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MCB Program II: Div.#15,Valse Fantaisie,Sl. on 10th Ave

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I'm 3-quarters of the way through the performances in West Palm Beach. Alistaire Macaulay mentioned that that each performance has left him with visual images for hours. Same with me.

Some brief notes:

-- hidden in the program biographies: Amanda Weingarten has been raised to soloist. I can still retain visual images of her beautiful and moving performance, dancing with Didier Bramaz, in Company B in the last Program. All Miami's young dancers appear to be comfortable on stage and to know how to maintain energy and focus. Weingarten is one of the best at this. I can't wait to watch her develop in an expanded soloist rep.

-- Jeanette Delgado was out this weekend, too, an was replaced by couple of those remarkable, stage-savvy young corps people that Macaulay praised in his review: Ashley Knox and Sara Esty. Add to that Jennifer Lauren (in Divertimento) Christie Sciturro (in the Tharp), and the biggest surprise,: how lovely those all-corps Valse Fantaisie casts looked, including Zoe Zien, Leigh-Ann Esty, and Michael Sean Breeden, Breeden, also cast in one the principal rols in Divertimento, was a particular standout. (I was unable to see Nicole Stalker, praised by Macaulay. She was scheduled VF on Saturday night but had to be replaced.) Every one of the corps dancers held his or her own on stage with principals. That's rare ... and a real achievement. Sara Esty was a revelation: joyful but with new depth, attentive to every nuance but willing to stretch outwards and take risks, especially in the Tharp.

-- the outstanding programming, moving from the elegance and purity of Divertimento to the charming but still effective old-time Broadway feel of Slaughter, was effectively paced and varied.. The dancers looked comfortable, at home, and in charge in the technique and vernacular language of each work.

-- something in the program made me think of a complement that Macaulay inserted in his review of Jewels back in 2007. Here it is:

If there is a past dancer the Miami company reminds me of in matters of style, it is [Patricia] McBride, Mr. Villella's long-time stage partner. She had neither textbook feet (though hers were so eloquent that they left indelible memories) nor perfect turnout of the legs, but she opened herself out glowingly, as if hungering for the most exposed positions and most incisive rhythms. Her warmth as a performer, her precision, her bravery and her delicacy all came to mind in Miami.
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Michael Sean Breeden, who has been praised in this thread by miamicubanboy, bart, and Alastair Macaulay by citation for his performances in Divertimento #15 and Valse Fantaisie, has written about the roles for the MCB Blog: Enraptured in two major Balanchine roles.

While "Divert" is a revered classic, the 1953 version of Valse Fantaisie we perform is a gem that is little seen and would be all but extinct if it were not for Miami City Ballet. Having danced the 1967 version of Valse Fantaisie as a member of Boston Ballet II, it has been a particularly interesting experience for me to perform the earlier version. While both have many merits, they are similar only in sweep and lightness; little links the two choreographically. Being able to compare two very different perspectives by George Balanchine on a single piece of music has proven fascinating.
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(from Fort Lauderdale, Florida) I take it that Breeden means there's little of the 1953 choreography left in the 1967 version, and I'm glad to have my own impression verified by a dancer, who must see many times more in each moment than a mere ballet fan like me can, even if he hadn't been a participant in each version, but Breeden has that too, and so I'm not disagreeing.

One thing did strike me though, seeing MCB in the 1953 version in Chicago in October, and that is the bit late in this "little" eight-minute ballet, where we hear a solo horn: Balanchine has set this moment as the beginning of a little solo variation for a woman, the more prominent of the three women in 1953, the principal one in 1967. A different variation, but evidently that bold music still said "female variation" to him, both times.

(There are similarities in organization if not in substance also between Divertimento No. 15 and its predecessor, Caracole, to the same music: In both choreographies, Balanchine used five principal women, three principal men, and eight girls. I never saw Caracole; this is from Nancy Reynolds' excellent book, "Repertory in Review".)

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Jack...I find very interesting that for some people-(me included)-the choreographic notion of VF is totally different than that of others-(me having never seen the 1967 version). I've had this happened before, curiosly with another Balanchine...Apollo, which I only know in its former incarnation-(birth and Olympus' ascension, as it is still danced in Cuba). I wonder how many more B' ballets are danced out there in different "versions"-(or variations?...or takes...?)- done by the choreographer himself.

re: "The Golden Section", and on the lighter side, I want to add an interesting detail. The dancers show their heads free of all hair constrictions-(headpieces, buns, wigs and anything else in between). So then, I could see Callie Manning's VERY short, VERY curly bob, Patricia Delgado's lioness-like, gorgeous long curly dark locks and Renato Panteado's shaved head.

