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Villella To Step Down from MCB


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#121 Birdsall

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 03:45 PM

New York City can probably fill seats on a Tuesday night.

Oh? Not to get too Clintonian on this, but what do you mean by "fill"? I frequently see many empty seats on weeknights and even weekends, especially at NYCB during those weeks when it is in direct competition with ABT across the plaza.

I congratulate Lourdes and wish her all the best. Posted Image Posted Image I am pleased that the position, if it had to go to someone, went to a person who for many years worked directly with Mr. B.


I guess I should have said that New York City has a better chance of filling seats on a Tuesday night. Or even a better chance programming something rare like Il Pirata (opera) at the Met (although there were empty seats in the performance I saw many years ago). You can't put on Il Pirata in Florida and expect sold out audiences even on Saturday night. I think that even in NY the weeknights do not sell as well as weekends, but they sell enough to actually do them, I assume, or I can't imagine they would continue to program during the weeknights.

It is no coincidence that Miami performs its ballets during weekends (Friday to Sunday) in all 3 cities that it regularly performs in.....they have a better chance of selling tickets on those days and nights.

#122 Jack Reed

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 03:53 PM

So now we know. Gottlieb has a pretty good eye for Balanchine, having been writing for years in The New York Observer about how his ballets are disappearing - Gottlieb's word - from NYCB: He considers how a ballet is danced to be an essential part. On the other hand, he may have been the "New York critic" who, Villella told us one evening, had advised him against presenting Ballet Imperial, the name they marketed Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 under, because the company wasn't up to it. But they rehearsed it on and off for seven months, he said, and (I say) they looked very, very good in it. (Some stories have been told by dancers who worked with Balanchine that when they told him they thought they weren't ready, he told them, let him worry about that, or, that's why they had to do it, that was how they would get ready.) Whoever it was who opposed Villella seems a little naive about how a company is built, especially if they were the long-time associate of Balanchine Gottlieb was - even arranging Balanchine's programs.

What's not made plain here, from within the company, is why Gottlieb considered only outsiders, but we can surmise - have surmised - that Villella's endorsement of Kronenberg may have put her candidacy at a disadvantage, and Gottlieb was trying to do the best he could under circumstances where so many were at odds with Villella.

Also someone whose first love in ballet is Balanchine, I worry when I look at the exclusively contemporary repertory of Morphoses, Lopez's previous project. And when I think of her years as a principal under Martins, I wonder what her preference is for how Balanchine is danced. (Although watching NYCB was something I had to have in Balanchine's day, after 1985 it does nothing for me.)

And Toby Lerner Ansin, who was instrumental in bringing Villella in the first place, if I remember what I've read correctly, speaks of Lopez's "wish to expand the repertoire" of the company, which gives me some concern because I agree with bart that there's a potential problem here of trying to embrace more styles than can be done at the highest level, while also agreeing with cubanmiamiboy that some older classics would be great to have available.

This is a familiar problem with "regional" companies which try to do everything - it takes a little while for dancers to re-learn their style, if they can, and performance quality suffers, although a cynic might ask, "In Florida, who will know?". (MCB gets better applause in New York and Paris than in Ft. Lauderdale. Maybe they need to become more provincial, not try so hard to be so good...) And the inclusion of dances with a contemporary tone to bring in the trendy crowd may fit the company's marketing ability - these efforts usually get a better reception from the rest of the audience than they do from me, but how many am I?

We'll know for sure what Ms. Lopez will do when she does it, but the choice between the two women may not be entirely either/or. Somehow, I would be surprised if Kronenberg were suddenly let go entirely. Surprised and saddened.

#123 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 05:01 PM

From Daniel Watkins' article in the NYT:

Ms. Lopez currently runs Morphoses, a New York-based company she founded with the prominent choreographer Christopher Wheeldon in 2007. Mr. Wheeldon left the company three years later amid a falling-out with Ms. Lopez.
But Ms. Lopez said she wanted to consider some sort of merger or partnership of Morphoses and Miami City Ballet, and was open to including Wheeldon works in her new company.


