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Your reviews: Raymonda Variations, Lilac Garden

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(from Fort Lauderdale, Florida) Words seem especially inadequate to me as I remember as best I can Mary Carmen Catoya's dancing in Raymonda Variations last night. I would like to remember it better, but I understand she will do it again this afternoon, so I may witness the miracle a second time. The rest of the cast was of differing quality, generally bringing off the variations with enough ease, but they all suffered by contrast with the sailing, modestly smiling Catoya, who might have been thinking, "Whee! This is fun!" Fun for us, that's for sure! (She told Pointe magazine she loves to dance. That was for the benefit of those who haven't seen it with their own eyes, of course.)

What particularly struck me was that she had the ability (and used it) to give each sequence its own tone, its own aroma as it were, and then to turn a corner, tonally, I mean, though there are many actual changes of direction in these variations - and bring another sequence into existence with its flavor. Joining them together at the corners? No, for she never separated them, while at the same time clearly articulating them.

Outstandingly effective for me in this way was her slightly relaxing her energy or momentum late in her second variation only to unleash it again in a long series of a step I should know the name of, small jumps where one leg is extended down in the direction of travel and the other is drawn up underneath her*. Crystalline clarity! And a crystal is all of a piece too, as her dancing is, and it has corners and facets; but Catoya lives and breathes in it all as her dance flashes by before us - while she is dancing you cannot tell the dancer from the dance - and no crystal (mere rock) does that! Her dancing smiles more than she does.

"A hard act to follow" all right, and Lilac Garden didn't really try of course, it radically changed the subject, so to speak. Speak was what Jennifer Kronenberg did: We've remarked here on her changing roles two or three times in the course of an evening, but here in her first appearance onstage she showed us two such different sides of Caroline's character in the blink of an eye - warmly animated toward Her Lover (Carlos Guerra), dutifully burdened toward The Man She Must Marry (Daymel Sanchez, a relative newcomer, stalwart and remote here) - they might as well have been different characters. In these few seconds, she spoke volumes. If you dare blink, you risk missing something.

Deanna Seay, as The Woman from His Past, made the part look as though made for her (I should say I've never seen this ballet before, not even in the commercial video "American Ballet Theatre in San Francisco") even though I'm not sure she and Tudor were even alive at the same time, and anyway he made this before I was born. At first I thought the feather she wore was comically long; I hadn't completely entered into the constraining little world of this ballet, but Seay's steadiness of purpose (not of her dancing, which was vividly modulated) soon drew me in the rest of the way, and her whole costume, and the whole scene, for that matter, seemed in its tragic way, inevitable.

It was good to see Symphony in Three Movemements again. I had begun to see it when it was less than a year old, and those memories led me to some quibbles about this performance - it needed a more mature hardness from these younger-seeming dancers, and more power from the orchestra in the pit** - but it still has its wallop. (I think another BTer I met, sitting in the second row, felt endangered by it.) Katia Carranza had the right open brightness as the pas de deux girl, but her partner Jeremy Cox, the very memorable Prodigal Son of a few seasons ago, spent some of the potential force of his presence somewhat prodigally in supple nuance, this time at least. I don't think "Symphony 3" is about nuance.

This was a fine program, if not, for me, quite on the level of the one that combined Dances at a Gathering and Ballet Imperial last season; Catoya's astonishing dancing made it her evening, though if Lilac Garden was not my glass of tea, Kronenberg, certainly, and Seay made it their meat; and finally the light and energy of "Symphony 3" swept everything before it.

*Three to the left, one to the right, fast, then another set, and another!

**Not the musicians' fault, but the architect's; see in Post #4, below.

Edited by bart
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Thanks, Jack. I love reading descriptive reviews before seeing performances. Especially when they alert me about things to look for, llike the emotional transition in Kronenberg's character in Lilac Garden. Please keep the reviews coming :)

I had been thinking about Lilac Garden and had already decided that Kronenbereg and Seay would be perfect for those two roles. I don't know about the men, but would bet that Guerra is one of the Lovers. I'd be interested in seeing the new dancer, Deymel Sanchez, as the Man She Must Marry. He broods and glowers well, and is one of the few company men who seem capable of conveying menace. Generally, though, I empathize with your thoughts about the ballet:

If Lilac Garden was not my glass of tea, Kronenberg, certainly, and Seay made it their meat.
I haven't seen this in a long, long time. For me it's an impossible ballet to warm up to. Rather, it's fascinating. I always think of an analogy: watching the utterly beautiful snakes engaged behind glass in their carefully contrived environments at the reptile house at the zoo. (Caroline a kind of neurotic butterfly that wandered in by mistake?)

