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Miami City Ballet to be on Dance in America

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THIRTEEN’S Great Performances: Dance in America to spotlight Edward Villella’s Miami City Ballet

Program to be taped in mid-September will showcase the company’s acclaimed performances of the works of George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp

(New York, NY, August 30, 2010) – THIRTEEN’s Great Performances: Dance in America puts the spotlight on one of America’s finest dance companies, Edward Villella’s Miami City Ballet, in a program to be taped mid-September in Miami. The program will air later this season on a date to be announced.

Great Performances: Dance in America is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

This program – a trio of signature works by George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp respectively -- will showcase the company’s critically acclaimed performances of Balanchine’s “Square Dance” and “Western Symphony” and Tharp’s “The Golden Section.”

From their home base in Miami Beach (and utilizing four performing venues in South Florida), Miami City Ballet celebrates its 25th Anniversary Season in 2010-11. More than 88 ballets are featured in its repertory, works created by a roster of world-class choreographers including George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Frederick Ashton, Anthony Tudor and John Cranko (whose “Romeo and Juliet” they are staging this season) as well as such 19th century classics as “Giselle,” “Coppelia” and “Don Quixote.”

Company Director Edward Villella is America's most celebrated male ballet dancer. The artistry and versatility he exhibited during his long career with New York City Ballet (1957 to 1975), and in concert appearances across the United States and Europe and on television, did much to popularize the role of the male in dance. He is associated with many of the greatest roles in the New York City Ballet repertory and has been a leading advocate for the arts in America. In 1985, Villella became the founding artistic director of the Miami City Ballet, which has won worldwide acclaim under his direction.

In January 2009, Villella brought the Company to Manhattan’s City Center for its New York City debut, resulting in standing ovations and rave reviews.

“Miami City Ballet made its Manhattan debut on Wednesday night at City Center. To watch it dance Balanchine is to see aspects of his choreography more clearly than with any other company today. Energy; crispness; stretch; dance as a demonstration of music rather than as a response to it; the multidimensionality of the body in space: these basic ingredients of the ballet master’s style shine bright here,” enthused Alastair Macaulay in The New York Times.

In a follow-up review, Macaulay opined, “No company today performs ‘Square Dance’ as well as Miami.”

Dance in America: Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine & Tharp (w.t.) will be directed by Dance in America veteran Matthew Diamond (Balanchine Celebration, The Wrecker’s Ball with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, The Sleeping Beauty with American Ballet Theatre), and produced by Joan Hershey and Mitch Owgang; for Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.

Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, Vivian Milstein, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers and PBS. Major series funding is also provided by The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund and the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust.

Visit Great Performances Online at www.pbs.org/gperf for additional information about this and other programs.



New York public media company WNET.ORG is a pioneering provider of television and web content. The parent of Thirteen, WLIW21 and Creative News Group, WNET.ORG brings such acclaimed broadcast series and websites as Need To Know, Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Charlie Rose, Secrets of the Dead, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, Visions, Consuelo Mack WealthTrack, Miffy and Friends, and Cyberchase to national and international audiences. Through its wide range of channels and platforms, WNET.ORG serves the entire New York City metro area with unique local productions, broadcasts and innovative educational and cultural projects. In all that it does, WNET.ORG pursues a single, overarching goal – to create media experiences of lasting significance for New York, America and the world. For more information, visit www.wnet.org.

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This is wonderful news!

It is indeed, and all the more wonderful to me in that they're dancing "Square Dance," which as far as I know has not been shown on TV before, unlike the other two, and which I've been itching to see again since my one viewing in 1995.

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This is very exciting. Miami City Ballet's performance of Square Dance (at City Center in New York) was the best account of that ballet I have ever seen. I had seen it dozens of times at NYCB, but it was never performed at the level of MCB's performance. I'm pretty sure one of the Delgado sisters was the lead dancer when I saw it.

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Thanks, Dale, for posting the news. You scooped the MCB blog. :tiphat:

The company should be full of confidence about all three ballets: Square Dance, they danced in 2008, repeating it at City Center to excellent reviews, and Western Symphony is being revived for Program II this coming January. Golden Section was a big hit last spring and will be performed in late September at the Fall for Dance Festival in New York.

It's interesting that the press release refers to the company as "Edward Villella's Miami City Ballet," which may suggest the direction the coverage will take. When you think about it, there is is a wonderful story here; Villella was one of the pioneers of televised ballet super-stardom. It should also add luster to the cultural image of Miami. (Always great for fundraising !!!)

I wonder where they will film the show and whether they will use a theater stage or a studio. With such "big" -- and exhausting -- works, the shooting schedule would probably have to extend over several days. It's a lot of presssure and a LOT of dancing for a mid-sized company.

It surely is about time. I urge all BTers to write PBS and/or their local station (regular mail if possible) telling them how much you appreciate this broadcast, that you want more, and will support them to get more.