Just a little observation from the ex-hairdresser perspective. :wink:

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Thanks for that quote from Breedon, carbro.

While both have many merits, they are similar only in sweep and lightness; little links the two choreographically.
Based on this, what I've read, and what Villella said in the pre-performance talks, I'm assuming that these are really two different ballets (not the case with Apollo). Villella himself focused on a major difference: 1967 has a lead couple and a small corps; 1953 has one man dancing with 3 women, and a great deal of solo work. In other words, "no couple," which allows for the grace and innocence of the world the dancers create. The lack of a conventional "couple" in the 1953 version seems to have intrigued Villella.

Cristian, I'm glad you mentioned hair, because I had a couple of strong feelings about this during the weekend.

-- (1) Penteado looks great -- and much freer -- without the wig. There's nothing in MCB's rep which he couldn't perform just as effectively with a shaved head. That includes Siegfried and Albrecht, in my opinion, though this might be controversial. It certainly includes the Balanchine, Robbins and Taylor pieces. I hope he commits to the more natural look for the future.

-- (2) Callie Manning, looking stunning in both the Tharp and as the Strip Tease Girl in Slaughter. I don't know what you call that shortish but very fluffy, curley look, but it was eye-catching, good for dancing in, and very attractive. Hair that is too l-o-n-g can become distracting in ballet, especially when it sticks over the nose or something like that. This happened several times to Kronenberg (whose hair is long and very full) in Slaughter. No such problems with Manning's hairdo.

Re: Slaughter. Villella seems to be committed to multiple casting, at least as far as the Strip Tease Girl is concerned. I missed the Saturday matinee, in which Patricia Delgado took the role. (Thanks, Buddy, for that information.) Amanda Weingarten will be performing in Fort Lauderdale. Manning was a very pleasant surprise in this role. She has one of the most beautiful dancer's bodies in ballet, but sometimes seems a little tense in performance. She has seemed to have an affinity for darker roles: the Coquette in Sonnambula, for example. As the Strip Tease Girl, however, she blossomed. Her extensions and battements were even more dramatic and reckless (though perfectly perfomed) than Kronenberg's. It was a beautiful performance: sexy, risk-taking, intelligent, passionate -- and completely unexpected.

Re: Golden Section. the "first cast" (the caste that Macaulay saw) was superb, even when several roles were switched. At the Sunday matinee, there was an almost entirely different cast (either new to the cast or dancing different roles). This cast seemed significantly less rehearsed. There were confusions, a few new collisions, and problems with one of those excessively complicated lifts that Tharp likes to plop into her choreography from time to time. This was the first time I've seen an MCB performance in which I found myself thinking: this is not ready for the stage. That was unfortunate -- and unfair, I think, to the dances: because there were wonderful dancers on stage (Baker in the Wong role; Kronenberg in the Patricia Delgado role; Rebecca King in the Catoya role; Bramaz in the Penteado role -- not to mention corps member Nicole Stalker and two very promising student apprentices, Renan Cerdeiro and Alexandre Ferreira. It was just one of those times when the ensemble doesn't work even when the individual dancers are aoing fine.

Re: Divertimento. Ordinarily, I like to sit in odd locations in the house: side boxes, etc. Divertimento is a ballet that really needs to be seen from the center. So much of it is danced (and posed) directly facing the audience. For that reason, the Sunday matinee, which I saw from front-center orchestra, was the best performance for me. Tricia Albertson, as the lead ballerina, was at her best: fleet, graceful, and radiant. The ballet also was my second chance to see principal Katia Carranza, back from Mexico to dance in Programs II and III. What a joy to have Carranza back on stage again.

Re" Diamonds Pas de Deux. This was a dream-like performance each time I saw it. Instead of the usual palace ballroom setting, with dramatic crystal chandeliers, there was a black velvet back curtain scattered with stars. Perhaps that was what made me imagine Seay and Nikitine as celestial bodies moving slowly through outer space. I don't have the words to describe it. Fortunately, I looked up what Nancy Goldner had to say about the pas de deux in Balanchine Variations.

Melancholy does indeed pervade the music, and so the dance. There's another kind of loneliness, too, which is odd considering the ardent attention paid to her byher partner. The ballerina in Diamonds moves in a kind of solitary splendor. She is not self-absorbed llike the Paul character in Emeralds, but her movements, so grand and large, register like syjmbols of adagio dancing.
Seay is not a large and grand dancer in the style of Farrell. She is, however, a dancer of purity and honesty. In this peformance, dancing with her husband, Seay was able to express qualities of warmth and rapport (never sentimental, never romantic) that I don't remember from her performances in previous years.