Very much looking forward to Catoya as well. West Palm gets the program next weekend.

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Okay, you asked for it...

(from Fort Lauderdale, Florida) Saturday afternoon, Catoya did repeat the miracle, and in addition Luis Serrrano's variations seemed to me more sharply drawn and more clearly detailed than last night, although, as always, it could have been me. And among the soloists, Charlene Cohen, in Variation II, was especially enjoyable from the first moment she scampered out to perform it.

Lilac Garden had a different cast (including Wu as Caroline and Daymel Sanchez as Her Lover this time) and was more danced and less acted than opening night, except for Jeremy Cox as the Fiance'; Cox does a lot with just a turn of the head, and his portrayal was more developed and nuanced than Sanchez's seemed to me last night. For one example, late in the ballet, where he repulses his former lover, the woman in blue (Callie Manning), Cox very clearly but subtly caught the fierceness of this rejection Francis Mason speaks of in his account of Lilac Garden (three pages of small pint!) in Balanchine's Complete Stories....

Finally, Symphony in Three Movements brought me the second amazement of the afternoon: Jennifer Kronenberg's enlarging but almost casual rendition of the pas de deux woman's role, with Carlos Guerra as her partner, taking a simpler approach to the pas de deux than Cox had. Although her entrance in the pas de deux seemed a just a little fussy she then kept the promise of her apt appearance in the first movement with a wonderfully knowing rendition, not that I have ever seen her appear to think. She seems to embody Balanchine's request to someone, "Don't think dear, just do." Kronenberg just does, and I just love how it all comes out. Right down to the ribbons in her hair, she makes nearly everything she does on stage seem like the reason the ballet was made, if more reason were needed.

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(from Fort Lauderdale, Florida) Saturday evening (10th February), Jeanette Delgado was replaced in Raymonda Variations by the Catoya phenom, so I got two exposures to her miraculous dancing in one day! I'm not sure I could ever get used to this, but it would be nice to try! And all the five soloists acquitted themselves well in the variations, with Ashley Knox leaving behind some traces of apparent difficulty she had shown previously in the first one. This is the variation that ends with a long series of hops in arabesque down the diagonal to downstage left in which she only changes the carriage of her arms; it has looked like a killer, but Knox brought it off with apparent ease last night. But Catoya! Oh, my! One miracle after another!

Lilac Garden (which I almost just called Lilac Variations, such is the effect this morning of seeing Catoya in Raymonda Variations twice yesterday) had its first cast again. and for me it benefitted from my having seen the second one. It really needs Kronenberg at its center, and Seay in her more distant orbit, so to speak, and so, with them there, it nearly "worked" for me, but I was aware later how much time I spend "reading" this ballet, while in the other two, listening closely provides all the entry I need into what I see.

Sitting in row U I got the power from the orchestra I wanted in Symphony in Three Movements when I sat in row P the previous evening, and I'm sure it wasn't because they played louder. (The sound man confirmed this. He does not amplify the orchestra for the audience, only for the dancers.) But farther back, I got less "power" from the stage. On the other hand, row U in the Au Rene Theatre in the Broward Center is not a bad place to see "Symphony 3" because there's a little elevation there.

bart, I do hope you get a chance to see Kronenberg in "Symphony 3", not becasue Carranza is wrong for it - she's right, actually, this is MCB - but because Kronenberg brings not only her "unthinking knowing" to it, but some technical niceties too, like at the end of the second movement, the pas de deux: The choreography has the woman run down the diagonal to the left and jete' and run off, and Carranza does this fine. But jete' is French for "jump", right? What is the French word for "float"? This is what Kronenberg does, just for a moment, without seeming to go up in the air, she is up there, floats there a moment, and then she's down and off. (Okay, this kind of thing is more important than the ribbons in her hair!)