An MCB / Morphoses partnership -- I wonder how that would work? Morphoses still a laboratory for new dance run on a "curatorial" model, but now with a more-or-less stable roster of dancers recruited from MCB during the off season, with performances scheduled for venues outside of Florida? A run at Aspen, a week at the Joyce, etc ...

Deep in my heart-of-hearts I was hoping that Morphoses would somehow turn into the Lyon Opera Ballet. The "Bacchae" Luca Veggetti did for them was a misfire, but I'm grateful that it introduced me to some terrific dancers I didn't know (especially Frances Chiaverini).

And of course Lopez is open to including Wheeldon's work in MCB's repertory -- doesn't every AD in possession of a budget for comissions find him or herself in want of a Wheeldon, a Ratmanksy, and an Elo?

#124 kfw

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 06:23 PM

Also someone whose first love in ballet is Balanchine, I worry when I look at the exclusively contemporary repertory of Morphoses, Lopez's previous project. And when I think of her years as a principal under Martins, I wonder what her preference is for how Balanchine is danced. (Although watching NYCB was something I had to have in Balanchine's day, after 1985 it does nothing for me.)


Understandable concern. I don't know what year she joined the company, but she was 16 at the time, and I just watched my tape of her terrific performance in Who Cares? in '83 when she looks to be in her 20's, So I think she probably absorbed the style from the man himself.

We'll know for sure what Ms. Lopez will do when she does it, but the choice between the two women may not be entirely either/or. Somehow, I would be surprised if Kronenberg were suddenly let go entirely.


Yeah, I can't imagine any new director could be so dumb as to want that, for her own sake or the company's.

#125 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 06:39 PM

Congratulations to Lopez.

The dilemma for many smaller companies seems to be: there is definitely an audience for these works, but not always enough to subsidize the tremendous costs of presenting them at the highest level.

Note that I say "at the highest level." Regionally, in the U.S., there is no shortage of dumbed down Giselles or Swan Lakes and mediocre to abysmal Corsaires and Don Quixotes. My own feeling is that maintaining this repertoire requires a company with vast resources, a specialized staff, a sophisticated audience, and a long-term commitment.


the dilemma is sort of tricky. The chain of points you mention as reasons for a company not to present the classics is interesting. For many years Alonso's ballet has been touring world wide presenting very cheap productions in terms of props and costumes, some of them so old that they have fallen to pieces right onstage. Still, the success of the company is right there. The only way to consolidate the art form in the public memories and to make them part of a culture is just dancing them, dancing and dancing them. Props and costumes can be better or worse. Still, among all the material ugliness, there could probably be one memorable ballerina dancing Giselle, and that could probably be a magical night for a new ballet goer who will never forget her. I don't think a story like the Bolshoi's luxurious "Pharaoh's daughter" reconstruction is, on the other side, a succesful one. The ballet is NOT owned by the people. It became a curiosity, for which is hasn't been performed ever again. That's not what we need. We just need sensitive personnel that realizes that the only way to make a continuity in the lorm term is by not ceasing to present the works. I still get amazed when I hear all the news on "new sets and costumes" for this or that...I go like..."do they REALLY need them..?". We don't need that many new designs...what we need is to educate the audiences, dancers, and on the way, the rich donors will probably come along.

#126 checkwriter

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:08 PM

Well if we're going to think about her ability to appeal to the masses, let's not forget her work with Jock Soto on Sesame Street.

What makes this really fun to watch is knowing -- and I haven't seen this in print but I've heard it from an extremely reliable source, and so may be bending a BA rule here -- that the choreography is by a young NYCB dancer with a keen interest in choreography. Named Christopher Wheeldon.

And the theme -- "Cooperate" -- is oddly appropriate given what the next year is likely to bring . . . .

#127 brokenwing

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 09:32 PM

Also someone whose first love in ballet is Balanchine, I worry when I look at the exclusively contemporary repertory of Morphoses, Lopez's previous project. And when I think of her years as a principal under Martins, I wonder what her preference is for how Balanchine is danced. (Although watching NYCB was something I had to have in Balanchine's day, after 1985 it does nothing for me.)