EDITED TO ADD: Thanks to Jack Reed for catching my mistake in typing the name of the author of Balanchine Variations as Nancy "Reynolds" rather than "Nancy Goldner." I've corrected it above.

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The differences between Apollo I and Apollo II (this is starting to sound like a post about NASA :wink: ), is that II is an abridgement of I. The meat is the same. Apparently, Balanchine came to an opinion that the birth and the ascent of Mt. Olympus were unnecessary, so he cut them.

Not surprising, in a way, since he cites Apollo as the ballet that led him to realize that he did not need to use all his ideas. That that epiphany would continue to speak to him in that ballet nearly 50 years later seems fitting, although I like both versions and am glad that we can still see the original.

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The differences between Apollo I and Apollo II (this is starting to sound like a post about NASA :wink: ), is that II is an abridgement of I. The meat is the same. Apparently, Balanchine came to an opinion that the birth and the ascent of Mt. Olympus were unnecessary, so he cut them.

Not surprising, in a way, since he cites Apollo as the ballet that led him to realize that he did not need to use all his ideas. That that epiphany would continue to speak to him in that ballet nearly 50 years later seems fitting, although I like both versions and am glad that we can still see the original.

I agree with Kirkland, Farrell, Weslow, and many other former NYCB dancers in loathing the cut version of

Apollo; a youthful masterpiece which contained no unnecessary material whatever did not need cutting,

rearranging, or abridgement. The sunburst or peacock pose which now closes the ballet, in complete

superfluity, should never have been moved from its earlier position; the walk of Apollo and the Muses

up the staircase was one of the great moments in all ballet, and the perfect ending.

Many people have implied--and some, like Weslow in the interview in I Remember Balanchine, stated outright--

that Balanchine was of very mixed minds about the stardom of his dancers and their dazzling virtuosity. Weslow

says that Balanchine cut Apollo and kept it cut because he 'didn't want Baryshnikov to do the wild pirouettes at

the beginning and create a sensation'....and Villella, a great Balanchine star and follower, speaks of many

instances where Balanchine was furious when Villella got ovations in Tschaik Pas and Donizetti. It is terribly sad

that the genius chose to mar his early masterpiece--and it is not the same ballet in the cut version.

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I like both versions [of Apollo] and am glad that we can still see the original.

So am I. I do miss the birth scene in the truncated version, but that stately ascent of Mount Olympus and walk towards it just beforehand . . . that's my favorite part of the ballet.

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(from Fort Lauderdale, Florida) O-kay, and now, a few remarks on the original topic... (Although I do prefer the original Apollo, and I would absolutely defend Balanchine's right to cut it. His right, and only his.)

Anyway, only a few remarks, because it's late and I'm fading, but at the end of Divertimento No. 15, I imagined someone saying to me, "Now I can die and go to heaven," and I reply, "I've been in heaven for half an hour and I'm still alive to tell the tale." Talk about amazing!

I expected wonders from Catoya, and she delivered them in her modest, unassuming way; Kronenberg's Third Variation she gave greater amplitude without changing a thing; and being in that spot, she got Penteado in the "Andante" which made that pas de deux especially wonderful, so that when Catoya later came on with him we (I) could perhaps take in what they did all the better for what Kronenberg and he had done, a kind of preparation, not to sell short its own merits. (Ashley Knox substituted very creditably for Jeanette Delgado, by the way, in Variation Two.)

Valse Fantaisie was even better this third time (I'd seen it in Chicago twice in October), complex, subtle and rich, not letting its music carry it, I'd say, involving it in a more changing way. As there have been questions about the costuming, I'll add that the dresses -- credited to Helen Rodgers, not previously known to me -- are of opaque, slightly clinging, filmy material cut just below the knee and, carrying on this idea of the subtle unexpected, slit up to the waist* in front of the left leg. (The women do a number of jetes in this piece.) And as there was some regret about the dimming of the lighting at the very end climax in the Chicago run, I'm glad to report that this was not a problem tonight.)

Seay was lovely, musical, and warm in the Diamonds pas de deux, her warmth pointing up for me the unusual independence of the ballerina from her partner in this dance, which Villella on other occasions has characterized as though she says, "You may partner me." I.e. she doesn't really need him: Seay was beautiful, and, true to the choreography, infusing the role with life on her own. Not that Nikitine wasn't fine when the role called for it, but sometimes, for example, it calls for him to celebrate her from a distance, as in those upstage runs ending in little jumps and an arm thrown up.

I don't get The Golden Section, and I wish I had thought to see what Croce had to say about that. bart? The audience tonight thought it was a big deal.