As to preparing yourself, do look for Reynolds's "Repertory in Review", with its long description of "Symphony 3" and Balanchine and Mason's "Balanchine's Complerte Stories..." for its long account (not entirely in agreement with this staging) of Lilac Garden. Maybe in your main library. The Broward County one is pretty good, even having the ABT video of Garden which this non-resident wasn't allowed to use.

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The Sunday matinee performance of Raymonda Variations was led by Katia Carranza, who was excellent - lovely, clear, secure - although she was not Mary Carmen Catoya! Carranza's loveliness here contrasted appropriately with her bright sharpness in Symphony in Three Movements; she doesn't just give everything the same delivery, although I would say her dancing of "Symphony 3" is more "standard" than Kronenberg's. We see the difference, as soon as either dancer (in pink) appears at upstage center in the first movement of "Symphony 3", flanked by corps, as the girl (in red) in the first couple exits left downstage: Carranza's demeanor is more head up and open, while Kronenberg refelects in her rendition some of the ominous character of the music, with slightly lowered head and a more serious, not to say grim, expression. Luis Serrano was in his usual role again as her very able partner in Raymonda, and my favorite soloist in the variations this time was Patricia Delgado, in the fifth one.

Lilac Garden was performed by the second cast again, and Symphony in Three Movements was performed by Friday night's cast, except that Allynne Noelle took over Patricia Delgado's role, as the girl in orange, in the third couple to appear, with the good, straightforward Alexandre Dufaur, who danced this at all four performances in the Broward Center. Andrea Spiridonakos, as the girl in red, with the fine Jeremy Cox, seemed a little less playful than on Friday night, but still superb, looking "right" for this in a little different way.

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bart, your analogy for Lilac Garden goes in the right direction, because these people are like creatures trapped in an artificial situation, that's much of the point of the ballet, and Caroline is quite vulnerable. But so is her fiance''s former lover, and, as we see, her fiance': There's a moment toward the end where both women, one after another, go away from him, and he changes his direction from one to the other, moving his right hand against his side nervously, which Mason interprets (correctly, I think) as a sign of a moment's despair at possibly having lost them both. And then at the very end, Caroline's lover reaches yearningly after her as she and her fiance' go off, before he turns away, facing upstage, clasping his hands behind his back as the curtain falls; he's also caught in this tragedy of manners. So they're all vulnerable, and suffering, although Caroline is central. (Maybe your analogy fits another staging of this ballet more closely. ABT? IMO, it would be like them to do half the job, or less.)

No, I can't imagine anyone warming up to this one, we feel too much anguish. That's a cold feeling, and it's good to have it purged by "Symphony 3" with its expansive energy and light. (Notice already in the first movement, at the end of the "pink" girl's circle of turns among the circling white corps, how she sails off downstage left, still turning: She could still be sailing along somewhere forever!) This is not just a big cast (32 dancers), it's as huge and breezy a ballet as Lilac Garden is small and claustrophobic. Just what we need to conclude. Having put this program together, Edward Villella took good care of us.

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Maria Calegari once said in an interview with Dance Magazine that she wanted to be “a dancer who means what she dances.” That quote is decades old, but it has stayed with me, largely because I think of it every time I see the Miami City Ballet perform. It came back again and again this past weekend, as the company presented its Program III at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. Edward Villella has infused his entire company with this aspect of Balanchine style. Every member of this eclectic international group has to learn to dance this way, not play-acting or showing off their technique, but speaking in movement, directly to the audience, whether in a role or pure dance.

Program III is a mixed bag: Balanchine’s lush and delightful “Raymonda Variations,” Tudor’s murky melodrama “Lilac Garden,” and then Balanchine at his most aggressive and martial, in “Symphony in Three Movements.” They call for three different styles of expression, but in every case the dancers meant what they were dancing, and the effect was pure and powerful.

As Jack Reed wrote earlier this month, “Raymonda” is a showcase for the polished charm and technical mastery of Mary Carmen Catoya, and underneath that charm is a breathtaking ardor. When she spins and dives forward, with nothing but her partner’s hands between her and the void, she is reaching, and risking, every time.

