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MCB Program I

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Why didn't they dance this Caldera thing at the end...? innocent.gif

You mean, so you can cut out and leave early, Cristian? Tsk, tsk.

More seriously, I'm afraid marketing is taking over from... artistic vision, or whatever you want to call it. There's some discussion along these lines in the "flash-mob" thread. It does look like an inversion of the formula, sometimes stated by Balanchine but unlikely to have originated with him, IMO, that you make a more successful mixed-bill program with an attractive opener, put the "difficult" item, if there is one, in the middle, so after that, people think, Well, let's see if the last one is as nice as the first one was, and they stay for the whole show.

I'll grant there's some show-biz wisdom in the formula, but I feel a mixed bill can also have its parts complement each other in a way that combines to an overall fine experience for the sensitive audience. For example, doesn't a ballet sometimes have an effect which is different, depending on what just preceded it? (Robert Gottlieb was a master of this for Balanchine in the 70's and early 80's.) Don't we usually admire the arrangement of numbers within a ballet? So, not also the arrangement of ballets within a program? I'm not sure this program does that, that it doesn't provide such an admirable arrangement, esthetically.

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Ok...so here're my thoughts on Program I.

I don't have my programme with me, but I will try to relay on my less than perfect memory.

Les Patineurs.

I'm very happy Villella decided to include this cute work in the program. I'm not familiar with the history of Ashton ballets in MCB, but I don't think his works are that known over here. I have seen this in Cuba, but I'm not too familiar with it either. It was one of those works Alonso usually revives along with some others,like de Mille's Three Virgins and a Devil, Tudor's Lilac Garden , Balanchine's T&V, Sylvia, Waltz Academy, Apollo and TPDD, Robbins' In the Night, Lichine's Graduation Ball and Dollar's Le Combat, which is from time to time and in between the big loads of Giselles, Beauties, Coppelias, Filles, Chopinianas, Quijotes and Pas de Quatres. That said, I did recall it while watching it yesterday, but many segments I found them to be as if it was a new work for me. About the work, well..of course, everyone is a skater in ''Les Patineurs,'' but not everyone is alike. Renato Panteado was the showoff bravura boy in blue.


Technically, this is without a doubt the most difficult role in the ballet, and Mr. Panteado carried off the butterfly leaps at the end with skill, and the famous turns a la seconde were smooth and quick. I think Mr. panteado is by now one of of MCB's finest dancers. He makes his impact through the quality of his movement, which is classically placed, but also sculptural in volume and dynamic. As one of the two girls in blue who join the showoff, young promising dancer Nathalia Arja-(whom I will always remember as a very capable Sugar Plum in her debut a while ago)-also sparkled with spirit. She was the one who performed the sequence of fouettes and she did it in a very secure, beautiful way. Kuddos for this young dancer. I want to see her more. The romantic pas de deux, which contrasts so sharply with the merrymaking, had a capable but sort of bland Carlos Guerra, partnering a lovely all white Mary Carmen Catoya. The sequence was very enjoyable, the dancers were lyrical, but I think they could had used more rehearsal. Maybe he's too used to dance only with his now pregnant wife Kronenberg..? In any case, what I find interesting about Les Patineurs is that it reminds me of those mid century, pre Castro Christmas postcards that were in my house from past, happier times, and which my grandmother kept. Many of them had those type of characters, happy boys and girls in snowy settings with XIX Century like costumes, and they used to have glitter all over.


As I grew up in a Christmas banned time and place, this reminders of the past were precious to me. Last night Les Patineurs had the ability to take me to those postcards and childhood times, and I became thus a little sentimental. Oh, silly me...! Then, from photos I've found online, it looks as if William Chappell's original sets and costumes were faithfully recreated to magical effect in the Miamian staging.


Another "familiar" work. And I said familiar with some partiality because this is the first time I see Balanchine's last version of the work. I was surprised at to how different the ballet looks in this staging. It was Apollo, but...the rocky props were gone, the muses headdresses were gone, as well as Apollo's golden sandals and Greek male tunic. Now I saw...three female dancers in white modern chiffon outfits and a male dancer in regular white tights dancing a sort of skeleton of what I know. Even the prop that Apollo uses to rest while looking at the muses has changed from a truncated classic column to..something, I'm not sure what was that-(a chair..?) . That without even going to the whole introduction of the ballet, along with all the rest of the characters, and the beautiful original finale. I don't know...defenders can argue forever when favoring this version, but I felt a sense of loss.