An excellent idea, dirac. So many of our threads contain laments about the decline of televised ballet in the U.S. We should all commit to turning ourselves into a lobbying group for this and future telecasts. :thumbsup:
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Question: what do you all think about the program. Square Dance is , for me, a masterpiece, and i can't wait to see it again and have a record of it. I wonder, however, about the balance of the other two works. Western Symphony and The Golden Section are, despite great differences in choreographic method, both so fast-paced, high-energy, crowded with action, and .. how can I put this? -- "light" in affect.

It should make for an exciting evening,but I finf myself wishing for one of those two to be replaced by something "more different."

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Since "Western Symphony" is one of the ballets that I would trade happily for a fragment of an old, lost Balancihine ballet, and I find the corps work hopelessly dull, my only question is "Why?????"

If they were going to do Tharp, why not "Nine Sinatra Songs"? It's not just that I dislike "The Golden Section", but I can't see it filming well, while the Sinatra is intimate.

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Since "Western Symphony" is one of the ballets that I would trade happily for a fragment of an old, lost Balancihine ballet, and I find the corps work hopelessly dull, my only question is "Why?????"

I can only guess it's because the ballet is accessible at first glance. But I agree with bart -- the pacing, or lack of it on ths program, is strange.

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If they were going to do Tharp, why not "Nine Sinatra Songs"? It's not just that I dislike "The Golden Section", but I can't see it filming well, while the Sinatra is intimate.

They did Nine Sinatra Songs last in 2008 (the same year they did Square Dance), and are performing it this winter in Program III, so it shouldn't have been a stretch to revive it now. The advantage to Golden Section is that they are preparing it for City Center during the same month as the filming, so they should be in top form with that one.

(Incidentally, MCB is doing their first Baker's Dozen as part of Program II this season. That's the same program on which they are reviving Western Symphony.

Programming must be extremely complicated. It would be ideal to be able to put together perfectly balanced programs every time. But, I suppose, questions of scheduling, timing, and available resources also come into play. September will be a particularly busy and, one might say, a crucial, high-profile month for MCB.

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Of thier current programs I would rather they televise Program 1 which consists of Fanfare, Bugaku (which I've never seen) and Theme and Variations. I am however grateful for what is being shown.

Who stages the Western Symphony that MCB performs? Is it the now standard 3 movements or do they include the Scherzo that was dropped in 1960?

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The programming may also be a function of novelty.

For Tharp, Baryshnikov Dances Tharpe is out on DVD and contains a reduction of Nine Sinatra Songs (Sinatra Suite). Square Dance was last on television when Patricia Wilde and a caller danced it, and there's an out of print VHS with the finale from Western Symphony.

I would also prefer a Theme and Variations, but the prospect of new ballet on television (of almost any Balanchine) is thrilling.

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Who stages the Western Symphony that MCB performs? Is it the now standard 3 movements or do they include the Scherzo that was dropped in 1960?

For the 2005-06 season, they did all 4 movements, including the Scherzo.

I thought some of our members might be interested in the 2006 casting. I saw 2 casts:

Allegro: Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra -- or Katia Carranza and Penteado

Adagio: Carranza and Luis Serrano -- or Patricia Delgado and Didier Bramaz

Scherzo: Callie Manning and Renato Penteado -- or Jeanette Delgado and Alex Wong

Rondo: Michelle Merrell and Kenta Shimizu -- or Andrea Spiridonakos and Shimizu.

I've put the names of those no longer with the company into italics. Jeanette Delgado and Alex Wong were relatively new members of the corps at the time they danced the leads in the Scherzo.

Off Topic: What I would have given to see Tanaquil LeClercq and Jacques d'Amboise in the original (1954) performances of the Rondo. The photos of LeClercq in that wonderful big black hat are delightful. (I tried to post a photo, but the link was disabled do to "copyright violations." Sigh.)

I remember Villella dancing in WS in the 60s, but not which movement. (It was fast.)

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I can always quibble, and I will in a moment, but aren't all these rather small-cast ballets? I think those are easier to put on screen than, say, Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, which MCB presents under the title Ballet Imperial, Symphony in Three Movements, or maybe "T & V", which already was on TV once. (Gelsey and Mischa, I think, so maybe it's time, as far as that goes.) So that may have been part of the idea, and not a bad idea.

Even so, the program is a little odd, if they're danced in the order given. In the theater, Western Symphony is typically a closer; though they did open their second program in their City Center run with Square Dance, didn't they? Villella generally puts on a good program in the theater, sometimes "balanced", and sometimes, in the event, the different ballets even complement one another as you may not have anticipated. (Okay, be modest, Jack, as I hadn't anticipated...)