It was also a showcase for debuts by younger, promising dancers. Alex Wong was there as a partner for Catoya, and took off with joyful elevation in the jumping-bean solos once patented by Villella. The female mini-variations were exquisitely light, displaying the hummingbird quickness of Charlene Cohen, Zoe Zien, and Kyra Homeres, and the soaring poise on pointe of Allynne Noelle and Kristen D’Addario.

I’ve never been a fan of “Lilac Garden.” This soap opera makes the point that a forced marriage is no fun, but that’s a point that hardly needs to be made in 2007, or maybe even in 1936 when Tudor made it. It survives because of its admirable economy of gesture – a few motifs of arms and hands and face employed to signify the depressing strictures of the garden plot. The Miami dancers did it more than justice, especially Jennifer Kronenberg, Patricia Delgado and Haiyan Wu as the ill-starred Caroline. Each in her own way, they meant what they danced. Kronenberg used her mobile torso, Delgado her striking face, and Wu her delicate arms and hands to etch the heroine’s hopeless state.

Fortunately this is all just a warm-up for a blowaway production of “Symphony in Three Movements,” a Balanchine masterpiece channeled by Villella from his place at the center of the 1972 creation. Stravinsky wrote the music in part as a response to newsreel film of Nazi soldiers, and Villella sees it as an anti-war ballet, but not of the conventional kind. The protest is in the abstraction of military menace and the chaos of the battlefield. Quoting Balanchine, Villella tells us (in his pre-performance chat) that the vocabulary of movement refers directly to war materiel: the twin-rotor arm circles of the pas de deux are a helicopter, the two-way running circles of corps girls, with a ballerina spinning madly through them, is “radar.” From the ground it looks like chaos, but from the fourth ring you can see it clearly; just like war, which is a terrifying jumble from a foxhole but choreographic art from above.

That of course is just part of the picture, in a ballet that resembles Picasso’s sprawling masterpiece “Guernica,” not fully describable in words. Let’s just say that the finale is like an amphibious assault, with Navy Seals crouching on the shore, air cover buzzing overhead, ranks of infantry advancing and a signal corps darting in and out of the wings.

This dance can look ridiculous if the dancers don’t mean what they are dancing. But here they did, most especially Jeremy Cox and Katia Carranza in the sinuous helicopter duet, and the black and white infantry corps, where depending on when and where you looked, you could see Marc Spielberger, Stephen Satterfield, or Andrea Spiridonakis leading the charge. Not only did they mean what they were dancing, but they danced as if their lives depended on it.

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I've just seen 3 performances here at West Palm. Generally, I'm in entire agreement with Jack. And with flipsy,

(Flipsy, I moved your post to this thread and closed the duplicate thread. We were writing at more or less the same time, so I ended up reporting some of the same things as you. I'd never heard the phrase "jumping bean solo" for the man in Raymonda. It certainly is apt. It also reminded me of Bluebird. Also, your post reminded me of Catoyal's fishdive towards the audience at the end of Raymonda. Now THAT's a thrilling bit of business!)

About the program: This was a brilliant combination of ballets. Villella, in his pre-curtain talk, said that it is a showcase of very different styles that his "young dancers" are capable of doing. Oddly, Villella himself did not seem very enthusiastic about any of these works during his comments. He was very brief, and seemed rather uninterested in both Raymonda Variations ("a bit of froth") and Lilac Gardens (which he seemed to consisder something of a period piece). He had a few interesting memories of dancing in "Three Movements. Apparently, when he asked Balanchine about some of the arm waving movements, Balanchine responded: "Helicopters, dear. Helicopters." Villella also called the 3 MOvements an "anti-war" ballet, which was -- and remains -- news to me.

Villella seems very good about allowing his young dancers to gain experience in a variety of roles. When this works -- as with Alex Wong, who had the chance to partner the ballerina in Raymonda Variations AND to dance one of the very intricate and demanding Balanchinian leads in 3 Movements on the same program -- it really works. But Wong is a rare and exceptional natural dancer who absorbs dance styles quickly and aeautifully. However, several of the apprentices chosen to dance in Raymonda were not really up to it. The steps are easy; linking and sustaining them are not. The effect at times was that of a student recital at a mid-level ballet school: not exactly fair either to the dancers or the audience.