Slaughter had the latest version of Villella's superb "Gangster", and apparently Kronenberg's sensuous but restrained "Strip-Tease Girl". Hard to tell, because she needs a brighter spotlight, I'd say, and Morrosine (Rolando Serabia) a bigger one. Pretty much fun, though, especially Villella, who inevitably nearly steals the show with this small part.

*Or to the hip, I think now, after seeing the program twice more on Saturday. The women's costumes are light gray (the "first among equals"?) or very light pink (the two others); we don't see this in the still picture in the program, which is a studio shot of the opening poses.

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I like both versions [of Apollo] and am glad that we can still see the original.

So am I. I do miss the birth scene in the truncated version, but that stately ascent of Mount Olympus and walk towards it just beforehand . . . that's my favorite part of the ballet.

And a little :wink: , with a famous words-(in a letter form)-exchange regarding the uncut Cuban version:

The Powers That Be to Mme. Alonso: "...and hence, according with the mentioned statement, this is a formal pledge for this unauthorized staging of Apollo to be permanently removed from the active repertoire of the CNB..."

Mme. Alonso to the Powers that Be: "No such removing will ever take place. If the audience wants to see Apollo's final version, they can go to New York. If they want to see how it was danced, myself included, when it was first created by the Master...then they are more than welcome to come and see it in Havana."


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Interesting. The Powers That Be have regularly allowed Francia Russell to stage the versions of many ballets that she danced and/or learned from Balanchine, and I've seen at least four authorized productions of the full version of "Apollo".

After seeing the full-length version, the shortened one seems so wrong.

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Back again to MCB :wink:

... I wish I had thought to see what Croce had to say about that. bart? The audience tonight thought it was a big deal.

Your post got me to look up the review, which I don't recall having read before. Here is part of what Croce wrote in 1981, during the original Broadway performances of the larger piece, The Catherine Wheel. It's important to realize that she is commenting on this section IN THE CONTEXT of the larger work, to which it is a conclusion.

Also: she and others comment on the brilliant lighting (a contrast to the first part of the ballet) and the golden costumes. MCB danced in so so lighting, and their costumes -- at least as they came across at the the Kravis Center -- appeared to be more beige than golden. The photo in the program showed quite different costumes, with the shine of velvet. I wonder what happened?

The last quarter of the ballet is a dance apotheosis of astonishing beauty and power. Tharp's title for it is "The Golden Section," and it rises like an Atlantis from the murk of the pineapple world [her characterization of the the earlier part of the ballet], transforming it into a paradise of new feelings and visionary exploits. Tharp's abrupt alchemy substituting harmony for chaos is almost painful in its honesty. It's as if she were substituting art for life, knowing that no solution to the palpable terrors she has invoked [in previous scenes] is possible. Art, less than a solution yet more than a consolation, offers terms she can settl4e for; it's the great alternative to the dilemma of life, the only other reality that isn't death.

[ ... ]

In "The Golden Section," the dancers are dressed not as incorporeal figures in white tulle but as acrobats in gold tights, launching the selves against a honey-gold backdrop. The characters of the previous scene return transformed and dance wonderfully, and the choreography reaches supersonic speeds as it passes from one prodigious episode to the next, until suddenly, in the middle of a leap, the lights go out. The dance ends in midair, which is to say it does not end. "The Golden Section" is a glimpse of infinity; it's a celestial version of those moments of Tharpian continuity in other works (like Baker's Dozen) when the dancer leaves the stage and returns, having continued behind the scenes. Tharp keeps the energy level climbing and the invention flowing, but she doesn't create a compulsive, inhumanly brilliant atmosphere, as she did in last year's Brahms' Paganini. "The Golden Section" seems to rise effortlessly above the negotiations of virtuosity and to ride along in a kind of relaxed ecstasy. For the first time, Tharp attains grandeur.

[ ... ] The world of The Catherine Wheel, half in darkness, half in light, has the completeness of Elizabethan cosmogony and the aura of myth .... in "The Golden Section, when they dance, dance, dance, they are all one race, neither gods nor human beings but tut the gilded beasts of the Greek fables. The ballet is a running frieze of stags and hinds and winged colts, with some broncos and circus ponies cut into the hard. It's a Circean transformation, and as an images it's true to the rough, inarticulate nature of the parable that precedes it.

[ ... ] Byrne's brand of concert rock must, I suppose, be accorded the status of serious music. [ ... ] In "the Golden Section," the brilliant metallic clang of the music is appropriately circusy; then it changes into a choir sweetly chanting

Oh I don't understand

Oh it's not just a sound

Oh I don't understand

It doesn't matter at all.

