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Miami City Ballet Open Barre


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Thanks for raising this topic, cargill. I drove down for the first of 2 performances and was overwhelmed. The Wolfson Theater in the studio is very intimate, with bleacher seating. We were in the first row, and several times I had to suppress the urge to jump up and run right into the middle of the dancers in Rubies. :blushing:

The program -- emceed by Edward Villella -- was an introduction to the new dancers of the company, all of whom were on stage, and a celebration of siblings within the company. The siblings are Rolando and Daniel Sarabia (both new); former MCB students, Patricia Delgado (a new principal) and Jeanette Delgado (a new principal soloist); and former MCB students and current Corps members, the twins Sara and Leigh-Ann Esty.

Villella also mentioned that the performances were partly to thank the City of Miami Beach, which originally gave them the land for the MCB studio and school, and which recently bought the building from the company, saving them from serious financial problems.

I'll write more tomorrow about Villella's very interesting comments and my thoughts about the dancing . (It's a l-o-n-g two-way drive fro West Palm Beach to Miami. We usually see them during their 4 performances in West Palm.)

Here's the program with casts.

1) Le Corsaire pas de deux. Patricial Delgado and Daniel Sarabia. This was done without the variations, since Daniel is recovering from a foot injury.

2) Tarantella. (Balanchine's). Mary Carmen Catoya and Joseph Phillips (new soloist, from SF Ballet).

3) Emeralds.

--Pas de Trois (Leigh-Ann Esty, Alex Wong, Sara Esty)

-- Solo. Haiyan Wu. The Verdy solo. Villella described this as "the lady dancing for the man who is not there." It's also called "la fileuse" on the POB dvd.

-- Walking Pas de deux. Deanna Seay and Isanusi Garcia-Rodrigues. Villella said something like: "This is the same woman, though we have a different dancer. She's dancing with the man who was not there but now is there." Or something like that.

4) Don Quixote pas de deux.

-- pas de deux. Jeanette Delgado and Carlos Guerra. Guerra stepped in to replace Rolando Sarabia, who has just had a small injury rehearsing the new Tharp/Elvis Costello piece. Rolando was on stage at the beginning and said hello.

--Male Variation: Zherlin Ndudi (from the Ukraine; Villella mentioned he arrived in Miami only last week)

-- Female Variation: Jeanette Delgado

-- Coda: Delgado and Ndudi.

5) A lecture demonstration focusing on some of the elements in Rubies, with the corps and Andrea Spiridonakos (the Tall Woman) wearing costumes with warm-up leggings. Informal and very interesting. Villella said things about the origins of Rubies, and its movement elements, which I'd never heard or read before. More later.

6) Complete staging of Rubies. (New production and costumes, which appear to be based on the original Karinskas.)

-- Jennifer Kronenberg and Renato Penteado

-- Andrea Spiridonakos

-- Kyra Homeres, Zoe Zien, Cindy Huang, Sara Esty, Leigh-Ann Esty, Jennifer Lauren, Amanda Weingarten, Ashley Knox. Didier Bramaz, Alexandre Dufaur, Marc Spielberger, Herberth Riascos.

Was anyone else there? Or going tomorrow?

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Some comments on the performances. I'll take the ballets out of order, so I can discuss Tarantella and Rubies as a unit. They were the most fully formed of the performances -- and, no coincidence, two works which were created on Villella and McBride.

The program was divided between

-- competition pdd's, designed to give the audience an introduction to dancers new to the company or newly promoted, and

-- glimpses of the work going on with Emeralds and Rubies and with Tarantella. (Jewels will be the first MCB program of the season; Tarantella is part of Program II).

The pdd's were fun to watch from so close, but not of the highest level. Daniel Sarabia was restrained and tentative, probably due to an injury and possibly also a result of not having worked with Patricia Delgado before. Jeanette Delgado was fine as Kitri: spirited, with all the gestures and attitudes down wonderfullyl. Zherlin Ndudi in the variation anda coda got roars from the audience, especially the younger dancer/student group, for his unbelievably high and extended jetes and tours en l'air. He's one of those dancers who seems literally to fly and float in the air in a way that few other male dancers achieve. The word "effortless" seems appropriate. For me, it was gasp-inducing. As this very young man gains experience, strength and accuracy, he's likely to be truly remarkable.

