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MCB Program I


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The review of the Acosta Carmen that I saw in the NY Times was awful. So this cinema broadcast seems like a pass for me.

:off topic: It appears the reviews have been universally scathing. Undoubtedly the Royal Ballet was taking a risk in broadcasting a new work by a relatively unproven choreographer, and now they're probably relying on the popularity of the music, story and Acosta to attract audiences despite the critics. Once Acosta retires, the ballet will probably be thrown on the scrap heap.

A cinema ticket isn't all that expensive. I'm still willing to spend the money to see for myself just how terrible it is.

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I've never heard of a ballet being contractually an opener or closer. MCB performed 'Serenade' last, both on tour last season and in the rep the year before. I'm sure B's Swan Lake could be programmed last had they wanted it that way, but it also makes perfect sense as an opener, since, in my experience, it always has been. By the same token, Fancy Free is almost always performed last, so I doubt they considered moving the ballets from their traditional slots.

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At ABT Fancy Free has been an opener and many years ago I saw a performance by the Israel Ballet with Serenade as a closer...In other words, I think there are or need be no rules on mixed bill programming. And appetizer/main course/desert is, I think, sometimes a bit worn out as a model.

Would love to see Messmer as Odette (or, indeed, in a different production, as Odette/Odile)! I really envy MCB having this remarkable dancer.

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[from Washington, DC]

Too familiar with it, I remember how it gave me claustrophobia when Villella put it on a few years ago. I was so grateful for In the Night to follow it. Such large, spacious movement, not to mention the starry backdrop, evoked a huge place even for the small business of the several relationships Robbins - as usual - had for us to see. Sensitive programming, I thought.

P.S. Searching this forum for my remarks on it (but not finding them) I ran across the name of Allynne Noelle, who will dance the Karin von Aroldingen role in Emeralds here this afternoon, concluding TSFB's too-little season.

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I'm glad somebody did. No, really.

Thanks, Jack. Jack and Cristian I found Viscera to be a very fine, well crafted and entertaining work. I considered it to be 'classically oriented Twyla Tharp' in character. I thought it was performed brilliantly by the extremely versatile and greatly gifted MCB dancers. I think that it shows the range that this company is capable of and why it is so outstanding.

My love is the Mariinsky with its standard of refined enchantment. Yet I've been wowed from the first time that I saw the MCB with its equally loveable sense of family, youthfulness, high artistry, high energy (when called for), range and exceptional talent.

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Thanks, Jack. Jack and Cristian I found Viscera to be a very fine, well crafted and entertaining work. I considered it to be 'classically oriented Twyla Tharp' in character. I thought it was performed brilliantly by the extremely versatile and greatly gifted MCB dancers. I think that it shows the range that this company is capable of and why it is so outstanding.

I saw Viscera when the company premiered it a few years ago and I really liked it - I remember thinking that Scarlett was a very musical choreographer. It's been a while, though, and I was just starting to watch a lot of ballet at the time. I'm seeing the program this weekend in Broward, so I'll report back when I get a second look.

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I drove down to the West Palm area today to visit my parents and see Miami City Ballet's West Palm run. I have a ticket to Saturday's performance and will go to that tomorrow night and see the entire show. Tonight I wasn't sure I could arrive in time for the show so I didn't buy a ticket until I got to the Kravis Center. I also wanted to get to my parents' house in Jupiter before too late so I only stayed for Balanchine's Swan Lake, so I did not see Viscera or Fancy Free. I needed to see my parents before they went to bed. I enjoyed Swan Lake very much because it has so many differences from the Mariinsky's lake scenes so it was fun to compare and contrast between the two versions. Balanchine's version honors Swan Lake, but he definitely makes it his own. Some of the choreography is great, but some moments made me prefer the Sergeyev (Mariinsky).

Simone Messmer was very good as Odette, although she doesn't have that "to the manner born" element in the upper body that you see in Vaganova graduates. However, with that said she had nice swan arms for an American trained dancer. Her backward falls as Siegfried catches her were lovely with trailing fingers. She also created an elegant mood during the duet. I had heard good things about her, and I did enjoy her Odette and enjoyed seeing Balanchine's very different choreography.

I look forward to seeing it again tomorrow with Tricia Albertson!