I wish I'd seen it on Broadway. But, if I had, I wouldn't have been so pleasantly surprised seeing it now. Things have a way of working out. :) I'm glad at Croce's confirmation that the bravura (which MCB's first cast handled so effortlessly) -- and which the audience responded to -- is not all there is to this work.

I'd appreciate, Jack, any comments you can give on the different casts at the Broward. The relative failure of the "second cast" to bring order out of chaos -- as Croce puts it -- made me realize just how REALLY difficult this piece must be.

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bart, re: Callie Manning's haircut...

I don't know what you call that short but very fluffy curled look,

It is called "short square bob". :)

...and about Panteado's wig issue...I don't know...I think I like him more with the wig for everything that is not contemporary...(mostly all Petipa AND Balanchine). The thing is, I'm one of those who enjoys the non-human/surreal experience at the ballet...one true believer of the "everything is-(or at least should TRY to look)-pretty at the ballet" mantra. Panteado's shaved head makes him look more as...Renato, less as the "performer". And for some reason, his wig tells me about not someone trying to hide a hair loss-(for which he didn't care about showing his shaved head on the "Golden Section")-but more about a performer who feels and wants to transmit his respect for the magic that some works require. I hear all the theories about works that would be equally appreciated on some people's eyes if performed in leotards. Well...I guess I'm not that advanced yet.

That's why I have historically avoided the backstage action. When makeup is removed, blisters and bunions exposed and some not very elegant language used...well, then I wish that I would had not occurred to me to be there in the first place.

But back to last night performance in Broward. The cast was the same as that one in Miami. Jeanette Delgado keeps being substituted-( :( )-but aside from that everything went nice and smooth. Standouts of the night: the WHOLE Company...seriously :wink: . Catoya's perfect Petite Allegro in D#15, Sarabita's pirouettes and ronde de jambes in The Golden Section...Baker's athletic displays of strength in TGS too, the beautiful flowing of the whole VF-(the four dancers in superb form), Sarabita's comic ability as the Dancer and Villella's greatness as the Gangster in S.in10th, along with dreamier than ever Seay in Diamonds. Seems like the "weaker" casting for The Golden Section will happen on Sunday, as it was the case in Miami. Yes..I did notice about it too.

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Cristian, so THAT'S a "bob"! I've heard of it all my life (Clara Bow, etc.) but never knew what it was. Anyway, Manning looked great. However, even though I don't mind bald, and I rather like ballets in practice dress, I'm glad she switched to "bun" for Divertimento. :wink:

I'm fascinated by Baker. He's not the turner that Wong is, and lacks the elevation. But I've rarely seen a dancer so in command of the floor. Every movement has intensity, mementum, purpose, commitment. I wish I had the language to describe what I see when he's on stage.

Cristian, I'd love to hear more about your thoughts on Baker's performance in the Tharp. And, can anyone help me in understanding precisely what it is that makes Wong and Baker seem alike at times and so different at others?

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bart...re: Baker.

Something I always find thinking when watching his performances is that he is the MCB dancer that MOST reminds me the Cuban dancers I grew up watching. See...when I first started the series of dancers from the 60's, 70's and 80's, my original intention was to do it on both bailerinas AND bailarines. After a careful look of footage, I discovered that the quality that most of the male dancers shared back then was that of being EXCELENT partners. While looking at the male parts, now I can tell that they were not as flamboyant as their female counterparts, and even than when dancing their solos sometimes they could be plainly weak. What I realize now is that they were essentially trained to virtually "disappear" behind their ballerinas, some of whose brightness and security while dancing was 98% thanks to their extremely attentive guys. It wasn't really until Sarabita came along-(or maybe even Toto-(JM)-Carreno, and some bits of Acosta...but BASICALLY Sarabita)-that the Havana balletomanes started to whistle and adore a male dancer the same way they had done it with their beloved ballerinas, and when a bailarin was given green light to steal a show.

Baker is one of the two BEST partners I've seen in Villella's troupe...sharing the trophy with Sarabita. That, and the fact that he possess one of the most handsome, masculine appearance-(a VERY important element that has been, too, a presentation card of Alonso's troupe)- makes him unique within the Miamian group.

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To Cristian's remark I can add another of Baker's unique qualities: He taps! Except we can hardly hear it, because the stage is not miked, or he has quieter taps than sometimes used. Not that this quality is sorely needed at MCB, except in Slaughter, especially in the finale, where Rodgers thins out his orchestration for the two tap solos (his and hers). Without the tapping, it's a little anticlimactic seeing dancers work their feet but not hearing much. But I agree with Cristian's general comments about Baker, he's a "real comer", as they say, shining here in his first solo role, I believe.