Raymonda Variations I love what Balanchine did with the classical steps and conventions. Mary Carmen Catoya was wonderful in the lead. Her style and charm reminded me a bit both of Verdy and McBride in the part, lthough she's more muscular and compact. Luis Serrano was a marvellous partner, and the two of them worked well together. Serrano is not a jumper, which made him a bit less suited for the solo parts. Alex Wong (second year member of the corps) did an amazing job at the Sunday matinee. The partnering here is not easy, especially with all those difficult balances and transitions in the adagio sections, and I was astonished as to how well he did it. (A test for me is how the man uses his hands to help the ballerina pirouette. Beginners often seem clumsy with this. Wong was good -- and effective.)

I wasn't looking forward to Lilac Garden for a couple of reasons. I haven't seen it since I was rather young, and my memories are of something fusty and melodramatic, suitable for a museum rather than a modern company. Worse, several ABT performances I saw in the past were stiff and uninspired. I was also fearful that the young Miami dancers, who have nothing like this in their repertoire, would not be able to come close to the style or feeling. I was wrong. They did a really excellent job -- miraculously so, when you think of the challenges. they also got me to look closely at a ballet I'd never paid much attention to before, and to come to admire and even love it.

I saw two casts. The most effective, to me at least, was composed of Jennifer Kronenburg (Caroline), Carlos Guerra (Lover), Daymel Sanchez (Man She Must Marry), and Deanna Seay (Woman from her Past). Seay was the only dancer I've ever seen who made the "other woman" someone I really sympathized with. She was softer and more vulnerable than the usual interpretation,and it worked. On the other hand, she had the force to carry off the two most powerful (for me) visual images in the ballet: the upstage bouree from one side of the stage to the other, with back to the audience; and her savage response to the young party guest who asks her for a dance, only to be driven off the stage by a suddenly enraged woman, chest forward, arms back, having finally lost her cool.

Similarly, Sanchez was less rigid and ominous than I've seen before. At times he was genuinely puzzled by how upset his old mistress was, or why Caroline was always turning her head away There was an attractive weakness in this character that contrasted with his powerful social position in a male-dominated world. The opening tableaux -- Sanchez standing behind Kronenberg, his hand slowly moving down her arm in a possessive and non-affectionate carress -- was chilling.

Kronenberg as Caroline was lovely and very affecting. Evereykthing about her (face, movement, even her body in repose) were in character, and she used the frequent push-pull movements and gestures of the role to suggest how truly conflicted she was. In the alternate cast, Haiyan Wu was mis-cast in the role, both as to temperament and as to style. Softer, more helpless, more neurotic than Kronenberg, her Caroline made me think of her Giselle -- except that here, she isn't given the opportunity of going mad and dying. Wu is a compelling Giselle. However, I would have preferred to see Tricia Albertson or Katia Carranza given a chance as Caroline.

The Lover is the least interesting part in this foursome, but Guerra made me feel his suffering, while still playing the social game that required him to partner other women in the dance and to act as if he hadn't a care in the world. When the time came for the ballet's final tableau -- Guerra alone in the center of the garden, his back to the audience, his folded behind his back -- I felt that his story was, indeed, just as interesting as the others. Guerra continues to grow.

In the second cast, Sanchez switched roles and became the Lover. He's a beautiful mover, so this worked fine. Callie Manning was the other woman. She is angrier and more menacing than Seay. Sometimes she appeared even stronger and more scarey than the man who is rejecting her. Jeremy Cox, on the other hand, was gentler and more subtle than most dancers in this role. That meant that the power relationship went a bit askew, though still quite interesting. I especially liked the way Cox/Manning, in the midst of something passionate, would catch themselves up and glance quickly and sharply from left to right, aware that someone might be looking.

The audience response to LG was interesting -- signs and gasps as the curtain rose ("Oh, good, a romantic ballet in a garden.") -- and then puzzled and politely restrained hand-clapping at the end. It was a magical set of performances that deserved a bigger response.