Emeralds. The work here was less formed than in Rubies. The steps are there; the perfume is not (yet). For me, it also suffered from stiff costuming and unattractive tiaras, though I believe they are close to the Karinska originals, never my favorites. I prefer the simpler, more dance-friendly Lacroix costumes for Paris.

In the Pas de Trois Alex Wong was brilliant: light, technically strong, elegant, joyful. He's a natural dancer in just about every category, and he can turn on his classical technique to a very high level whenever he wants.

Haiyan Wu's solo (Verdy role) was strange. Here's a dancer who would seem to be a natural for this part -- very able to fold within herself, and then move outward with uncannily beautiful movement. Here, she seemed not to have reached that point. The action with the hands -- the dancer regarding herself in that mysterious manner -- were underplayed, or even fudged over. Villella's interpretation of this solo, as I mentioned before, is "the lady dancing for the man who is not there." I don't know whether I've ever actually seen this in any performance. I would think this would require the expression of yearning, longing, rather than self-containment and self-regard. In either case, Wu has not reached an interpretation. Based on Faun, Liturgy, and Giselle in the past few years, I'm sure she'll come up with something, and that it will be mesmerising.

Deanna Seay and Isanusi Garcia-Rodrigues in the walking pas de deux also had the steps, though G-R seemed a little uncertain several times. I don't know whether he's danced this sort of thing in the past few seasons, so it may take a while for him to come back to it. In the past, before his 2-season exit from MCB, he was one of the most magnetic stage performers in the company. He has the potential to be the same again. Seay is strong and always good to watch. She had that quality of dancing with someone but alone. Perhaps a little additional flexibility, legato and mystery would make this performance even better.

Tarantella. Villella mentioned that, during a 5-week tour of the Soviet Union, he danced this role 24 times. It was so exhausting that Balanchine assured him that, because he was dancing things like this, he would eventually live longer.

The dancers were Mary Carmen Catoya (a principal for several years) and new import Joseph Phillips (hired from San Francisco as a soloist), in the roles created by Balanchine for Patty McBride and for Villella himself. There's an age difference - -and a gap in experience.

Catoya is remarkable in this kind of work: charming, always in character, technically precise, witty, fearless.

Phillips (since this was one of his boss's signature roles) had a bigger challenge. It's a good performance and will get better. Energy, speed, charm, and technique: they're all there waiting to be molded. I wonder if Villella, proud of being a "Queens boy" in Balanchine's company, coached Phillips on some of the boyish and quite modern-American movements and gestures that I don't recall seeing in this ballet before. If Catoya is the queen of her Neapolitan neighborhood, Phillips is the new kid on the block who can't believe his luck in getting a date with her. When she departs stage right at the end, he stares at the audience, seems to be miming "it looks like I'm gonna get lucky tonight," and follows her like a teenager in heat.

Is this the way it's done in other companies? I can't even remember if Villella did anything like it (or its 60s version) in the original production. Anyway, it works, and the audience loved it. It will be wonderful to watch Phillips grow in the wide range of rep -- with its Balanchine core -- at MCB.

Rubies. This was the real thrill of the evening. Jennifer Kronenberg (to me, the company's most consistently satisfying dancer ) and Renato Penteado (out last season due to an injury) were the lead couple. I've seen this done in a series of aimless NYCB revivals during the 70s and 80s and, most recently, in the dvd of the Paris Opera Ballet production with Dupont and Carbone. Paris makes it remarkably elegant, almost 18th-century. Kronenberg and Penteado are the first dancers who make the ballet look and feel as it did with Villella and McBride. One of the greatnesses of this work is the interplay between beautiful and complex classical movement and movements derived from jazz and from the Guys and Dolls ambiance of New York City in the 40s and 50s: the New York of show girls, celebrity jockeys, hepcats, tall, cool, elegant models, etc. etc. Most productions have lost the latter -- or perform it awkwardly. Villella's revival brings it all back together and knits it into a wonderful, fast-moving, seamless unit.