And Toby Lerner Ansin, who was instrumental in bringing Villella in the first place, if I remember what I've read correctly, speaks of Lopez's "wish to expand the repertoire" of the company, which gives me some concern because I agree with bart that there's a potential problem here of trying to embrace more styles than can be done at the highest level, while also agreeing with cubanmiamiboy that some older classics would be great to have available...


I have to say, I had similar thoughts/worries about Lourdes (though I am generally very excited by her appointment), but she does say repeatedly in the NYTimes article that she is deeply committed to Balanchine. I'm willing to think that Morphoses was/is a specific project and Lourdes will be fine switching gears back to her roots. Then again, she also says she's thinking of two or three contemporary choreographers she'd like to commission and she would add Wheeldon, so....Posted Image

What do you think of the article, Jack?

#128 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 09:41 PM

Should I mention that Villella never did pre-performance talking here in Miami...? Only in Broward. I wonder why.

#129 carbro

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 09:54 PM

Understandable concern. I don't know what year she joined the company, but she was 16 at the time, ...

She entered the company in '74 or '75, around the same time as Fugate, Calegari, Nichols, and she was an immediate standout. Was it her second year in the corps that Balanchine cast her in Kay Mazzo's role in Stravinsky Violin Concerto? I found Lourdes' attack a little too unrelenting, especially in more lyrical roles, but I saw that photo of her in Divertimento #15 and drew a sharp breath. It's been a long time since we've seen an arabesque pushing so aggressively into space at NYCB. Although I think NYCB dances very well these days, I do miss the quality of that energy. Miami has it, so it's a good bet it will continue.

#130 JMcN

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 12:23 AM

A quick look at the company website shows a roster (including company apprentices) of 43. Over here in the UK, companies around this size can be slated for doing traditional productions of the classics because they can't provide a "full quota" of swans or wilis. Equally they can be slated if they try to do the classic in a non-traditional way (except for Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake that is beloved of everyone.

It can be a lose lose situation!

#131 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 05:09 AM

A quick look at the company website shows a roster (including company apprentices) of 43. Over here in the UK, companies around this size can be slated for doing traditional productions of the classics because they can't provide a "full quota" of swans or wilis. Equally they can be slated if they try to do the classic in a non-traditional way (except for Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake that is beloved of everyone.

It can be a lose lose situation!


MCB's corps for Giselle was a very decent one. No complains about it. I don't think the lack of corps would be an issue over here not to stage the classics. What I know for sure is that one doesn't really get to totally "know" a dancer-(and hence a company)-in full terms of technique, mime, and folk dancing until a warhorse is in full display. As technically difficult as the ballerina's dancing of T&V is, it is NOTHING to what she has to face by doing Swan Lake, DQ or Raymonda. An attempt to get away with the classics if not in full capacity can be a sad pic-(I've seen it recently). Still, you can do La Valse beautifully. The classics NEED to be done for a dancer to really say his/her curriculum is complete.

To put it boldly. Is MCB afraid of not being up to the technical level to do them...? And if so...are promising young dancers like Delgado accepting that...?

#132 bart

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 06:16 AM

The Times keeps expanding its story with more information about Lourdes and the search.

The more I read, the more I like her.

I like her evaluation of MCB dancers as "stage animals," something which they got from Villella and which sets them apart from certain other regional companies.

I'm getting hopeful again.

Jack, I've been thinking about your question: why did Gottllieb consider only outsiders. Can you think of anyone inside the company who has the experience, connections, and financial and p.r. skills necessary to to do the job? Villella never had a real protege. Nor is he the kind of guy who would seek to develop one. MCB was a regional company until it became good enough to become a company NYC and Paris audiences took seriously and could get excited about. Gottlieb was searching for someone to lead a company that now has a national and international following, at a time when "ballet" is looking for a way to attract new audiences, and when financial resources are not as available as they once were. He had no choice but to look outside Miami.

