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MCB dancers' Chicago "lecture-demo" & master classes

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This is short notice, but tomorrow, in the run-up to MCB's Auditorium theatre performances in Chicago on the coming weekend, two of the company's principal dancers will give a lecture-demonstration at Ballet Chicago's studios on Wabash Avenue in downtown Chicago tomorrow, preceded and followed by master classes by Jennifer Kronenberg and by Ballet Chicago's regular faculty Patricia Blair and Daniel Duell, for students of different ages:


(Those familiar with Balanchine's Symphony in Three Movements, to the energetic Stravinsky music of the same name, which will open their bang-up Auditorium program, will recognize Kronenberg and Guerra in a moment from the ballet's second movement on that page. I say "bang-up" because the program closes with Tharp's In the Upper Room.)

I expect Daniel Duell will do most of the lecturing; I've seen him do this before, and IMO he's pretty good at it, and I expect to be there.

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Thanks, Jack. It sounds like a wonderful program. Kronenberg is fascinating to watch when she is taking company class. I'd love to see her teaching.

I would rather like to TAKE Patricial Blair's "Introduction to Balanchine-based technique." It's for 8-10 year olds, which is just about my own level of skill. :flowers:

Hope you'll give us a full report of what you have the chance to see.

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This has taken longer than I intended, but for what it's worth, here are my impressions:

The announced lecture-demonstration proved to consist mainly of a brief biography of Balanchine and some comments by Chicago dance critic Lucia Mauro, followed by dancing of the Symphony in Three Movements pas de deux and the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux by Kronenberg and Carlos Miguel Guerra. A lot of Dan Duell's remarks were fairly familiar to those of us who know the Balanchine story, so I've just put down a few of the less familiar of his points.

Daniel Duell: Ballet Chicago has a shared background with Miami City Ballet, we're very much Balanchine-oriented.

Edward Villella on the "Bell Telephone Hour" [television program] in the 60's persuaded me I could happily do that for a life.

Patricia Blair began to dance and stage Balanchine with the Eglevsky Ballet [while Villella directed it].

read Leap Across the Atlantic, Christine DuBoulay Ellis, [who directs the Ellis-DuBoulay School of Ballet in Chicago]

Balanchine oversaw everything until 1982.

Balanchine's biography included attending the Maryinsky School, choreographed in his teens, left Russia during the Revolution. Diaghilev, Apollo, Les Ballets 1933. Lincoln Kirstein; "but first a school": SAB explored American customs.


Lucia Mauro: [Contrary to what's often thought], he didn't use only tall American girls, [and he used dancers' individuality]. Allegra Kent was always up in the ether. LeClercq: humor, wit. Patricia McBride: the girl next door. Karin von Aroldingen: a broad-shouldered German.

Edward Villella redefined what male dancing could be.

Balanchine said that Stravinsky's music was "how I would want it to sound [if I could compose]". Of Movements, Stravinsky said. "I had drawn the plans for the building Balanchine built".

1972 Stravinsky Festival. 19 premieres in one week including Symphony in Three Movements; the music was written for a film about China [?]

Jennifer Kronenberg & Carlos Miguel Guerra were introduced, to enthusiastic applause. Jennifer Kronenberg grew up at MCB after a year at SAB. Carlos Miguel Guerra had danced Albrecht.

Guerra: I thought Balanchine was going to be easy! It was really hard and fast.

Balanchine hands and poses.

Duell: In Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux, we can't show the lifts [in the concluding coda].

[There was a massive ventilating duct overhead; the event had originally been scheduled for the new studios at 17 N. State, visible on the Ballet Chicago website, which are larger in all three dimensions, although, unlike one image, they don't have a blue floor! (Blue light from a clear sky here?) These studios were formerly used by the Joffrey Ballet, the second time Ballet Chicago has followed them into better facilities, I believe.]

Compared to other choreographers, Balanchine is recognizable by his musical devices.

Having mentioned that Kronenberg and Guerra are married, Duell pointed out that professionals dance so you know they care, even sometimes in spite of their marriage.

Tickets and group sales for MCB are out there, Duell concluded.

There was not a lot of the "gallery lecture" pointing out of detail, as a docent might give before a painting, but there was some: Daniel Duell indicated briefly some of the "Balinese" movement, in particular, striking a pose you might strike if someone pulls a gun on you and says, "Stick 'em up!" With elbows bent at right angles, your hands are either side of your head, palms forward; holding the arms so, he bent a little to the side and walked in small steps in that direction. But then with that "setup", Kronenberg and Guerra danced.

I was a little disappointed that they were not in costume, because a favorite little bit in the Symphony Three pas de deux happens early and then again very late, when he is behind her and they are moving their arms in the plane of their shoulders: Several times he reaches around and takes her hand in front of her, while they each extend the free arm out to their sides, and when both dancers' arms are bare, you can lose track of which arm belongs to whom, or whether she is joining her hands while he extends his arms, which they also do (I think!) but Guerra performed in a long-sleeved black jersey he had worn earlier, so there was never any doubt about whose arms were whose. Otherwise, it was a fine, calm, assured performance, if a little subdued, owing to space constraints.

Likewise in "Tchai Pas" Guerra's jumps had him rolling his eyes up to check on that pesky duct, lest he hit it! But here, as in the other pas de deux, I was impressed all over again how you can be practically on top of the dancers and their extraordinary way of moving nevertheless makes its uncanny effect, if they're this good.

A similar effect would punctuate Kronenberg's conduct of the older-students' master class later: Her way of dancing a few steps now and then in front of the class, as naturally as us ordinary mortals walk, or more so, was a delight. Several of her students got a little extra attention; she had one of the two strong-looking boys, who seemed to tower over the willowy girls like trees that could run and jump, repeat a few movements. He was evidently more experienced in "modern" than in ballet, but very keen to try this unfamiliar way, and in a few repetitions rapidly mastered the challenging movement she asked for.

If there was a theme that ran through Kronenberg's remarks, it was her emphasis on attack, sharpness, clarity: "Look like we're committed... "

And light quickness, "Don't adjust after you land, be ready to take off again."

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