Villella To Step Down from MCB
Posted 16 July 2012 - 07:36 PM
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.
Posted 17 July 2012 - 06:03 AM
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?
Posted 17 July 2012 - 06:51 AM
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.
Posted 18 July 2012 - 08:26 PM
Posted 18 July 2012 - 08:33 PM
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.]
Posted 18 July 2012 - 09:11 PM
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.
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.
Posted 18 July 2012 - 09:54 PM
Posted 18 July 2012 - 10:40 PM
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.)
Posted 19 July 2012 - 12:54 PM
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.
Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:08 PM
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.
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.
Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:24 PM
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.
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.)
Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:26 PM
Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:45 PM
Thanks for the Bart, quote, Helene; immediate contact like that with another intelligence in the world is very supportive in the present context.
Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:46 PM
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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