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MCB Program III. Episodes, TPDD, W.S Story Suite,

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West Side Story Suite is performed by many major companies around the world (PNB, SFB, NYCB, Royal Danish, National Ballet of Canada) because it is very dance heavy, utilizes classical vocabulary (if you look for it) and is choreographed by one of the great ballet/dance geniuses of all time. I don't think we should expect to see a non-dancing full-evening musical theater evening by a ballet company any time soon.

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I loved the programming this weekend, although a number of people in the audience were vocal about not enjoying the "modern" qualities of Episodes, especially the Webern score. For this audience segment, what came next -- Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and West Side Story Suite -- seems to have saved the day. A almost people I saw seemed to be walking jauntily and smiling as they left the hall.

Episodes -- a work I've been looking forward to all season -- got first-class, often thrilling performances by both casts. Highlights for me -- Tricia Albertson in the first Section (Symphony) partnered elegantly by Didier Bramaz. This section comes across as ritual: pure, cool, aristocratic, profoundly unfamiliar. Albertson is having a great season, dancing very well in both classical and neo-classical principal roles, and this was her best performance so far. In the second cast, Emily Bromberg and Jovani Furlan, both corps members, were slightly less cool and abstract but equally effective.

Also: Eric Trope, a first-year company dancer, was outstanding in the Paul Taylor solo. Balanchine is said to have suggested that Paul Taylor think of this as a "fly in a glass of milk." Trope captured the sense of moving through something viscous, sometimes heavy, sometimes light. I loved the way he punctuated his sinuous body-shaping with bursts of energy, impulsive and almost involuntary gestures.The details were clearly etched but never distracted from the arc of the larger movements. What a debut!

Also: Jennifer Kronenberg and Reyneris Reyes in the final section, Ricercata in Six Voices. At this point the music changes and becomes warmer, more conventionally "beautiful," ,more recognizably humane. This the big number of the ballet -- with 14 corps joining the principals. Kronenberg danced it as the ballerina role it is. Her Mona Lisa smile expressed pleasure in the music and in what she was doing, as I imagine Melissa Hayden would have done at the premiere. I noticed that a couple of the sulking anti-modernists seated in my section responded warmly to this section, something I attribute to Kronenberg generous dancing and to her cavalier Reyes just as much as to the beautiful Webern arrangement of Bach's fugue.

I was excited to see that Mary Carmen Catoya was dancing Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux on Sunday. Catoya is returning from maternity leave, but why on earth did they put her in the second cast? Dancing with her regular partner Renato Penteado, she was superb. Better than ever, I think. Catoya still has all the old technique but seems to have acquired an element of insouciance of spirit that I don't recall seeing before.

I was impressed by MCB's boldness in taking on West Side Story Suite. NYCB probably does it better, but they have twice as many dancers (and potential singers) to choose from. This was a stretch for Miami and in almost every way a big success.

Tops for me were;

-- the men, in the rumble scenes-- Jeanette Delgado's firecracker Anita in the first cast, quite different from Sara Esty's (usually the sweet and perky one, with the big smile) a feisty, impassioned, sardonic, street-smart, though not particularly Latina Anita.

-- the use of sound effects (whistle, siren) to suggest the police and the almost ritualistic response of all the dancers to these sounds. After the death of Bernardo and Riff, when the siren sounded, all the men faced the curtain in ranks, Jets and Sharks mixed together, heads lowered, arms outstretched and moving downward, as the curtain fell.

-- and right after that, the way the stage was suddenly flooded with light as the concluding "Somewhere" ballet began. It's a magical conclusion, though sentimentalized. It's an ostentatiously feel-good happy ending -- and why not?

I had some difficulties accepting the downplaying of the the Tony and Maria story, though Emily Bromberg and (especially) Jovani Furlan were touchingly innocent and youthful lovers.

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