Martins, the NYCB director Lopez danced for the latter half of her career, the soloist (and principal?) part, said some decades ago. I've been wondering whether in consequence of that experience - or maybe drawing from the same influences Martins does, a desire for trendiness or something - she would turn MCB, a company that rewards my efforts to travel to see it, into another Martins-style NYCB, a company that does nothing for me. NYCB found its New Audience long ago, not so hard in a population with the size and wealth of New York; I think you can probably sell almost anything there, with the right PR campaign. Miami? We'll see, not that MCB has the following in Miami Balanchine's company had in new York. (MCB got a warmer reception in New York, and reportedly in Paris, than it does in south Florida.)

Interesting that Lopez finds the new Miami museums she drives by to be exciting, but doesn't want MCB to be one. Maybe those museums ban anything over five years old, what do I know? I don't think so, though.

#248 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 09:54 PM

I would much rather hear them say that they don't want ballet companies to become modern dance companies...


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#249 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 10:40 PM

Which reminds me that I enjoy Taylor more from Taylor's dancers than from Villella's.

But, following on my thought for a moment more, what Martins got looks like a museum to me, not that the repertory is old and dusty and remote but that their way of performing it became remote and uninvolved and so, un-involving, uninteresting. (Martins's own choreography just looks lacking in musical perception, empty; and the lavish mistake of Call Me Ben might better have been avoided). Villella's interesting dancers have a presence and an individuality like Balanchine's did. Lopez has high regard for them, and she must know how dancers are developed through learning repertory, although the way they are asked to dance that repertory is a major factor too. And her "dancepulp" interview on hulu shows her appreciation for Balanchine's community, which I believe Villella has also reproduced.

The trouble with the avant-garde is that we've usually seen it before; something great is nearly always new, whenever we visit it. It's never the same twice. (I think many dancers have a problem seeing only the technical when they look at a dance.)

#250 Helene

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 12:54 PM

BUT I wish all ballet company directors/administrators/critics would stop saying they don't want ballet companies to 'become museums'--as if THAT were the hugest risk plaguing ballet companies. I would much rather hear them say that they don't want ballet companies to become modern dance companies...I even wonder if this particular figure of speech (the company should "not become a museum") is something that they are taught to say at "ballet co.-director" retreats run by marketers.

Amen.

I actually think there is always a bit of sleight of hand going on with the anti-museum talk: basically it means 'we don't want just to present older works and/or works in older styles...' but one is somehow also supposed to hear 'boring, stultified, frozen-in-amber works.' Well, Giselle and, for that matter, Concerto Barocco or, indeed, In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, are older works, but a great production of any of those ballets is none of those things.

Since ballet is a tradition handed down orally, I think what we're supposed to think "museum" means that subsequent interpreters are little more than imitators of the original performers and that the stylistic changes that a choreographer makes in (mostly) his lifetime are ignored. For example, Balanchine had several different stylistic periods, usually driven by a muse. I'm sure that people who saw roles created for Adams, Hayden, Tallchief, and even McBride thought, "Wrong!" when Suzanne Farrell danced them, even though Farrell was his preferred performer. I agree with Patrice Bart, when in an interview with Marc Haegeman in danceviewtimes that "I would be the first to remind that we need proper coaching and that the colour of the work needs to be preserved, but on the other hand, what I would call “contre-emploi” can be revealing and bring out completely new aspects of a role. I think we have understood the success of it." In Farrell's case, like Guillem, she became the norm, or at least the thing to imitate, rather than the "contre," and that seemed to be with Balanchine's full approval. (Had he been well for another decade and worked with Kistler, the Farrell snapshot in time might have been superseded.)

When Martins took over NYCB under very different circumstances, all of the museum talk might have been self-serving, but the company had already shifted from many of what long-term supporters felt were its key beauties and virtues, the period in which Villella shined bright. The success of "Children of Balanchine" companies, like Villella at Miami City Ballet and Russell/Stowell at Pacific Northwest Ballet, abroad and in the New York-based press, was often based on Balanchine productions with the sensibility of a prior period of Balanchine's creativity. "Not turning into a museum" has become a buzz phrase put-down for "the past," and it covers all bases, including reconstructions and Paris Opera Ballet's performances of "Giselle." In context, I think the phrase = Villella.

“The Miami City Ballet dancers are phenomenal, but the organization is kind of limping behind it.”

Nothing like starting out playing nice with the other children in the sandbox. But very familiar talk in corporations, particularly after reorganizations.

#251 Quiggin

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:08 PM

I too was surprised by the use of the word museum, the implication being that the vibrant repertoire of MCB had become just that.

Could one say of the Museum of Modern Art or the Tate - that they have become irrelevant?

Anyway the twentieth century in the arts is upside down and out of order. In painting you could say everything is a footnote to Picabia/Duchamp on one hand and Picasso/Braque/Gris on the other. Jackson Pollock famously threw a Picasso book across the room, saying this guy’s already done everything.

As far as dance, many 1920’s era avant garde works are probably as interesting as those of the present after-modernism period - which under the flash and all the negative-space off balances seem oddly conservative and even reactionary.

OT

As to one of Helene’s comments - many of the others regarding the relation of art and business I fully agree with - I can’t go along with the assessment of Balanchine’s work as a function of his “Muses.” TJ Clark and Rosalind Krauss have done a great job in the last twenty years divesting Picasso studies of the Olga, Marie Therese, etc periods. (If you went that route, the Massine period of Picasso would be just as significant. And you could have a Bart Cook period of Balanchine.)