The rest is there, of course...the choreography keeps being as hypnotic as always, and the score is sublime-(may I say this is one of the few exceptions I make on my general dislike of Stravisnky..? Please, don't kill me...I DO like Apollo's score a lot).

My big bow in this review goes to Renan Cerdeiro, our last night's Apollo.


Lovely, for which even not being the classic image many of us have of the blond god a la Baryshnikov or Martins-(Cerdeiro is racially mixed)-he easily conveyed beautifully the royalty and demeanor of the young deity better than many other's I've seen in the past. His youthfulness and elegance makes him right for the role, even more if one considers that Balanchine’s god is not the conventional Apollonian raw type-(particularly after the cuts, which suppresses the rougher sides of the baby god). Hence, what we see here when the curtains go up is the well posed, elegant Apollo, already in control of his surroundings. He is a young dancer, but his Apollo showed great dignity and artistic maturity. He was at his most exciting in an early quartet with his three muses, when his new energies sent him sailing through the air in leaps around them. His muses were the Delgado sisters-(Polyhymnia and Terpsichore) and veteran Tricia Albertson as Calliope. They complemented very nicely the whole picture...there were no technical faults, although there's not too much that can go wrong technically here. The care on this work needs to be put in different points, but as Balanchine himself decided to make such a huge twist in the whole conception, then whatever I can perceive as a "mistake" cold be just an "artistic vision", so I won't go as far as to question this. I'm not qualified to do so. If anything...what I perceived was a sense of the work, steps and atmosphere being more expansive...there was more legato as what I remember from Alonso's version...the movements were slower...more contemplative. But this, again, could be my imagination. My mother, for whom this was a first, told me that the the dancers and their poses reminded her of Art Deco figurines.


As a general idea, I must say...there are two different Apollos, and now I've seen both. Lucky me, right..?.happy.png



Finally, it looks as if someone decided to help me beat the traffic in advance. La Caldera was placed third.

Tonight I thought about repeating, but Yo Yo Ma was across the plaza with Schumann Concerto in A Minor and I coudln't resist the temptation...innocent.gif

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I hope that was merely a oversight. For years it was company policy NOT to publish advance cast lists. That changed a couple of years ago, but for some reason they were unable to post the lists consistently even then.

Cristian, did Lopez talk to the audience before the performance? If so, what did you think?

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Cristian, did Lopez talk to the audience before the performance? If so, what did you think?

Yes, bart. An elegant all fierce deep red, high heeled Lopez made her entrance and delivered a very nice speech, in which she referred to her journey here as a trip "coming back home". Lopez is a classical example of the Cuban community here...an emigre herself who lived in Miami during her early years in the States before making it to NYC and Balanchine. She said that she could barely recognize Miami with the huge Arsht Center-(the second largest opera house in the country after the MET) and the New World Center and Tylson Thomas and all the cultural affairs happening. She said that she wanted to contribute, to give back to the city, and that she feels in debt to do so. Before her there were words also by the new Board president-(or so I think that's his title)-in which he first acknowledged Villella as the one person who made everything possible-(applause). To be honest, I was always under the impression that Villella was going to be present at least for a final formal good bye, but obviously he either left the city already or decided to cut off for good with his past 25 years. I found the whole thing pretty strange, and sad...just to think that the originator of ballet in Miami wasn't given a proper ceremony of appreciation for whatever reasons was very...Miamian.

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That without even going to the whole introduction of the ballet, along with all the rest of the characters, and the beautiful original finale. I don't know...defenders can argue forever when favoring this version, but I felt a sense of loss.


La Caldera was placed third.

You mean... The "birth" scene, and the final ascent... Not given? That is a loss, another weakness in the program. (I think there are stronger Ashton ballets than Les Patineurs, although I don't know how they would suit MCB. But putting Piazzolla Caldera last strengthens the shape of it, I suppose.)