Sympthony in 3 Movements is a ballet I've loved since day one, its debut during the Stravinsky Festival. This was a smoothly run, beautifully danced, and very exciting performance. The corps of women in white leotards in their long diagonal line received gasps of appreciation as the curtain rose. The women had been very well-coached in the style. (Well, there WERE a couple of young women who had their own ideas about arm movements and had a rather more swoony kind of attack than the others.) The corps of 5 couples were really good. Each of them danced as if given a mig solo, and everyone was worth looking at closely.

Of the three lead couples, Tricia Albertson (in red) and Alex Wong were the sharpest, fastest, and most Balanchinian in the way they attacked and sustained the steps. Wong, from his first solo entrance charging across the stage commanded the available space like Villela did. Speed, elongation, elevation: you name it. Albertson's and Wong's jump competition -- very high jumps, torsos twisted, legs bent and to the side -- got gasps and applause.

The main couple were Katia Carranza (pink) and Jeremy Cox. At first Carranza seemed a bit softer and even more voluptuous than this role seems to call for, but her dancing grew on me. She can attack a movement when she wants (eg. circling the stage with rapid picque pirouettes as the female corps moves in all sorts of directions). In the "eastern" or "oriental" duet, Carranza and Cox were stunning. Their concentration was total. They were very much together but also completely in his or her own world. It was one of the most powerful examples of pas de deux I've seen on stage in a long time.

As the third couple, Patricia Delgado (orange) and Alexandre Dufaur danced beautifully together. (Jack refers to a certain straightforwardness in Dufaur's dancing. In the past, I've been distracted sometimes by a kind of lackadaisical quality in his corps work. Here, however, the concentration was total and the manner was impeccable. Clearly he knew that this is a major role.) The dancing for this couple is not as interesting as for the other two, but they held their own at the end when all 3 couples dance together, in sequence, in competition, etc. It's a great finale, and everyone did his bit. [Edited to add a comment of flipsy's:

Let’s just say that the finale is like an amphibious assault, with Navy Seals crouching on the shore, air cover buzzing overhead, ranks of infantry advancing and a signal corps darting in and out of the wings.

(But ... anti-war? I'm still puzzling over that.)

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Bart -- I was puzzled too when Villella called this an anti-war work, but now I think I see his point. Looking it up in Nancy Reynolds' Repertory in Review I read that Stravinsky wrote this score as World War Two movie/propaganda music --- a martial piece meant to denounce the Nazis.

The choreography -- especially for the corps -- has a fanatical and fascist edge to it, as if these young people had been turned into a destructive force, their movements inspired by some demonic cause.

Balanchine was no pacifist, and he clearly loved military choreography, as in Union Jack & Stars & Stripes. But this is the the battleground, the killing field, not the parade ground. War itself, if you look at it, is anti-war. Military people know this. I wish George Bush did!

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Flipsy, I am with you on almost everything. However, I have my doubts about the following assumption:

War itself, if you look at it, is anti-war.
Would that it were.

Here's my own take on this matter -- Symphony in 3 Movements reminds us of the particular war and particular time in which the music was conceived only because we know the history of its composition. At the most it's a score "about" film images of war, not war itself. Its drive, energy, and raucousness -- intersperced so wonderfully with those strange and lovely adagio passages -- could just as easily apply to a high-energy urban environment, a factory assembly line, or .... well, almost anything. "Helicopters" and "radar" are associations Balanchine made to explain certain movements to his dancers. But would an audience today -- or even in 1972 -- be able to access these "meanings" without someone to tell us what to look for? Maybe those young men crouching as they face the audience in the final tableau are present-day MBAs getting ready for another day of struggling for success in the global market place. Or they might be on their way to shoot a recruiting film for the Marines.

Anti-war to me, at least, implies the depiction of the effects of war on its victims and and on those who find themselves being corrupted by the violance they commit, as in the Green Table. Balanchine's ballet has none of this. Nor, I think, does the score support such imagery. Both ballet and score are more memorable, and more enduring, as a result.

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While I don't disagree with flipsy really, I find bart's comment carrying the discussion toward my own position of the moment: Stravinsky wrote out of his feelings about the (then recent) events in the Europe he knew, and when Balanchine made his ballet, he listened to what he heard, much as he did when he made The Four Temperaments; remember (if I have this right), Balanchine hadn't much interest in Medieval thought, but Hindemith had great interest in it, and objectified some of that in his music. So I think the idea of this as an anti-war ballet is a bit of a stretch (although Villella is right to say it - he wants to engage us with what he presents), but I take it as a response to Stravinsky's response to the war.