But I also find "Western" a little thin; I think LeClercq and d'Amboise probably made the whole thing worth seeing, originally, although there is a certain cache' these days about reviving "lost" Balanchine, isn't there? So showing the discarded Scherzo movement may be part of the rationale, although the fact that Villella danced in it may carry as much weight, or more. (My program from the 2005-2006 season credits the staging to Susan Hendl, BTW.)

bart's mention of the complications of programming reminded me of Villella's revealing to us in his pre-performance talk one evening how he had scheduled Ballet Imperial, which, he said, a certain ballet eminence (my word) had told him the company wasn't ready to do: The performances were scheduled for March and rehearsals began the previous August! They worked on it, or parts of it, and then they worked on other ballets, and then they went back to it. I had no idea! Of course, quite aside from any question of developing ballet technique, which I know nothing much about, only just delighting in the manifestation of it when I see a dancer do something she didn't look up for before, grinding away on a handful of ballets until they're finished on stage and then grinding away on a few more, and so on, might be a good way to drive dancers nuts, compared to throwing them into a shifting larger variety. I think I'm beginning to intuit why this troupe looks so spirited on stage...

But getting ballet on screen can be tricky. For me, it's not enough to point a camera at dancers dancing, and in some of Matthew Diamond's previous dance programs he's made this viewer aware that he had an awful lot of cameras and equipment to use, switching us around the place so that we have a hard time establishing our relation to the performance. Maybe the hard economic times will simplify the setup - I think there were nearly a dozen cameras used for SFB's Nutcracker, so that even though, according to the publicity, a couple of the camera operators the excellent Merrill Brockway ("Dance in America's" main director in its early years) had trained were flown in from Nashville, their good work was diluted. (I felt sure I could spot it. Some shots were just so "right.") And with fewer resources, maybe he'll use a simpler approach, like showing the space the dancers are going to use, or use next, and let them dance in it. That way we get a ballet, not just glimpses, or disconnected pieces.

So, from me at this point, two cheers!

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[A]ren't all these rather small-cast ballets?

This is more true of Square Dance (14 dancers) and Golden Section (13 dancers) than of Western Symphony.

Western Symphony, which I guess I'd call a "small large" ballet, needs, 4 male and 4 female lead dancers, plus a minimum of 12 corps members (8 women, 4 men), assuming that these dancers dance in all four movements. That's 20 dancers, and possibly more depending on how the corps roles are cast.

The current size of the company is as follows:

11 Principals

1 Guest Artist (Principal level)

2 Principal Soloists

3 Soloists

20 Corps (of whom 4 are new hires)


37 Total ranked, full-time dancers

Add to that

-- 8 Company Apprentices

-- 5 School Apprentices,


for a total of 50.

A couple of these apprentices have already had a lot of stage experience. A plus is that the filming will not be shot in a single performance. That means that the same dancers could be recycled for all three works in a way that they could not on stage.

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Thinking about it again now, and prompted by bart's numbers, I recall the stage does rather fill up at the end of Western, doesn't it? So we'll see how that gets shown. To show a stage full of dancers, one has to use a long shot, so they tend to look smaller; if that shot is preceded by a closeup, they will look all the smaller, in my experience, because of the contrast between the two views. (Sometimes there's an attempt to finesse the problem with a "pan" along the mass of dancers. But they're not sliding sideways! So that's a wholesale distortion.) Putting dance on screen? Not easy.

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It could be that the Tharp people have a say in this decision (about which of her works to perform) -- since the version of Sinatra that's out now is available for purchase, they might like to have something else on DiA.

I'd like to stand up for Golden Section. Musically it's not as subtle as Square Dance, but it's a stunning example of contemporary virtuosity.

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The videos EvilNinjaX posted exemplify the kind of choppy treatment of ballet on screen that bothers me - in Western, we see a dancer apparently active in one spot, except the background is sliding by her - oh, she must be moving? So her relation to her space is eliminated, her whole effect weirdly distorted. We get alternating views of two dancers looking across the stage - are they looking at one another's movements, like a conversation? Who knows? We don't get the whole thing.

But we get lots of closeups, and right afterward they look so tiny spread across the whole stage. These young people are very good looking, aren't they? Colorful costumes. I wonder what they're doing, what it's all about. What would somebody new to ballet - just tuning in out of curiosity - get from these glimpses? An impression of - what? This doesn't even remind me of what goes on in these ballets I've seen and enjoyed so often, I find it hard to understand people who claim it "introduces ballet" to a wide audience. I see little ballet here. Some kind of dancing, to be sure; people are doing steps to music, but so much is hidden. (This program was directed by Matthew Diamond in 1993.)

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Another idea about the repertory in this program. Since Western has been shown before, but by another company, we may have an opportunity to compare performance qualities between the two companies. My view is that the clips by NYCB which we had above (Post #20 or 21) show the subdued way that company has been dancing for many years, while MCB dances with the volume turned up, on the movement I mean, to something more like what it was at NYCB when Mr. B. was still supervising the company. We'll see, next Spring, when the program is broadcast. So while I also would have loved to see some "lost" or ignored Balanchine, like the 1953 Valse Fantaisie MCB does, which would be easy to put on screen with its four dancers staying near the center so much, there's some potential extra interest in what we're getting.

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