Earlier today we got another heavenly Divertimento No. 15, with Carranza in the Fourth Variation (no complaints); tonight it was Amanda Weingarten in Third, instead of Kronenberg, so I do have a mild complaint, not allowing for their differences in experience, which does count: Kronenberg raised this and her pas de deux in the Andante through continuity and classical clarity, and while Weingarten has the clarity, she doesn't mold what she does into such a continuous flow as Kronenberg does, and her partner in the Andante was not Penteado but Rolando Serabia, whose Fifth Variation was not all on the high level of Penteado's either, IMO, although some -- there's a diagonal from upstage, our right, where he does the same step three times, I wish I could name it -- was very strong. Catoya was her modestly wonderful self as "the first among equals" as the Sixth Variation woman is sometimes called, both times, subbing for the recently injured Jeanette Delgado this evening. Thanks to these superb performances of this wonderful little ballet alone -- sixteen dancers -- I'm having a wonderful time here!

I can't help you with Golden Section, bart; moving up three rows closer to the stage helps me relate to the dancers as dancers better, but what or why it's all about I just don't get. Villella's reference to four pieces of music, in his pre-performance talk, doesn't help either. Thanks for the Croce quote. She was quite the Tharp partisan, and generally made her reasons for her conclusions clear, but without the rest of The Catherine Wheel, The Golden Section is going to make a different effect, and its absence alters the context of her review.

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Watching Patricia Delgado and then Amanda Weingarten in Slaughter, the old trite question came to mind, "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" Their dancing is sharp and clear and, especially with Weingarten, big; but they come over as fresh-faced kids, compared to Kronenberg's more knowing Strip-Tease Girl, who is taking this guy, The Hoofer, and having some fun with it, too. That her Girl looks like she's been around the block strengthens the plot; we don't ask that question of her, she belongs where she is, and the Big Boss's jealousy when her pas de deux with the Hoofer gets too friendly makes sense, too. So I enjoyed Weingarten -- who takes the accidental, fatal shot, showing us its impact, BTW, unlike the other women, unless I just missed that important instant in their performances -- but in my view Kronenberg's art is the greater here, as so often.

Not that Slaughter is that important a ballet, but my poor powers of description are just so inadequate to saying much about Divertimento No. 15 or Valse Fantaisie.

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Jack, you know that S.on 10th...was a REVELATION for me last night. As I told you, I felt that I had watched it then FOR THE FIRST TIME! . Only now not only do I "get" the framework of the work-(rivalries between classical ballet and tap dancing)-but it also made totally sense to me while watching Baker's REAL tap dancing. It didn't occurred to me then, but now I think... than perhaps Guerra doesn't know how to do it...or at least to the level of Baker...?-(I don't know if tap dancing is in the current Cuban ballet training curriculum, but up to my knowledge it is not...or at least I haven't heard of such thing. On the contrary, they do get their high dose of Cuban national/folk dance training)

Yes, one could really see Baker's shiny metal devices on his shoes...(what are those called...?), and HEAR them well :D . I think Guerra didn't wear them.

Amanda was great as the Strip Tease girl. I think both her and Baker upstaged the previous performers.

As per the rest of the performance, ditto with everything Jack said. I suspect That we will get the weak casting in today's matinee of The Golden Section".

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Sunday Matinee.

Tricia Albertson was beautiful on the pizzicato variation of Div.#15. Her usual calm, elegant demeanor was perfect for the structured Mozart score. Love her total reliability... a VERY important factor to consider in a ballerina.

Alex Wong in Valse Fantaisie was as airy as he could get. Such great ballon! :excl: . His tour jetes were stunning.

The Golden Section had only one Principal today: Jennifer Kronemberg, but nevertheless they were superb.

In S.on10th.Callie Manning STOLE the Strip Tease role from everyone else. Her curly bob was PERFECT. She really looked like a prohibition era girl. She IS the character. Period :clapping: . Rolando Sarabia gets funnier each time as Morrosine. :lol:

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(from Coral Gables, Florida) Agree that Albertson was good in Divertimento, definitely something to be proud of, but -- assuming rivalry which may not exist to any great degree in this busy company (everybody dances most of the time, versus, say, the Mariinsky, I believe) -- there's not much in Albertson's performance for Catoya to worry about. IMO, she still "rules" this ballet, not that some of the others we've seen in the different principal roles are negligible.