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A good soul sent me his non used tickets-(thank you, Sir..!), so I happily repeated tonight. Casting was the same as in opening night in Miami, but I loved the two pieces, so I went for more.

Some more thoughts on Les Patineurs.

Who said that Les Patineurs was an easy ballet...? Yeah, right...just ask The Boy in Blue-(a wonderful Renato Panteado again). Not only is LP a cute wintry fantasy, but it is also a very demanding piece, technically speaking. Lots of tour jetes, lots of pirouettes a la seconde-(for the boy in blue specially). I mean, he even finishes the whole affair while executing a super fast series of them while the curtain is coming down...a segment that could had made envious the best of Alis or Basilios. Were the choreographers of the past more into the showing of tricks-(specially turns)-than those of today..? I think of Graduation Ball, and now LP, and there's always a moment where someone shows ample series of fouettes or pirouettes. Nathalia Arja was again in control of her beautiful fuettes sequence tonight. I was also thinking on my way back how important could had been Ashton's input and vision on the sports technique back when he translated his ideas into ballet choreography, and how changed could had been the ballet would he had access to the development ice skating has had in 70 years. If anything, I think the sports has changed way more than the art form. And finally, yes...the lovely sets and costumes. This is me...I confess my weakness for elaborated fantasies onstage...I'm not a child of the black and white/leotard period. Good for Ashton, and good for Villella for including this little gem in this season, and so exposing the dancers to a different, and lovely, ballet time's language.

Some more thoughts on Apollo

There was a lady seating next to me that told me that the last time she had seen the ballet Peter Martins had danced the lead, so I was very interested of what she had to say after it was done. When asked she said that she remembered the ballet in a more constricted way...she even used the word "robotic", compared to what she had seen tonight. Maybe there was something on her assessment. I will repeat myself on the idea that I found way more legaaaaato and slooooowing of the movements and sequences than what I remember from Alonso's version, which was not "robotic' per se, but certainly somewhat faster in rhythm and concept. I don't know...my neighbor said that she loved the "intimate, more human" accents of what she saw tonight here, and I kept thinking on the whole length of the choreography, obviously now shorter than what I originally knew. If anything, I know that now I had more time concentrating in the muses' variations, and Apollo's new first appearance looks also more...emotional, I'd say. Contrary to what is usually the case I guess with Balanchine, Apollo spoke to me in a more soulful way than Alonso's Apollon Musagete. Maybe the wonderful dancing of Cerdeiro, the Delgado sisters and Albertson made a real difference, but the ballet has gained, in my eyes, a new hypnotic quality. Let's see if I can get to the idea...This Apollo is like a kaleidoscope....the movements around the stage of this four dancers is like when one starts controlling and making the formations of the artifact different by turning it slower, the tiny crystals inside still changing just as if we do it fast, but now with the holder having more time and paying more attention at the endless reflections inside and hence getting more entranced...

Then I left.

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Cristian, do you know the 1960 Apollo from the CBC broadcast? (There are three fragments on YouTube now, from the VAI DVD I guess; search on "Apollo 'Jacques d'Amboise'".) See how that compares to the other two versions - Alonso's and, well, Lopez's - you know, for legato and tempo? Maybe more legato than Alonso's and faster than Lopez's?

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Good idea..! thanks.GIF

BTW...this is from an e-mail exchange with a friend of mine, which I consider very reliable in her criticism. She's an ex dancer from Alonso's company,and she went to Sunday's performance. This is what she had to say.

"...que lastima mi amigo...espere verte. Apolo si me gusto pero no quien lo protagonizo. Las musas muy bonitas,casi perfectas diria yo,pero el,Dios mio,fue como el aprendiz de Apolo ! ) :"


"..what a shame, my friend...I hoped to see you there. I did like Apollo, but not who danced the lead. The muses were very pretty, almost perfect I would say, but he...my God...he was like Apollo's apprentice..!"

