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Miami City Ballet

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I saw that Miami City ballet must dance both programm since yesterday in Washington DC.

Did someone see it. The first including Ashton's patineurs, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Sylvia pdd and I believe a fourth piece but I don't remember which.

The second programm is the full lenght version of Jewels.

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The fourth piece was "Duo Concertante." I went last night and will put up a review on the main web site sometime later today. Jack Reed went (he mentioned this on another thread) -- anyone else?

(The quick version is that I thoroughly enjoyed the program. There was some fine dancing AND it was wonderful to see four very different ballets danced in (appropriately) different styles -- one time where everything did NOT look alike :) )

I'd urge Washingtonians to see this program. The "Sylvia" pas de deux is rarely seen now, and "Les Patineurs" and "Duo Concertante" aren't everyday fare, either. The season is selling well, but it's not nearly sold out. The mixed bill repeats tonight and Thursday.

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The question in my mind as I watched "Les Patineurs" was whether this was Ashton performed his way, or maybe more realistically, to what degree of approximation is it performed his way? So I'm looking forward to reading what the Ashtonites here have to say about that.

Alexandra uses the word "appropriately", but I'm not as clear as I'd like to be on the appropriateness of MCB's way of doing Ashton. (I think their way of doing Taylor rather diminishes the effect, compared to his dancers, for example.)

MCB evidently plans to add more Ashton to their repertory, so maybe their way with his work will develop as they do more of it.

[ 05-30-2001: Message edited by: Jack Reed ]

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Jack, I meant by "(appropriately) different styles" is that everything didn't look like A), "Agon" or B) "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated," not that I thought each piece was stylstically pure.

The whole question of whether a ballet should be danced in the style of the choreographer, or the company, is an interesting one, and I can argue both sides of it :) I don't think "Les Patineurs" looked very Ashtonian -- and the older critics I knew who had seen it danced by Sadler's Wells DEFINITELY did not think it looked very Ashtonian. On the other hand, it looked very MCB, and in that sense had stylistic integrity, and so this bothered me less than when I've seen Ashton danced by a company who tried its darndest to dance it the way the Royal once danced it and failed; (I once wrote, if I may commit the unpardonable sin of quoting myself, that watching a particular ballet was like "listening to Keats being read with a stutter") or just dancing it without a thought in the world that the style just might be something different from "Great Galloping Gottschalk," or whatever they'd just danced yesterday.

I thought it was too fast in places -- especially the Girl in White -- and too sharp. But on the other hand, they were dancing it and not praying to it, and they weren't telegrpahing: "We're cute! We're charming! We're English (not)!" the way ABT did it when I first saw it in the 1970s. (The Joffrey Ballet had a more natural approach, too, I thought, and a wonderful, very young Blue Skater, Mark Goldweber, when I saw them do it).

Other faults: MBC's was sloppy, but it's a very hard ballet. There wasn't enough difference between the Blue Girls (real bravura parts; they'd be competition skaters if the ballet had been set in 1987 and not 1937) and the Red Girls (who just got on skates last week and are there to be sweet). The Boy in Blue had some very good moments, but wasn't very centered -- off night? I don't know.

My impression, though, was that, in this ballet and for the whole program, the OUTLINE was there. It's the way ballets used to be staged long ago, and the way jigsaw puzzles are solved today. Get the outline, and get it firm and solid. Then fill in the bits in between. I thought there was a solid outline, and a lot of respect and, more importantly, a lot of joy in the dancing. So I was happy.

For the whole program, I knew that there wasn't one dancer on the level of the originators of the roles, but I didn't care :) When I was leaving, the woman behind me said to her companion, "Did you ever see Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly in that?" -- "that" being "Slaughter." She was right, but.... In general, I thought everyone was dancing as well as he or she could on that particular night, and that the management cared that the ballets and the dancers looked their best. (I don't know this. Everyone could have been a last minute substitute, and they could have rehearsed for on, but it didn't look that way.)

Just briefly, because I'm on another deadline, I especially liked Jennifer Kronenberg in "Duo Concertante" and Deanne Seay in "Sylvia." Kronenberg's dancing was clear -- the same kind of flash card effect of Merrill Ashley's dancing, though not as strong -- and yet not at all antiseptic. There was a languor to it, a sense of luxuriating in the steps that I liked very much. Seay's "Sylvia" was a witty, sophisticated French cousin of Aurora. Again, very clearly danced, especially the coda, and I especially liked it that she looked at home in a tutu and didn't make this look like Just Another Balanchine ballet.

