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Program I October 24-26, 2003

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(from Miami Beach, Florida) No reports? Nobody there except the audience? Here are some of my responses - let's see what you think.

I found Katia Carranza's spectacularly sharp approach to Balanchine's "Allegro Brilliante" Saturday evening (with Renato Penteado) was radically different from Deanna Seay's elegant and modest, fully developed, clear supple phrasing Friday (with her frequent partner, Carlos Guerra): You had to go to Seay, and when you did, you got this subtle rich flow of detail; but Carranza comes to you; with her the flow is brilliantly vivid and less subtle. Either way works for me, but differently, with what Balanchine heard in Tchaikovsky's score, and I enjoyed both very much. Sunday afternoon, the cast was lead by Ileana Lopez and Franklin Gamero, who may show less energy and elevation than some do but who compensate us with the amplitude and finish of their phrasing.

The dancers always look good to me in Edward Villella and Frank Regan's new ballet, "Gismonti Brasil", which is more than I could say about a couple of premieres I saw about a year ago in Cincinnati, but Egberto Gismonti's atmospheric music's constant shifts of complexity, tempo, and volume without obvious motive seemed to me to thwart any sense of inevitability, in contrast to the Balanchine works, while providing it with continuous energy. The two choreographers seem to work pretty seamlessly together, however.

That said, I found some tasty bits in it, nevertheless. For example, near the end, the music thinning to a solo guitar plinking a few high notes over a soft background (before the final build-up) had Michelle Merrell, in a low lift by Kenta Shimizu, executing a few neat little beats in synchrony; and Jennifer Kronenberg (with Yann Trividic, the second couple), shorter than Merrell but dancing larger and sharper, made whatever she did effective to the last row of the audience, I would estimate. The first couple we see are a manly duo, Luis Serrano and Jeremy Cox, symmetrical, complementary, confrontational. The colorful hand-painted costumes, by Haydee and Maria Morales, and the lighting by John Hall all mesh well; no matter how the dancers combine, the color scheme is attractive and revealing of the dancing. David Hays's projected palms and hairy ropes hanging overhead remind us the jungle is near.

With Balanchine's "Sylvia Pas de Deux" to Delibes we are deep in civilization for cultivated virtuosic display, although Haydee Morales's frosty grey costumes don't seem to me to suit this strawberry-souffle' music. Never mind, on Friday Mary Carmen Catoya danced the faster tempos with great clarity and effect, and marvelously sustained the slow tempos of her variation, emanating, for me, a kind of aura. So this is the speed demon Villella is having "Ballo della Regina" staged for? Pretty fine adagio ability, too! Mikhail Ilyin was her fine partner. Saturday Ileana Lopez brought a smooth and soft approach (and some altered "text", I believe) to this; partnered by Kenta Shimizu, she was lighter than air, right from the first lifts. Sunday afternoon Deanna Seay achieved quite a feat in combining softness and lightness with quickness and clarity, giving her part a kind of largeness and spaciousness, while her generally fine partner, Carlos Guerra, was a little untidy in an "impossible"variations.

That brings me to the main reason I traveled to Florida for this weekend, the company premiere of Balanchine's "Symphony in Three Movements", to Stravinsky's explosive score, staged by Bart Cook and Maria Calegari. In his pre-performance remarks, Villella had called this "grand ballet the twentieht century way - no tiaras", the large cast of 32 requiring the addition of six girls from the MCB school to fill out the corps of 16 in white belted leotards who famously open the ballet in a diagonal line as the curtain goes up and who close the first movement with a change of pose that progresses down that line as it re-forms. On Friday and Saturday, in the powerful and vigorous outer movements, Jennifer Kronenberg, in a red leotard, was excellent, with clear, firm phrasing, and Andrea Spiridonakos substituted quite satisfactorily for Michelle Merrell in an orange leotard which amused someone who saw the original production go through several color adjustments to the principal women's red or pink leotards - why is such a simple thing hard to get right? But I regret to say Tricia Albertson's smiling, willowy way with her part - second woman, in pink, which was what the old production settled on, I think - did not seem to me to be the best approach, especially in the long, pacific duet (with Jeremy Cox) which is the second movement. The details were there, but she just didn't look ready, and I suppose Merrell's inability to appear as scheduled (as third woman) may be the explanation.

But smiles do happen, and when on Sunday afternoon Katia Carranza as first woman came sailing through the air out of the wing in her second entrance in the first movement, she smiled as though it were as much fun to do as it was to watch. The third couple this time was Patricia Delgado (still in orange), partnered by Kent Shimizu, outstanding among the principal men, whose correct, large clarity in a little solo was exactly what this part needed and earned him the hand he got from us. Best of all, there was Mary Carmen Catoya (with Luis Serrano), in pink, as the second woman: Every movement and pose she invested with powerful continuity and meaning, enlivening the entire second movement while making it all hang together, almost like one large phrase. With with this cast, "Symphony in Three Movements", "that 747 of a ballet", as Arlene Croce called it, took off at an exhiliratingly steep angle, and carried my spirits up with it!

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Thank you Jack for the review. I'm looking forward to MCB's performance of Ballo and Symphony in Three Movements when they come up to the NY area. I've always liked Catoya and was impressed with Merrill when I first saw her in Rubies last April, so I'm interested in reading reports have their performances.

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Thanks Jack Reed for the review. I am hoping my mom takes me to see Program I at the Kravis in November. Hopefully it won't interfere with my own Nutcracker rehearsals. I especially want to see Ileana this year a few times before she retires. Pictures of Ileana and her husband hang in my pediatrician's office. My pediatrician's husband is her uncle. Or something like that. I won't be able to see every one of the performances. But one will do for me. I did get to see the "Our own Show" last year when they were up close and personal dancing. I could see them sweat, I could recognize which pointe shoes they wore.

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Thanks for that detailed report -- it's great to be able to read about what MCB is up to from out here on hte West coast.

They played in Berkeley a few years ago, "Jewels" -- and heir Emeralds is still my favorite I've ever seen, including SFB/s, NYCB/s, and now the Kirov's -- the Miami dancers were SO luscious, they seemed like children almos,t hey were so young, but my God, they were just fascinating in a ballet that many dancers don't know how to make look like it's alive.

(Actually, the worst I've ever seen was City ballet, abut 10 years ago -- and they probably weren't much rehearsed. Everybody else I've seen do it has been doing it as if it were a BIG DEAL, and City Ballet at that point was NOT.)

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