I still don't know who danced on Sunday. dunno.gif

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Cristian, I really enjoyed reading your lovely account of Les Patineurs and your thoughts on Apollo (or the different "Apollos" currently on display throughout the world). West Palm doesn't get its season premiere of Program One until November 30 (happy.png ) -- so I have plenty of time to think about what you and others have written.

My first Apollo was Jacques d'Amboise, whose Terpsichores included Diana Adams and Allegra Kent. Repertory in Review has a good account of what Balanchine wanted in those days at NYCB. They did the birth scene -- winding cloth and all -- and the apotheosis on the stairway. We first saw Apollo wrapped in yards of white fabric, hopping forward towards the audience. d'Amboise was coltish, very young, very spontaneous. This prepared the way for the touches of stumbling, confusion, sudden bursts of exhaustion and petulance that Balanchine gives Apollo as he makes his uncertain (but preordained) way to becoming a god. According to Marie-Jeanne, who danced Terpsichore before World War II, Balanchine told Lew Christensen, the first American Apollo, "You are a woodcutter, a swimmer, a football player, a god. He wanted an unformed, unmajestic Apollo. He said that he had in mind a soccer player when he did it for Lifar. Lew had a kind of jerky movement, a roughness." d'Amboise captured much of that in his early performances 20 years later.

Were those performances in the early 60s faster? slower? more or less robotic? I can't say. But there was an energy, a feeling of spontaneity, and a feeling of real suspense each time you saw the ballet. That is missing, it seems to me, in many performances today. My own feeling is that this began with Conrad Ludlow and, later, with Peter Martins, both of whom broke the spell by letting us in on their god-hood much too early in the proceedings. Martins and Farrell were gorgeous, glorious, almost mystical as Apollo and Terpsichore, but my own preference would be for d'Amboise and Adams or Kent.

To answer Jack's question, I don't think Miami has ever attempted to revive the opening and closing elements that Balanchine himself removed. Certainly they were missing in 2004, the last time I saw MCB perform it. My program is punctilious about calling their ballet the "Concert Version."

I guess I'm the only one here looking forward to Piazzolla Caldera. They did this in 2004. Last spring I got the chance to see Paul Taylor's own company dance it..

Works like this are exciting for the audience and for the dancers. You get to look at familiar dancers in an unfamiliar light. Occasionally, a dancer you may not have noticed before seem to stand out when you see them with a different kind of choreography. I got out my 2004 MCB cast list and found a number of very familiar names. Tricia Albertson, Jeanette Delgado, Callie Manning, Didier Bramaz, and Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez had solos. In 2004, Delgado was newly promoted to the corps. This was possibly one of her first solo roles. Anyway, it was in Taylor, not Balanchine, that I focused on her and her potential for the first time. I see that I drew a Big Star in my program next to her name, with a couple of exclamation points.

Edited by bart
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I was under the impression that MCB did perform the full 'Apollo', and a google search turned up this article: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1988-01-10/features/8801020872_1_balanchine-ballets-edward-villella-apollo

Bart, do you know if any explanation was given in 2004 as to why the 'new' version was being danced? Companies typically make these kind of changes without explanation or fanfare (much as Balanchine did himself), but I thought maybe Villella would have discussed it in one of his pre-performance talks or something...

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Thanks, brokenwing, for that article. It's wonderful to be corrected with detailed information like that. After moving to Florida in 2001, I heard that Villella had worked very hard in his first Miami years to establish a serious Balanchine repertoire. It seems natural that he would want to preserve the versions that he knew.

I don't know why the 2004 was truncated. I was intrigued by that phrase "Concert Version" in the program -- which alluded without explanation to the cuts. Now that I've read the article, I wonder whether Villella wasn't actually saying (without words): "This is not the best version of Apollo or the one I really like. It is, however, the one everyone else uses. For reasons I won't go into we have been obliged to use it, too. Don't blame me." wink1.gif

I loved this part of the article ....

This revised Apollo became the final and officially authorized version. This is how it is now performed -- sanctified, really -- by New York City Ballet, which has taken to freeze-framing the choreographer`s works just as they were when he died in 1983.

But it is not how Edward Villella remembers Apollo. When Miami City Ballet premieres its Apollo this week at Gusman Cultural Center, it will be performing the original longer version.