It's interesting the way everyone at MCB keeps assuring us that the Balanchine tradition, style, training, etc., etc., will still be at the heart of the MCB project. I really want to believe this. However, I accept and even welcome that this does NOT translate being closed to other kinds of dance. Villella himself was enthusiastically committed to bringing in Taylor, Tharp, Ratmansky, the new choreographer Liam Scarlett, and even a tiny bit of Wheeldon. These works challenge dancers and expand their range without, I think, taking away from their ability to dance Balanchine and even to dance (with lots of help) respectable versions of the classics. If Lopez's connections with Wheeldon remain positive and constructive, it would be GREAT to have him form a connection with MCB. I'm sure a donor could be found who would start the funding.

We've been talking a lot about refocusing on the 19th-century classics. This is an interesting topic but something of a distraction. My sense is there are few people within MCB, or in the south Florida ballet community generally, who have any interest in this project. Each season, Florida is innundated with Swan Lakes. MCB already has the Balanchine Act II-IV version, which they dance beautifully. I hope they stick with that and leave the rest of the ballet to the touring Russians. As for the more esoteric 19th-century works, my feeling is that one is more likely to see a version of Pharoah's Daughter on a Disney cruise ship than on the stage of any regional company the size of MCB.

Recommitting to making MCB's versions of Giselle, Coppelia, and Don Q better -- and finding a like-minded donor to pay for it -- would be realistic, and a great idea as well.

If they can get their financing straight, why NOT the Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream? Or Ashton's The Dream if you want something simpler (and cheaper)? (There are plenty of coaches available to help set both of these, and Gottllieb and Lopez have the contacts to get the neacessary permssions.) Why not a couple of Diaghalev revivals? -- the kind that helped put and keep the Joffrey on the map and which still pull in audiences? Why not a joint performance with the Paul Taylor Company as part of PT's almost annual tours to the Southeast? There are so many realistic and intriguing possibilities. New collaborations with the Cleveland Symphony or New World Symphony? Performances, probably starting small, that bring in artists and choreographers from Latin America? Something analogous to NYCB's "Black and White" programs?

#133 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 07:08 AM

Also someone whose first love in ballet is Balanchine, I worry when I look at the exclusively contemporary repertory of Morphoses, Lopez's previous project. And when I think of her years as a principal under Martins, I wonder what her preference is for how Balanchine is danced.


Well, Peter Boal spent his entire NYCB career dancing for Peter Martins and I think the general consensus is that he turned out OK. Posted Image What's more, he left NYCB for a time to dance elsewhere and throughout his career took on roles created by choreographers who work well outside of the classical ballet idiom -- Molissa Fenley and Ulysses Dove, e.g. I'm guessing that Boal's exposure to contemporary rep -- both as dancer and AD -- is considerably more extensive that Lopez's.

#134 brokenwing

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 07:41 AM

Recommitting to making MCB's versions of Giselle, Coppelia, and Don Q better -- and finding a like-minded donor to pay for it -- would be realistic, and a great idea as well.

If they can get their financing straight, why NOT the Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream? Or Ashton's The Dream if you want something simpler (and cheaper)? (There are plenty of coaches available to help set both of these, and Gottllieb and Lopez have the contacts to get the neacessary permssions.) Why not a couple of Diaghalev revivals? -- the kind that helped put and keep the Joffrey on the map and which still pull in audiences? Why not a joint performance with the Paul Taylor Company as part of PT's almost annual tours to the Southeast? There are so many realistic and intriguing possibilities. New collaborations with the Cleveland Symphony or New World Symphony? Performances, probably starting small, that bring in artists and choreographers from Latin America? Something analogous to NYCB's "Black and White" programs?


Great post. I'm beginning to think my concerns about the new rep she'll bring are silly. A mention of two or three new choreographers and Wheeldon (whose work I often like) does not mean she's going to inundate the rep with bizzare, alienating non-balletic rep.

