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Interview with Edward Villella (by Marina Harss)EV talks about leaving Miami City Ballet


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#46 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 06:27 PM

Helene and bart...good ballet is good ballet.  MCB needs good dancers and good teachers.  Miami is, was, has been plagued with all of it for many years, and it should not matter that they were trained in Havana.  MCB is Miami's company, and still, how much advantage has is taken of the human potential THAT IS HERE right now so far...? Near to zero.  How many Cuban dancers have passed by this city after defecting from Havana...? Too many to count.  How many are currently employed by MCB...?  Only Reyes-(Guerra does not come from Alonso's company).  How many professors...? NONE.  The fact that the repertoire and style of MCB is based on Balanchine has nothing to do with the fact of the company's powers purposely ignoring for years such potential.   As I said...stories beginning with "Villella didn't want to..", "Villella doesn't like...", "Villella didn't accept..." and the like I've heard for years from countless insiders.  It is truly shameful.  I hope Lopez shows more wisdom about all of it...



#47 Jayne

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 06:51 PM

These are all perfectly valid perspectives on MCB.  I've been re-reading "I was a Dancer" by Jacques d'Amboise this week, and he had a multitude of Russian teachers in his youth, and at SAB: Misha Arshansky, Anatole Oboukhoff, Pierre Vladimiroff, Yurek Lazowski, Alexandra Danilova, Felia Doubrovska, among others.  Andrei Kramarevsky teaches now, and until she passed away Olga Kostritsky taught.  Most of the NYCB dancers from the 1950's and 1960's studied first with Russians before they came to SAB.  

 

From the book page 83, 3rd paragraph:

In the spring of 2003, I visited Cuba for the first time.  Touring Alicia Alonso's ballet academy, I felt at home.  Instantly, I recognized the atmorphere, the smells, the wooden floor so familiar to the salles de ballet of Europe, russia and the old SAB.  The sweat-stained barre, polished from the touch of a century of dancers' grips, was lined with ghosts.

 

 

It would be wonderful if MCB ran an adults-only summer intensive for defecting Cubans, to teach them the Balanchine style.  It would only enhance their opportunities when auditioning at any US based company.  It would be equally wonderful if MCB could work with the State Department to establish a cultural exchange to allow its teachers to go to Cuba and teach classes / stage Balanchine ballets, and for Cuban teachers to  teach class at MCBS.  

 

As for importing the Alicia Alonso ballets to Miami - keep in mind that the dancers are generally defecting to get away from the 19th century relics, and try new things. They are not saying they are ardently anti-Castro, just that they are ardently pro-new-material, and pro-getting-paid-decently.  For that final item, I'm not convinced MCB pays dancers well, and everything is relative - the salaries may be 10 times higher than Cuban dancer salaries - but so are the rents, utilities, etc.  

 

Maybe the answer is for MCB to partner with the Cuban Classical Ballet Company in Miami to offer those intensive sessions, and to allow them to take class at MCB.  Surely having an extra 10-15 dancers in the studio would not be the end of the world - and over time Lourdes Lopez would get an idea of their capacity to dance in the works that she brings to the rep (remember that she is going to have Morphoses based in Miami).  



#48 bart

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 06:54 PM

Cristian, if your goal is that somehow MCB can be remade into a subsidiary of  "Alonso's network," as it seems you suggest in your earlier post, I don't think you will find many takers among current fans of the company. 

 

The greatest of the Cuban dancers -- eg. Acosta, Carreno among the men -- brought much to the companies they entered.   But they also were refined as artists by their experience and contact with new visions of what ballet can be.  Europe and North America see only the best of the Alonso system during BNdeC's tours of a very limited range of ballet repertoire.  Similarly, the dancers we see are the very best produced in Havana.  The dancers who join western companies are not only the best of the best, but actually grow in artistry as a result of their experiences with new work, new audiences, and fellow dancers from different backgrounds.

 

Whatever happens in the future, the relationship between the MCB of Lourdes Lopez (herself born in Cuba) and the "Alonso network" in Havana and emigre ballet community in Miami will have to be (as I said above) a "two-way" street. 

 

Until everyone involved accepts that idea, I don't see much happening to change the situation that you have posted about.

 

Edited to add:  I was cross-posting with Jayne, who makes a good, practicable suggestion that MCB might actually invite Cuban students to study here (analagous to the School's current arrangements with high-school age students from Brazilian schools).  I also agree with her statement that:

 

As for importing the Alicia Alonso ballets to Miami - keep in mind that the dancers are generally defecting to get away from the 19th century relics, and try new things.

.

This relates to my second paragraph above. 