Why? ``I just had an artistic compulsion to do the whole thing,`` Villella explains.


``I never knew why Balanchine decided to change it,`` Villella says. ``But he constantly tinkered with his works, often changing things with good reason just for the convenience of the moment. My question with Apollo is, did he do this just for the moment or was it for truly aesthetic reasons?``

Villella, a great and thoughtful artist both as dancer and artistic director, is one of those priceless links to the NYCB repertoire as it was performed in its heyday. The "Balanchine" he worked with was in many ways quite different from the ballet master who worked with Lourdes Lopez's generation. One more reason to wish that the sad story of his deposition had taken a more harmonious course.

I did not mention Villella's own performance in this role, which very much benefited from the "character" aspects provided by the birth scene. Small, wiry, with very dark hair, a natural dance-actor, Villella was not your standard vision of Apollo. (Neither was Eglevsky, for that matter, though I never actually saw Eglevsky in this role..) Since I have never thought of this as a "danseur noble" role, I loved Villella's Apollo.. When Villella ascended the stairway to heaven with his muses, it was a triumph of guts, character, and the willingness of Fate to find and reward qualities that lie beneath the surface of a less than "noble" body and face. It also showed how much can be accomplished in ballet even without perfect line. "Way to go, Apollo !!" thumbsup.gif

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BTW...this is from an e-mail exchange with a friend of mine, which I consider very reliable in her criticism. She's an ex dancer from Alonso's company,and she went to Sunday's performance. This is what she had to say.

"...que lastima mi amigo...espere verte. Apolo si me gusto pero no quien lo protagonizo. Las musas muy bonitas,casi perfectas diria yo,pero el,Dios mio,fue como el aprendiz de Apolo ! ) :"


"..what a shame, my friend...I hoped to see you there. I did like Apollo, but not who danced the lead. The muses were very pretty, almost perfect I would say, but he...my God...he was like Apollo's apprentice..!"

I still don't know who danced on Sunday. dunno.gif

BTW...The e-mail exchange kept next day as follows...

Me: "Seguramente viste a Carlos Guerra, ex del Ballet de Camaguey.."

(Translation: You probably saw CG, ex member of the BdC"

Her: "No...it was the Brazilian..."

So then...it was Cerdeiro whom she didn't like in the role...huh.png

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No, brokenwing, I don't know the reason. I have to say that it never occurred to me that the Balanchine Trust was involved, as Cristian suggests. I guess I assumed that it had to do with program-related matters like time, casting requirements, or something like that. The complete Apollo requires a superb dancer-actor, something not easy to find.

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I loved Les Patineurs tonight! Penteado was a terrific Blue Boy! My favorite part of the music, however, is when the White Couple dances (Catoya and Reyes). So romantic. Not sure how I feel about the upside down split lifts (sort of jarring during such romantic music), but overall it is a gorgeous pas de deux. The Blue Girls (Arja and Lauren) were like spinning tops! In fact, the entire cast made this the lovely highlight of the evening for me.

Apollo was nice but I think I agree with people who prefer the original which I have on video (Jacques d'Ambroise). Cerdeiro looks so young and lean so he was a very youthful Apollo. He certainly acquits himself well even if he doesn't have the look we have in our mind for Apollo. I think the stool with the props stacked on it looked like a small end table with a white phone on it (the way the scroll, mask, and lyre were stacked). I think they should consider a different type of seat/platform next time they do this.

The last piece Piazolla Caldera was interesting. To me it was a hybrid piece ( modern/ballet/broadway style). I enjoyed it, and there were ballet movements throughout (although no pointe shoes rather low high heels), but Cristian, I am not sure you would like it. There were a few (short) moments of rolling on the floor!

A wonderful night but I personally think Les Patineurs contained the magic of ballet more than the other two. I know Apollo is an important work but it has an abstract/modern oddness to it, and even though I respect it I doubt if it will ever be in my Top 10 Balanchine ballets. I find things like Serenade, Theme and Variations, Ballet Imperial, etc. more magical.