I didn't love MCB during the Balanchine Celebration or performances I've seen over the past few years here; they've performed quite frequently at George Mason or Wolf Trap. I always liked them, but I wasn't completely won over. They won me over last night :) I sense that Jack was perhaps not so pleased? Diversity is the spice of life....

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It's anal-retentive of me to point this out, but I don't see how the lady behind you could have seen Kelly and Charisse perform "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," since they never danced it together onscreen to my knowledge. (Kelly did do it, but with Vera-Ellen, and I seem to remember that it was somewhat different.)

Having said that, I do understand the larger point, if I understand it correctly, that the piece is better suited to musical comedy dancers or ballet stars with lots of musical experience, since a lot of what makes an item like "Slaughter" work is mastery of show dancers' style, which doesn't necessarily have anything to do with great technique and in which many of today's dancers are going to be deficient no matter how well rehearsed.

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Alexandra sure CAN, and does, successfully, argue both sides of the question whether a ballet should be danced in the style of the choreographer or the style of the company. I think, the style of the choreographer if that can be achieved, otherwise in a style that achieves artistic integrity, and this aspect of MCB's "Patineurs" pleased me very much. And it looked too sharp and sometimes a bit rushed where it might have been spun out to me too, but I don't know what different way it should be. I don't think I've ever seen it on stage before, but I do have a tape of ABT's 70s version that didn't make much of an impression. What displeases me most about "Patineurs" is that it overworks the skating-rink gimmick by going on with it at too great length, and I think that confines it; and the vocabulary seems confined too, repetitious after a while. Maybe a different way would make the length a reward for me.

Kronenberg in "Duo Concertante" was the most satisfying performance of the evening for me too - although I have the tape with Mazzo, it's THEM - Farrell and Martins - I remember from many times in the theatre, but even against this background, Kronenberg was very satisfying. (Her partner Eric Quillere' seemed less "in it" than she.) Seay has been one of my top favorites in the company, but I thought last night she was carrying her smoothly polished way of finishing everything a little far, as though it were not "I show" but verging on "I am the show", and this way slowed things down, especially, in her variation, during the flute solo, but nevertheless there was a lot to like, and again I agree with Alexandra's perception about this - it was not a routine performance of a routine ballet. (I look forward to her "Diamonds" on the weekend for the grandeur of this complete finishing.) Catoya is my third favorite of the evening: I've liked her better, but here her choreography (the Girl in White) and tempo were unfortunate circumstances, I feel.

I don't agree, though, that repeating yourself is an unpardonable sin - when you have a way of saying something you can't improve on at the moment, go with it, and if it's your own, take some pride in it!

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Seeing the program again from a direct-center seat helped me to get a lot more out of The Lovers (White couple) in "Patineurs" than last night, although an easier tempo here might help, too; and tonight The Gangster (Villella) in "Slaughter" seemed to have an especially powerful and menacing "throwing his weight around" aspect to his walk that I didn't get last night.

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If I may offer a footnote to Alexandra's remarks on the main website about Carlos Guerra, he's 20, and these are his first three performances of Sylvia, maybe almost as hard a role as "Theme and Variations"? So maybe the bravura will come in time.

Another item that came my way Thursday evening, this one from a former Royal dancer sitting next to me, was high praise for Eric Quillere's "generous" partnering in "Duo Concertante". "That I'll remember for fifty years." And this person said that, compared to Ashton's way, MCB's "Patineurs" was "not terrible". In general, she liked the joy in dancing the company shows, and praised Guerra's earnestness and determination to give it all he's got as well as Yann Trividic's musicality [in "Slaughter'].

[ 06-01-2001: Message edited by: Jack Reed ]

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Originally posted by Jack Reed:

If I may offer a footnote to Alexandra's remarks on the main website about Carlos Guerra, he's 20, and these are his first three performances of Sylvia, maybe almost as hard a role as "Theme and Variations"?  So maybe the bravura will come in time.

Quite possibly, Jack, and if I had to choose, I'd rather see the the other virtues Guerra has -- attentive partnering, sense of style, etc. -- than a string of tricks, of course. But it is a bravura role, and that wasn't there. I wish I'd been able to come back and see it tonight (Thursday). My sense Tuesday night was that they would only get better. Opening nights are notoriously shaky.

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Well, I thought everything was just wonderful last night (Thursday). When I arrived, I was still rather disgruntled over DTH's inexcusably weak performances, but Miami City Ballet reassured me that there are still some companies that can dance ballet beautifully and put on a terrific show.