Some alternative ways of dividing up Balanchine (atemporal) periods or interests, sometimes discussed in small circulation journals:
  • The Waltzes - Cotillon/LeValse/Liebeslieder
  • Petipa anxiety.
  • With & against Stravinsky
  • The fertile Russian period of the twenties into The Four Temperaments & Agon. (“At Zheverzheyev’s living room [ca 1920], I saw the works of many left artists, including Malevich. I liked the pictures though I didn’t understand them.” changes our idea of Balanchine being naive about the visual arts until he met Diaghilev.)
  • Les Ballets 1933: Cotillon, Mozartiana, etc
  • Ballet Imperial & Square Dance, which MCB recently did so brillaintly, at least in the Paris tapes, as worlds in themselves.


#252 dirac

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:24 PM

TJ Clark and Rosalind Krauss have done a great job in the last twenty years divesting Picasso studies of the Olga, Marie Therese, etc periods. (If you went that route, the Massine period of Picasso would be just as significant. And you could have a Bart Cook period of Balanchine.)


I agree up to a point but there is no denying that the muses and the concept of the muse is crucial to Balanchine's work and inspiration in a way that was not true for Picasso. Balanchine certainly made many great roles for men, but none of them functioned as a primary and chosen source of inspiration, not even Villella.

Since ballet is a tradition handed down orally, I think what we're supposed to think "museum" means that subsequent interpreters are little more than imitators of the original performers and that the stylistic changes that a choreographer makes in (mostly) his lifetime are ignored.


Yes. When any director says that she doesn't want to run a museum, I take it to mean she doesn't want the company to be frozen in time, not that she has no interest in preserving core repertory. (Unless, of course, they say other things that suggest something else in mind. I'm willing to give Lopez the benefit of the doubt but going by the PBS broadcast MCB doesn't seem anything like a museum to me even if they didn't present new work on that program.)

#253 Helene

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:26 PM

I would argue that the Farrell period, at least, was driven by her style and her physical limitations and abilities. Hayden's famous complaint was that because Farrell had a bad knee, Balanchine stopped giving jumps in class, and how could they maintain their technique? The ballets he created for her were more assertively, straightly romantic in tone than almost anything he created for his first US companies. Even during the period where she danced with Bejart, of the three masterworks from the Stravinsky Festival, "Duo Concertante" and the "Aria II" segments were more emotionally charged romantic works than any of the other black and white ballets. (Equally emotionally charged was the Kent role in Ivesiana, but that was a different kettle of fish.) The third featured Villella :)

#254 Jack Reed

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:45 PM

I think of his "periods" - none of which ran simultaneously? - as including two Farrell periods, before and after her absence, the latter showing a return to something more like his former way of developing each dancer's individual talents rather than trying to make them like her. But I could easily be way off - I'm more into the works "in themselves", though noticing families among them helps - one of the ways you get something's uniqueness is by comparing it with similars.

Thanks for the Bart, quote, Helene; immediate contact like that with another intelligence in the world is very supportive in the present context.

#255 bart

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:46 PM

When any director says that she doesn't want to run a museum, I take it to mean she doesn't want the company to be frozen in time, not that she has no interest in preserving core repertory. (Unless, of course, they say other things that suggest something else in mind. I'm willing to give Lopez the benefit of the doubt but going by the PBS broadcast MCB doesn't seem anything like a museum to me even if they didn't present new work on that program.)

Absolutely. Lopez has on numerous occasions since her appointment talked about her devotion to the core Balanchine rep and to Balanchine training. We have linked and discussed several of these statements on other MCB threads.

Villella himself was open to contemporary work to fill in the spaces around MCB's core rep. His his dancers, who have worked with him almost every day of their employment, have expressed heartfelt love for the chance to stretch themselves in new ways.

Lopez herself has a record emphasizing the core rep while also working with interesting choreographers. We can hardly expert her, when creating Morphoses with Wheeldon, to incorporate large-cast Balanchine and Robbins ballets already being danced by NYCB.

As to the bugaboos of "Duato" and "Forsythe" -- there are shorter works by both which might suit the company well, if that is what Lopez wants. (And if that doesn't work, the pieces will fall out of rep.) It's quite possible that Lopez raised these 2 choreographers in interviews because she knows they are are familiar (by name at least) to a large group of American dance aficionados.

Liam Scarlett (who participated in the Farewell to Monica Mason program of new works at the Royal) is coming next season (Program II). A new Ratmansky piece, performed only once at a special program in Miami last year, will be ppart of Program III at all 4 venues. She has links to other young choroegraphers through Morphoses. MCB will not be starved for plausible and possibly excellent choices if they add a couple of new works in subsequent seasons, which is all that is being discussed right now.

It's possible, of course, that there are those on the Board who imagine a future involving a stripped-down company doing mostly contemporary works. I see no evidence of this, nor can I imagine that such a change would bring audiences large enough to fill the large Arsht, Kravis, Broward and Naples (. Certainly the involvement of Robert Gottlieb and key Board members who have long worked with Villella suggest that this kind of re-design is not in the cards.

The decision-makers on the Board -- by exposing their disagreements and saying nothing about their larger values concerning the company -- needs to re-think its public relations. What they should do now is speak to the public -- ideally, this would involve assusring donors, potential donors, subscribers, and single-ticket buyers that they DO intend to to everything possible to preserve the training, rep and aesthetic values established by their founding Artistic Director. All evidence suggests this what Lopez wants, and I can't imagine a single dancer in this company who would disagree.


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