Also, I love all the ideas you spouted off at the end there! Keep 'em coming! I'm betting the Lopez will be someone who is willing to experiment with those sorts of things. I'm really hoping she gets MCB on the Art Basel bandwagon in some way. That festival has become so big, it seems ridiculous that MCB doesn't take advantage of it each year!

#135 Helene

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 08:57 AM

Well if we're going to think about her ability to appeal to the masses, let's not forget her work with Jock Soto on Sesame Street.

What makes this really fun to watch is knowing -- and I haven't seen this in print but I've heard it from an extremely reliable source, and so may be bending a BA rule here -- that the choreography is by a young NYCB dancer with a keen interest in choreography. Named Christopher Wheeldon.


Excuse me, but everyone knows that it was choreographed by Kermit.

Also someone whose first love in ballet is Balanchine, I worry when I look at the exclusively contemporary repertory of Morphoses, Lopez's previous project. And when I think of her years as a principal under Martins, I wonder what her preference is for how Balanchine is danced.


Morphoses has/had a different mission, and I'd expect Lopez to further that mission when that was her job.


Also someone whose first love in ballet is Balanchine, I worry when I look at the exclusively contemporary repertory of Morphoses, Lopez's previous project. And when I think of her years as a principal under Martins, I wonder what her preference is for how Balanchine is danced.


Well, Peter Boal spent his entire NYCB career dancing for Peter Martins and I think the general consensus is that he turned out OK. Posted Image What's more, he left NYCB for a time to dance elsewhere and throughout his career took on roles created by choreographers who work well outside of the classical ballet idiom -- Molissa Fenley and Ulysses Dove, e.g. I'm guessing that Boal's exposure to contemporary rep -- both as dancer and AD -- is considerably more extensive that Lopez's.


But the general consensus is that PNB should be dancing works by Fenley, Dove, Goecke, and Quijada, for example, and believes Boal when he says in a Q&A that Quijada's vocabulary, which, while not seen in the classroom, is the extension of ballet vocabulary.

That's not to say some of these works, and Lopez Ochoa's co-commission with Olivier Wevers' Whim W'him "Cylindrical Shadows" aren't beautiful dance works, although the Lopez Ochoa lost too much on the big stage. They're not ballet, and the question is whether and how much a ballet company should dance not ballet.


From Daniel Watkins' article in the NYT:


Ms. Lopez currently runs Morphoses, a New York-based company she founded with the prominent choreographer Christopher Wheeldon in 2007. Mr. Wheeldon left the company three years later amid a falling-out with Ms. Lopez.
But Ms. Lopez said she wanted to consider some sort of merger or partnership of Morphoses and Miami City Ballet, and was open to including Wheeldon works in her new company.


An MCB / Morphoses partnership -- I wonder how that would work? Morphoses still a laboratory for new dance run on a "curatorial" model, but now with a more-or-less stable roster of dancers recruited from MCB during the off season, with performances scheduled for venues outside of Florida? A run at Aspen, a week at the Joyce, etc ...


I wonder if she's trying to save the roster/livelihoods with this idea.

For many years Alonso's ballet has been touring world wide presenting very cheap productions in terms of props and costumes, some of them so old that they have fallen to pieces right onstage. Still, the success of the company is right there. The only way to consolidate the art form in the public memories and to make them part of a culture is just dancing them, dancing and dancing them. Props and costumes can be better or worse. Still, among all the material ugliness, there could probably be one memorable ballerina dancing Giselle, and that could probably be a magical night for a new ballet goer who will never forget her.


I saw this myself in Vancouver recently when they performed "Don Quixote". Worth every penny.

I asked the head of the local ballet company in my town if she would ever consider doing Raymonda, and she said they are too small for such a ballet. There are lots of roles and a need for a big corps, I assume.


While I've seen larger companies do Act III (POB, SFB with 70+6 apprentices), I've also seen Ballet Arizona (26+4 apprentices) perform a suite from Act III and do a superb job of it. While it might not be an example of democracy in action, it's got two Principals, four soloists, and a male quartet, and gives plenty of work to a lot of dancers, and is a great closer and a great appetizer, thematically and technically for an upcoming full-length.


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