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I agree with Birdsall about Patineurs. It was mostly very well-done. (Liam Scarlett, visiting town to create his second commission on MCB, did some of the coaching.) I agree completely about Renato Penteado, whom I also saw earlier in the day in a tech rehearsal, a setting in which performances usually don't go full out or for a completely finished look. He was good Last night, in front of an audience, he was phenomenal. Penteado has amazing spinning and jumping skills, but he brings a quality of insouciance and humor to his roles (when appropriate, as it definitely is in this work) that make him magnetic on stage.

The other Patineurs standouts for me were Natalia Arja and Jennifer Lauren as the Girls in Blue. More than some of the other dancers, they had the Ashton look with arms and epaulement. In their mini-coda -- with Arja spinning out gorgeous, fast fouettes and Lauren traveling around the stage in turning combinations with complex and difficult shifts in arm position -- they were about as good as its gets. They had charm, attack, agility, and they made it all look easy.

Among the Couples in Brown, Michael Sean Breeden had jlightness and sense of fun that made him standout. Mary Carmen Catoya and Reyneris Reyes were lovely as the Couple in White. They have a real rapport, and it is fantastic to see these two usually serious dancers let loose their beautiful smiles. My feeling, however, is that these roles are sketchy and rarely command your attention as much as, in theory, you would expect them to. No wonder Margot Fonteyn felt upstaged by the Boy in Blue.

What can I saw about Apollo? It's a great work that rises or falls on the strength (or not) of its title character. Renan Cedeiro, an engaging young dancer with considerable technique was I think seriously miscast in this. He never looks comfortable and seems to be struggling to make some kind of sense about what he is being asked to do. As a result, his Muses -- Patricia Delgado (Terpsichore), Jeanette Delgado (Calliope) and Patricia Albertson (Polyhymnia), while dancing well, look as though they are operating in a vacume. Of the three, my favorite for detail and nuance was Albertson.

I won't be able to see Reyneris Reyes and Mary Carmen Catoya at today's Matinee. But, based on their performance of iexerpts at the Open Barre in Miami Beach a few weeks ago, I'd say Reyes has the potential to be a major Apollo. Beautifully proportioned, with innate classical line, a wonderful partner: I hope he'll stay injury-free and that we'll be able to see a lot more of him in major roles as the season progresses. (Dancing with Catoya, PLEASE.)

Okay, Cristian. Here comes my defense of Piazzolla Caldera. It deserves, I think, its reputation as a crowd-pleaser, combining sexuality, humor, and a great deal of intricacy in the way the dancers interact with one another. Miami as danced this before. I have to say -- based on having seen Taylor's own company dance it only last spring -- that the intensity, volume, and strong floor work of the Taylor dancers becomes something else when danced by a ballet company like MCB. MCB's version is lighter, more airborn, less sexy, less comic. The Taylor dancers "get" what it takes to feel the despair of a young woman rejected by every man in the place. The also get the humor in two drunks reeling around while the overhead lights start swaying in an alarming way. MCB "does" these actions, and very well. But you miss the Taylor conviction. (Mimicking one's idea of sultry or raw sexuality doesn't quite make it.) It's a ballet about lovely young ballet dancers having fun doing something different. That ain't bad, however. The audience -- which gave an untypically tepid hand to Apollo -- loved it, as did I.

My favorites: Didier Bramaz and Kleber Rebello as the drunken pals; Callie Manning swft and stunning, especially in a section where she danced alone with two men; and, Natalia Arja as a sometimes predatory and quite genuinely sexy dance-hall denizen. (Her plies in second position, hand planted firmly on her knees, are still vivid in my mind.) Wouldnt' it be great if 2012-13 were the breakout season for Arja. Stagecraft seems to be catching up with this every young dancer's prodigious technique. I can't wait to see what happens.

Lourdes Loupes spoke in front of the curtain before the first ballet. She was charming, conversational, articulate, and clearly out to establish a personal connection with the audience and, during both intermissions, with the donors. Opening night ticket sales were down compared to last year. Was this possibly a response to the bad publicity involving the firing of Villella? Or to the program's rather lame title ("Fire and Ice")? Anyway, having seen her in several settings (including working with dancers) I'm genuinely glad she got the job.

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