Villella talked quite a bit about this ballet, and had the corps and Tall Girl behind him demonstrating as he talked. He praised his dancers for their ability to learn quickly the most complex rhythms, combinations, and gestures: "Dance is a mind-driven physicality. These dancers have the physicality ... and they're smart!" He illustrated many of the jazzy gestures integrated into the ballet. (I looked for that gesture of congratulatory hand-slapping that Dupond and Carbone insert at a certain point, but it wasnt' there.) When the real performance took place -- when the red curtain rose to reveal the 13 dancers holding hands across the stage like a ruby necklace -- I was impressed to see how well these young dancers expressed both the neoclassical complications and the "hip" movements, some of which haven't been seen in the real world since their grandparents were young. It was wonderfull to behold.

One of the intriguing bits of Rubies is the pas de cinq in which the 4 men manipulate the limbs of the Tall Girl. This can be eerie, as when performed by Gillot on the Paris dvd. That's the way I remember von Aroldingen doing it. A flashback to something from The Cage. But I don't think that was the way it was done in the first with Patricia Neary. Villella asked us to imagine a beautiful long-legged filly. And 4 stablemen grooming her. (There are other horse-and-jockey images in the ballet.) Sure enough, it was there in the real performance . And it was wonderful to see. When Spiridonakos, alone on stage, exited in her series of beautifully done penchees arabesques, the image of a majestic young thoroughbred stayed in the mind.

Kronenberg articulated every part of the complex choreography, but always remained in character. She was flirtatious, sassy, sometimes bemused, always in character. Penteado had a big grin on his face. He threw himself into everything with gusto and joy. His spirited version of the famous run with his pack of pals was the only one I've seen that even remotely suggested what it was like when Villella performed it. Villella himself said that Balanchine knew he was dealing with "Queens boy." "My fantasy," he said, "is that Balanchine knew about us in Queens." (The guys running, jumping, full of energy and enthusiasm.) Balanchine let Villella do it in his own style. In fact, Villella called Balanchine a "master tailor" who created dance that showed a dancer's abilities at their best. Which made it "really difficult to follow the original cast."

Rubies is Villella's own personal slice of Jewels. It's astonishing right now. I ca't wait to see what it will be like by the time the official first curtain rises.

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Thank you for taking the time to post these lengthy reviews. I almost felt as if I were in the audience. You are right about the theatre being intimate! It is wonderful to see the dancers up so close, a much different feel from the other venues they perform in. Edward Villella is always wonderful to hear and talking about the parts that he danced must have been a thrill. Wish I could see tonights performance!

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The MCB website mentions that the actual production will have

a lavish new set designed by Tony- and Oscar-winner Tony Walton.
Villella mentioned that costs for the new production were $250,000. I didn't see the first MCB production, designed for a smaller stage than the Carnival Center. I just hope the sets aren't too lavish. Emeralds and Rubies looked perfectly lovely on the Wolfson stage with plain colored lighting on the rear drop.

Also, comparing the costumes with the 1967 production photos, the new costumes do indeed seem to be Karinska's original design. In Emeralds, the long tutus, the and men's costumes, seem identical. The Rubies costume for the ballerina only lacks the frilly very short tutu worn by McBride, while the men's costumes are identical. The big, Russian style tiaras appear to be the same. Ditto the large rather non-glittering jewels on bodices and necklines.

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Haiyan Wu's solo (Verdy role) [ ... ]

Liebling has just contacted me pointing out that this -- the Sicilienne -- was not the Verdy role, which is faster, more spirited and less introspective. Thanks for that correction, liebling. I have no excuse for the memory lapse -- other than too much speed in writing. :)

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