Villella speaks (before the performance) of preferring this version of Valse Fantaisie precisely because, in this company, everybody dances, and it has four principals instead of two; okay, no real argument, but purist that I am, my reason for preferring it is that it is a superior ballet, much more complex and subtle, which I enjoy more and more whenever I see it. (Six times now.) For instance, toward the end, when the triangle plays the second time, the man is active upstage with one woman, and the other two alternately come down stage for a moment -- on diagonal paths from the central group upstage -- for a few solo sequences. I think Balanchine was more inspired by his music, including the way Glinka has instruments in the orchestra stepping forth momentarily from the ongoing waltz.

In Diamonds pas de deux, I have at the moment just a thought on the setting, a starry backdrop right down to the stage. This is different, and surprised me at first, but the normal "setting" is the rest of the ballet, a world of some dimension. That's absent, these times, and the stars supply an infinite space aptly in the place of that large choreographed world. At least, that's my current take on that. Seay continued to enliven the role. Fresh every time. It's not the only way we'll remember her -- The Girl in White in La Valse, radically different, is another -- but it's a fine one, very fine.

I'm beginning to get into the structure, at least, of The Golden Section, the organization of the music -- its time -- and the patterns of deployment of the cast -- its space. (I may never like it, but I'll know why.) Repeated viewings have helped, as well as sitting in row Q instead of row T.

Yeah, in Slaughter, I like Manning's 'do also, and I think she's the best Strip Tease Girl -- after Kronenberg, that is, for reasons given above.

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And, can anyone help me in understanding precisely what it is that makes Wong and Baker seem alike at times... ?

They are both crowd pleasers. They are both highly physical. They are not shy. Neither of them seems to have any problem with the "showing off" factor.

...and so different at others?

Baker makes his ballerina the star. Alex IS the star if dancing with someone else.

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Edward Villella's Pre-Performance talk, or what of it I could get down on my four visits to the Broward CPA performances which ended their run. Villella himself used notes this time, explaining that he had a lot on his mind and didn't want to deny us anything he had thought of about this. Several years ago, some of us regulars in the audience hoped he might publish his ideas about the ballets he presents, and although he declined at the time, maybe the existence of these notes moves that idea forward anyway. Meanwhile, here's what I've been able to assemble from my scribbles, and I hope other BTers who attended will add what they remember and add their comments, too:

Welcome to Program Two of our 24th season. We entertain. I like to give a varied program, and we have a balanced program of 18th, 19th, and 20th Century works, two choreographers of 20th Century music, in fact.

Divertimento No. 15 Mozart. The only Mozart work Balanchine choreographed to? Why? He had found the essence of Mozart, and never felt the need to explore Mozart further. When he choreographed Apollo, he said, I had more than I needed. He could eliminate. Divertimento No.15 is also reduced to what is absolutely necessary. Maybe.

Tutus give a sense of formality. Clear. Unencumbered. Unforced. Nothing romantic. Gentility prevails. A ballet of aristocracy. Ladies most gracious, cavaliers most elegant. Servants of beauty. Subdued classicism. No bravura. Punchy Symphony in Three Movements is bombastic by contrast. Elegance without ostentation. Cavaliers should basically disappear behind the ladies. Reserve. "Like cut crystal's delicate sparkle", without overwhelming. Ornamental with slight shadings of [remorse?]. Not a story ballet but a ballet about relationships, including the relationship of choreography to music, neither over- or under-danced, just enough.

Five ballerinas, three principal men, eight corps girls. Where is this from? He found it in the music. The music was his script.

In 1956, women were pretty good, but men were less good.

Caracole, the precursor to this ballet, made to the same music in 1952, Concerto for Violin to the Violin Concerto in A, K. 219, made in 1942 and unseen for many years until revived recently by Tulsa Ballet Theatre, and Symphonie Concertante, to the eponymous music, K. 364, which has been performed more continuously since Balanchine made it in 1945. But his overlooking these earlier ballets led Villella to express the valuable idea, also expressed somewhere by Farrell, that Balanchine made a ballet to explore a piece of music. For me, this concept is the central one in thinking about Balanchine's art. That's how it looks, or should look, when his ballets are performed.

And Villella is like Balanchine himself, who overlooked these earlier ballets; when in 1956, the 200th anniversary year of Mozart's birth, he thought to give a Mozart ballet, it was Caracole, to this music, he thought of, but not being able to remember it, he made what we know as Divertimento No. 15.