Have you seen the choreographer's remarks about this in Balanchine's Complete Stories...? He writes, "[T]he [movements] I arranged for this music follow no story line or narrative. They try to catch the music and do not, I hope, lean on it, using it instead for support and time frame... What is really interesting is the complexity and variety of the music, from the propulsive drive and thrust of the vigorous opening (which also closes the ballet) to the developed use, almost like a concerto, of the piano in the first movement, the harp in the second and the two together in the finale... [P]araphrasing Stravinsky, how and in what form the things of this world are impressed upon my dance is not for me to say." I don't mean the discussion ends here, but this is the line along which I personally make my best progress into his ballets.

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Thanks for that Balanchine quote. I was especially impessed by the following:

"[T]he [movements] I arranged for this music follow no story line or narrative. They try to catch the music and do not, I hope, lean on it, using it instead for support and time frame... What is really interesting is the complexity and variety of the music, from the propulsive drive and thrust of the vigorous opening (which also closes the ballet) to the developed use, almost like a concerto, of the piano in the first movement, the harp in the second and the two together in the finale... [P]araphrasing Stravinsky, how and in what form the things of this world are impressed upon my dance is not for me to say." I don't mean the discussion ends here, but this is the line along which I personally make my best progress into his ballets.
The idea of not "leaning" on the music is a marvellous way of expressing the difference between what Balanchine was able to achieve and the work of most other contemporary (even neoclassical) choreographers.
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Thanks, Jack and Bart. That quote is really illuminating, and helps me see the ballet both as a response to a response, and as a free-standing work of art. I think Villella may have used the "anti-war" peg as a way to inspire his dancers and involve the audience, and there are some literal references to war in the piece -- i.e. the "radar" circles are hard to see as anything else. But there is also a scarey, almost barbaric coldness to the ballet. In an early review (quoted in Repertory in Review) Paul Gellen wrote "Balanchine has made us feel the chilling, harsh tensions of some future universe where privacy and community have been irrevocably polarized." Of the pas de deux, he writes. "They never appear to give in to each other with total weight and harmony; they've forgotten how to make love." It's this sort of thing that makes me think of Guernica, a prophetic work with its roots in the same ghastly era as Stravinsky's score.

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Very interesting quote, flipsy. It gives an idea of how this particular piece must have looked in the context of people's expectations of ballet at the time. I DO recall feeling in 1972 that something revolutionary, disorienting, and somehow threatening was taking place on stage.

In the 30-plus years since then, we've had the chance to observe a great deal more urban alienation, "propulsive drive," anti-romanticism, etc., onstage than anyone could have expected in 1972. Pas de deux where there is little emotional connection are no longer all that rare. Maybe we're just more accustomed to it all now. It's still exciting, but just not so scarey -- to me at least. :)

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(from Washington, DC) Thanks for the "free-standing work of art" phrase, flipsy! That's actually how I usually look at something, and I neglected to say that. In my response-to-a-response phrase, I just wanted to suggest that the anti-war aspect was peripheral. I too think the thing-in-itself is the important thing, or in fewer words, "You said it!"

But on a minor point, I must in all modesty report that it is possible to take the circling white corps as something other than "radar", because for years I've thought of those girls with their arms straight out to the sides as circling airplanes! I like "radar" much better, it's less literal, more metaphorical. (Do you suppose Mr. B. knew how radar antennas rotate steadily, and how on a radar screen there's a corresponding line sweeping steadily around, marking out the location of airplanes and ground objects?)

And the business in the pas de deux where the dancers rise and descend, with their bent arms held horizontally, as "helicopters" is wonderful. I knew I'd seen that somewhere before in life, but I hadn't made the connection. As Bernard ("B. H.") Haggin observed, everything Balanchine saw turned up in his ballets eventually.

But as to the lessened effect of Symphony in Three Movements today, I think that MCB simply doesn't give it quite the impact that Balanchine's company did. They come close, though, and they go beyond merely revealing the greatness of the work. (SFB's rendition at the Kennedy Center a few years ago was rather less thrilling, I thought.)

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