#49 Jayne

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:20 PM

 As I said...stories beginning with "Villella didn't want to..", "Villella doesn't like...", "Villella didn't accept..." and the like I've heard for years from countless insiders.  It is truly shameful.  I hope Lopez shows more wisdom about all of it...

It is also possible to counterpoint with "Ms Alonso didn't want to....Mrs Alonso doesn't like.....Mrs Alonso didn't accept...."

 

Hopefully the future is more collaborative than the past. 



#50 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 07:27 PM

Cristian, if your goal is that somehow MCB can be remade into a subsidiary of  "Alonso's network," as it seems you suggest in your earlier post, I don't think you will find many takers among current fans of the company. 

 

 

But that's exactly what I'm saying does not has to happen.  In fact, I don't believe at all that approaching in a larger scale the experience, coaching potential and dancers coming from "there" should be threatening at all to the well established dance style of MCB...(or perhaps it would...?...Or perhaps he thought it would...? humm...)

 

 

 

As I said...stories beginning with "Villella didn't want to..", "Villella doesn't like...", "Villella didn't accept..." and the like I've heard for years from countless insiders. It is truly shameful. I hope Lopez shows more wisdom about all of it...

It is also possible to counterpoint with "Ms Alonso didn't want to....Mrs Alonso doesn't like.....Mrs Alonso didn't accept...."

.

 

 

Thing is...is the words and actions of Villella via the interview what is being analyzed here....

 

About Alonso much more has been written and criticized also at lenght...AND it should be noted that  the results of the "Mrs Alonso didn't this or that" mantra could be very beneficial to MCB.  As per right now it is not happening.



#51 Quiggin

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:44 PM

It's funny the Cuban dancers defect to do contemporary work, but it's the classics that they end up shining in. Also they're good in Balanchine off the bat – which they do in Havana and if they distort it, they do so in a fresh and "don't be perfect, dear" way. Look at the clips for Tchai Pdd if still up. And sometimes as they adapt to the more refined English and Danish styles, they lose a bit of their original fire and idiomatic charm.

 

Regarding Villella's bitterness, he may be angry at the whole world, not just Florida. His cutting sarcasm reminds me of a certain kind of 1950s New York emigre character type. Perhaps he has reverted to an aunt or grandfather's way of seeing things, as we sometimes do as we get older.

 

But there's no reason for Miami Ballet, which has its own character and style steadily developed over twenty five years, to have to become a subsidiary of the Alonso Havana School – out of guilt feelings for the embargo? Instead why doesn't the Cuban Community back the two existing ballet schools, that of Magaly Suarez or of Pedro Pablo Peña's Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami so they can have longer seasons.



#52 Jayne

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:55 PM

Regarding Villella's bitterness, he may be angry at the whole world, not just Florida. His cutting sarcasm reminds me of a certain kind of 1950s New York emigre character type. Perhaps he has reverted to an aunt or grandfather's way of seeing things, as we sometimes do as we get older.

 

The Italian manner of holding a grudge? 



#53 Quiggin

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 09:02 PM

 

Regarding Villella's bitterness, he may be angry at the whole world, not just Florida. His cutting sarcasm reminds me of a certain kind of 1950s New York emigre character type. Perhaps he has reverted to an aunt or grandfather's way of seeing things, as we sometimes do as we get older.

 

The Italian manner of holding a grudge? 

 

 

It's a old kind of withering sarcasm that pulls the rug out from under you and you can't respond to. Yes Italian but I also remember it from instructors in design school. But it's old fashioned - maybe it appears in Mad Men.



#54 vrsfanatic

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 02:20 AM

Bart and cubanmiamiboy you both bring up good points about the various factions that truly do have ebbs and flows within the ballet community. Perhaps we do bite ourselves in the back. It is spoken of amongst ourselves, not with intentionally disparaging intent, non the less, it is discussed. We have so much to learn from one another. I guess it kind of like the world. We are all people loving the art form of ballet. We can and must learn from one another. We must learn to share and teach one another with respect rather than a divide and conquer attitude.

 

This would be a very interesting additional topic, if the ballet artists would come out of the shadows and actually talk about it publically. While I am not of the Cuban school background, I do identify with what cubanmiamiboy is saying. Thank you cubanmiamiboy for being so honest. Let's hope the discussion might bring people who love ballet a little bit closer together.



#55 bart

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 03:00 AM

Thanks, vrsfanatic for your post.  I approach ballet from the audience/subscriber point of view  and have my own ballet-going experience and preferences always on my back.  I do indeed need to develop deeper understanding of, and empathy for, the various dancer communities out there.
 