And so Villella is right to point out the spareness of Divertimento No. 15; all of Mozart's music is spare in terms of density of notes: There just aren't a lot of them. Compare Tchaikovsky, who lays them on pretty thick at times. (Not to say one is better than the other, just to notice a difference.) And this time, there aren't a lot of instrument groups, just strings and horns, no other winds, no drums. But Mozart's music's effect on the mind is often all out of proportion to its impingement on the senses. He knew how to do a lot with a little, and Balanchine, sensitive to this, choreographed this music to have large effect with small casts, casts which would therefore have an unusually large proportion of principal dancers, the specific number fitting the variations and the episodes in the Andante exactly. According to Nancy Reynolds's "Repertory in Review", Caracole also had five principal women, three principal men, and a corps of eight girls.]

Valse Fantaisie 19th Century music. Glinka was the father of Russian classicism. The Imperial manner and style included a forced grandeur.

Plie' "squeezes out" the landing, down, slows attack. It's a little bit lumbering. Balanchine's plie' was not an ending but a beginning. Your heel doesn't reach the stage -- your foot goes down and up. We don't distort the music: Russians let dancers determine the tempo. Balanchine wanted the music played as written.

Three female soloists, one male. Not romantic. Not a romantic, a light relationship. He partners the ladies "young and safe [chaste?]", like in Bournonville's world.

This ballet is an artistic director's delight: He can showcase four principal dancers, or at least principal roles. [MCB cast it with women listed as corps dancers.]

We do many styles. The more dancers on stage, the better.

This ballet is dainty, lilting, fleet, and studded with brilliance.

The phraseology of it is wonderful. We make it look easy, not like athletics. It's Russian, but light, airy, moving, not looking effortful.

It disappeared around 1957 but Balanchine admired the music so much he returned to it.

Diamonds pas de deux. Deanna Seay has been with us twenty-one years. She's been here since she graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts, a mindful dancer. She dances from her mind. The Diamonds pas de deux is an homage to Tchaikovsky's Swan lake and Sleeping Beauty. Gorgeous.

The Golden Section, to music by David Byrne of The Talking Heads, four pieces. Twyla Tharp pushes dancers as far as she can. "The dancers storm the stage with positive energy." Four or five or six are partnering each other at the same time. Close to In the Upper Room. Ferocious. It terrifies me: My concern is about injury. A monumental challenge for the dancers, who are dressed like Olympic athletes: Seven men and six women. "What a Day That Was"

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue will not tax your intelligence. Its music is by Richard Rodgers.

Balanchine wanted a school to raise the technical level he saw when he arrived here in 1933. He didn't have a job, so he worked in films and on Broadway. He made a full-scale ballet inside a Broadway show. One reviewer called it "tip-toes with talent". [smiles indulgently] We have the 1968 version... This is an accessible ballet to be laughed at. A period piece, and a take-off on Broadway set in lurid bordello colors, with two juicy roles.

I am cast in it, but I don't play the Gangster, [dropping to a low, rough-guy voice] I am da Gangsta. [laughter]

As usual, there was question-and-answer after his prepared remarks:

Deanna Seay will perform again this season.

Q: Are record-setting athletes of old times the same as today? A: No... Dancers are unlikely to be bigger, but our minds drive our physicality; we are technically much stronger as a result.

$900,000 of the Knight Foundation grant must be matched to provide three years of live music.

What are we going to do next season? I'll tell you as soon as I get a budget. We'd like to get some Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, and Jerome Robbins ballets new to the company. For the twenty-fifth season. First we restored cuts we all took, before anything else. We have three or four programs in mind. Q: How about Theme and Variations? A: We'd like to do Theme and Variations, it's all the budget.

Travel plans? Some friends of the Paris Opera have seen us, Copenhagen, three cities in Italy, "London is curious".

Q: Twyla Tharp was different! A: You bet!

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Thanks, Jack. Much of what Villella said was the same as elsewhere. The big new information is the possibility of a visit to Europe.

It looks like there are a lot of fund-raising challenges ahead: not only the $900,000 to match the Knight Fund grant for live music, but Villella's wish-list for a Robbins, a Tharp, and a Parsons. (Not, I assume, the Parsons work recently panned mercilessly by Macaulay in the Times.)

AND there's still the expeacted Cranko Romeo and Juliet to think about. (I've already cast the two Delgado sisters, but am having difficulty coming up with Romeos to partner them.

When the time comes, let's have a new thread for a WISH LIST about new additions to the rep and relevant casting.

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Meanwhile, here's a bit of trivia (If you know of a better place to post it, let me know.):

Comparing Balanchine performances today with those of his time, as some of us Old Audience do, the question of tempo comes up, and while I was thinking about MCB's Program II, which included the earlier version of Valse Fantaisie, I timed the performance of the later version on a video from the mid-70s (led by Leland and Clifford). The music there runs almost exactly 8 minutes; the MCB performances ran almost exactly 9 minutes. FWIW. (I still like the earlier version more.)

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