I thought the men did a wonderful job of partnering all around. It was refreshing to see pas de deux danced with commitment by both partners, instead of getting the feeling that the guy's bored and can't wait for his solo variation. Carlos Guerra was especially impressive; I can't believe he's so young! He dances big, but smooth.

I also liked Yann Trividic (the Hoofer) very much in Slaughter, and while I wish that Villella had milked the audience's appreciation a bit more, I can appreciate his desire to keep himself in the background.

Although I suspect that all of last night's ballets have probably received greater "star" performances during their lifetimes, you'd have a hard time convincing me that another company could have managed to treat each of the ballets as equally special and worthy of its best efforts. I sincerely hope that MCB will make the Kennedy Center a regular tour stop in the future.

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I saw the MCB rep on Wednesday night when Carlos was already gaining power in Sylvia and Deanna Seay was flawless. One thing I particularly like about the way Villella uses his many talented men -- they don't do a series of flashy steps and then mug the audience for applause the way ABT men do. I must be the traitor -- or the ignoramous (alwasy a possibility) on the Asthon piece which bored me out of my socks. Wiser viewers than I may say that it's not often done because it's so hard. But I have to wonder if it's not often done because the American audience, educated visually to a lot more snap and speed, won't sit still for this. Of course the flip side is that the only way to educate an audience's eye is to offer them something of quality and bring them forward in their understanding. So from that side, I'd say Villella was schooling his audience and making an investment in them. This can work for Miami where (despite his trashing the city in his corps de ballet talk) a loyal paying -- audience from Kendall to Palm Beach has provided the base for MCB since it was a tiny thought in the mind of Toby Anson who brought in Villella. Okay, that's it for the Miami booster club.

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I did like Les Patineurs, very much, although I appreciate Alexandra's comments from her longer review and can see what she meant about the various characterizations being a little "off" and the steps not flowing as they should. I thought the performance was charming and understated and a very pleasant introductory piece, but I have to admit that I wouldn't have wanted it programmed any later in the evening.

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"Les Patineurs" was never intended to be more than a curtain raiser, and I'm sure Ashton would be puzzled that it's lasted. I think it has because contemporary tastes run to "just dancing" (some day, someone is going to do it in practice clothes, and Americans will love it. I sincerely hope I'm dead before then). But I wish "The Wanderer," "The Quest," "The Lord of Burleigh," "Mme. Chrystantheme," or any of a dozen other Ashton ballets had survived -- most did not because he couldn't stand having anyone in them but the original cast and so they weren't put back in rep after two or three seasons.

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Alexandra, may you live to 120, as they say in my tribe, but while I wouldn't want Les Patineurs in practice clothes, I think it would be adorable outfitted by REI or by Vera Wang. At least you would be able to SEE the dancers which I hardly could under the bulky jackets and bunchy bustly goop freighting the MCB dancers.

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Samba, if the costumes were like those worn by earlier productions, including ABT way back when I danced this ballet, they are indeed very cumbersome and difficult to dance in. They were just plain heavy! The colors in ABT's early procuction were different from those in the Royal and in ABT's later production, too. We had some rather strange colors, as I recall. The corps were in red, the two small soloists in pink and ---not sure of the second one, and the two tall soloists in orange ( :)) and purple! The white couple were the same, and of course the blue boy. It was the 4 soloists colors that were so strange. It's been so long that I can't even remember now if I was the purple or the orange girl!

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Samba, I think "Les Patineurs" (and "Les Rendezvous") weren't about line; they were about shape. Our vision of ballet has become so limited that we forget that there are other ways of making ballets (and watching them). I read a review of the first cast of "Les Rendezvous" once that wrote of the dancers looking "soft as balls of cotton."

One of the problems with Miami's "Patineurs" (which I like much less in retrospect, the glow having worn off) is that there was no softness in them at all. What softness there was was in those costumes, but they were worn over wire. Several older friends, who remember the Sadler's Wells Ballet's performances of "Les Patineurs" told me they thought it was the dancing that was heavy. This is a demicaractere ballet, and I think the dancers (except for The Lovers) are supposed to be very light, walking or running in high demi-pointe.

Not that any of this would make one like the ballet any more, necessarily, but I'd argue that showing it in practice clothes would be showing something other than the ballet, as it was intended to be seen.

[ 06-02-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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Then my vote is definitely in for Vera Wang -- a former skater before she became a dress designer and the costumer for many star skaters today. I suspect, by the way, that I'm not alone in having no idea this ballet is about shape, not line.... yet another good reason I don't do reviews!

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