Cristian, I am afraid I read your original post as somehow advocating or leading to a wholescale redefinition of MCB along the lines of the "Alonso project" (your phrase, not mine), with drastic rethinking, restaffing, and reinvention.  I still read your original post that way.  I rather like change in the arts, but have also seen cases where well-intentioned overhauls (especially of mission) lead to unanticipated consequences, acrimony, and failure.   I don't think that I have anything further to add to that discussion.
 

#56 Birdsall

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 04:39 AM

I personally would like to see Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami do more shows and get more support. It would be great if they did the classics while MCB does Balanchine. Then, there would be two companies and enough variety to go around. I also think when MCB stages something like Don Quixote it should utilize some of the experienced ex-dancers in Miami to coach also, as Cristian suggests. Of course, there are probably issues of stepping on current teachers' toes and basically implying they can't teach or coach Don Quixote well so the company is going outside, etc. Plus, hiring outside people is often considered a luxury. I think Jayne's ideas are good ones (collaboration of some sort both in Cuba and here). However, I do not foresee MCB leaving its specialty in Balanchine. I think Lourdes Lopez has basically said things will be pretty much the same and MCB will remain a Balanchine company. I get the impression that MCB is generally thought of as NYCB South in a way. It is basically considered a Balanchine company, so it is probably going to stay close to how NYCB runs itself (heavily weighted toward Balanchine, Robbins, and new works). It is never going to be a company that does a lot of classical repertoire. I suspect it only does a classic here and there because the classics pull in a wider (not necessarily more) audience. 

 

I do know that in anything in life, you can not wait around for the establishment to include you. The only way to get power is to simply take it. Ideally, Pedro Pablo Pena would find a great marketing person who would begin marketing its company aggressively and in a way that pulls in more people. MCB is the "big" ballet company in South Florida. That makes it the "establishment" and the "establishment" always continues along its course not really caring who is left behind. It is up to the people left behind to simply take charge and organize. 

 

One of the things that would help is if scheduling became more consistent. I was unable to come down and see the new Cuban defectors due to my schedule. If the show had been planned ahead of time with more notice I might have been able to attend, and that could be the case for others, but that is a minor issue possibly, because it needs to base its support inside Miami. I have no doubt that Pena works hard. My point, however, is that he can not wait for MCB to start collaborating and include his company, etc. He or some other take charge person in the Cuban community must find a way to market and sell the classics to the public. People will come once there is huge buzz around an effort. Of course, it is very hard to get something off the ground. 

 

Cristian, I totally sympathize with you. However, I don't think MCB is ever going to be the company that you want it to be. I think the only answer is for Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami to somehow gain a bigger audience, and I don't know how they can do that. I think it often boils down to leadership. Like I said, I am sure Pena is a very hard worker and a good leader in some ways, but apparently he or his team of people are not making it happen. It needs someone who is dynamic and somehow finds a way to make it work in a big way. Surely, there are many wealthy Cubans and non-Cubans who should or could support his company if he somehow knew how to reach these people. 

 

And once it becomes a "hit" I have no doubt you will find there is an audience out there who will come and see the shows. 



#57 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 06:37 AM

Cristian, I am afraid I read your original post as somehow advocating or leading to a wholescale redefinition of MCB along the lines of the "Alonso project" (your phrase, not mine), with drastic rethinking, restaffing, and reinvention.  I still read your original post that way.  I rather like change in the arts, but have also seen cases where well-intentioned overhauls (especially of mission) lead to unanticipated consequences, acrimony, and failure.   I don't think that I have anything further to add to that discussion.
 

 

Maybe not "redefined", per se, agree with that, but that it needs to re assess its surroundings and acknowledge specific real situations for better marketing purposes, it does needs to. 



#58 puppytreats

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 07:53 AM

You suggestion to watch the clip should contain a warning.  I finally watched it, listened to Edward complain about his leg cramps, thought about Gelsey's second book, and proceeded to roll around in pain trying to work off sudden onset leg and foot cramps. Ouch.  



#59 bart

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 08:36 AM

 
Maybe not "redefined", per se, agree with that, but that it needs to re assess its surroundings and acknowledge specific real situations for better marketing purposes, it does needs to.

No dissent from me about that. Provided that no one commits to a predetermined set of outcomes -- or, conversely, to "no change at all" -- before a fair reassessment is completed. It seems to me that Lopez already has this process underway. Input from all sides can only be helpful.

#60 puppytreats

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 08:40 AM

How is the discussion about Alonso/Cubans v. MCB any different from efforts to combine or keep separate and maintain different styles in ABT and NYCB?  I am not familiar with the Florida companies. 




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