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Tonight Tricia Albertson was a much more emotional Odette than Messmer last night. She had great chemistry with Reyneris Reyes too who looks like he's lost weight. Despite a couple of minor mistakes in her variation (didn't lift her leg once during the 2 sets of developes a la seconde, fell off pointe during her diagonal) I actually enjoyed her performance better than Messmer's. To me she seemed to come out and try to do justice to Balanchine's choreography whereas Messmer seemed like she was trying to be a mannered Russian prima ballerina. However, nobody can do "mannered" and make it look good like the Russians, so even though I liked Messmer, I feel she didn't make the role her own. She was doing what she thought she should.

I don't think there is anything visceral for the audience in Viscera. It probably feels that way for the dancers who have to work very hard, but to me it comes off as a choreographer's exercise making movement match the music (a good ballet to show young choreographers how to match movement with music), but nowhere do you think, "Wow!" ever. So I think it is mistitled.

Fancy Free is a cute piece of fluff that is entertaining but not what classical ballet fans really want. I enjoyed it but not sure I care to ever see it again.

Very sad to see many empty seats in all areas. I love the full to capacity theatres in Russia. Sigh.

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I actually think CubanMiamiBoy's idea of Fancy Free being first on the bill would have been a good idea. Fancy Free feels like an appetizer. Balanchine's Swan Lake feels more like a main course.

I also think MCB should always have an All-Balanchine program each season. It is what they are famous for and why many people like them.

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...

Very sad to see many empty seats in all areas. I love the full to capacity theatres in Russia. Sigh.

Interesting comparison, bringing to mind the story I remember - maybe an inaccurate one - that I picked up years ago when George Balanchine's NYCB - the one he supervised - visited the Soviet Union, as it was then. The theaters were sold out every time, and at the last minute, the eager fans outside shoved aside the people in charge and rushed into the aisles and sat down to see his fabled company dance on their stages.

Closer to our topic and our day, Edward Villella's MCB was warmly received for three weeks in Paris in 2011, although I didn't notice any reports of spectators' behavior resembling civil disobedience there, and there was some mention at that time of a possible second tour to Paris in 2014, which didn't happen.

Didn't you see MCB in Villella's day? In my experience, the houses were well filled in south Florida, first in Miami Beach, then in Ft. Lauderdale, and on one mid-week excursion I made across the state to Naples, not to mention their week's tour to New York's City Center in January 2009 - where the company got such a strong, demonstrative reception, compared with south Florida - in New York! the dance capitol of the country! a tough audience - it brought the dancers to the edge of tears.

In his day, I used to watch them mostly in Ft. Lauderdale, where they scheduled four performances of repertory on a weekend, but now I see from the schedule there are only two there.

I actually think CubanMiamiBoy's idea of Fancy Free being first on the bill would have been a good idea. Fancy Free feels like an appetizer. Balanchine's Swan Lake feels more like a main course.

I also think MCB should always have an All-Balanchine program each season. It is what they are famous for and why many people like them.

I couldn't agree more about the substantial, even meaty, quality of Mr. B's Swan Lake - in the day, he said he got all the cholesterol out, but for me Fancy Free is fine as dessert, something to send us all out with a smile on our faces. Villella put Viscera first, which I found a fortuitous benefit - I needed an antidote after it, something to relieve the claustrophobia I felt after visiting Viscera's compressed world, and even In the Night on that program was welcome. (I was in there in anticipation of Ballet Imperial, I think.)

(Friends and I used to sit out In the Night back in the day, at Mr. B's company, saving ourselves for the Balanchine work on the program, but I have become better at taking in what I see in its own terms, I think, and I can look at Robbins his way, on a different plane. A less-exalted one than Mr. B's.)

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Yes, the West Palm shows were supposedly the most well attended in recent years, and back when Viscera debuted (I was there but can't remember what other ballets were paired with it), it seemed full, but not this weekend. Wonder why. There were tons of empty seats in every section both Friday and Saturday night.

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For me, there was an aura to Edward's (Villella's) company. It was Edward's personality, fame, ability and sense of rightness and quality. For us spectators he was omnipresent in the audience. In his often warmhearted way he radiated a love for what he was doing and for his dancers. You could get this from all his pre-performance talks as well as from his personal conversation. All apparently was not perfect as two waves of dancers disappeared from the company during my viewing experience. One of these was probably for economic reasons. Yet things carried on, the company continued to feel like family and the level of talent remained enthusiastic and outstanding. A feeling of family. For instance one lady next to me referred casually to Sara and Leigh-Ann Esty as "the twins."

My hope is that this warmth and level of talent can be maintained.

Also Simone Messmer changes the ballgame completely, for me. I think there is the possibility of seeing all-time greatness from her. Credit to Lourdes Lopez for giving her this chance.

Added comment: Also Edward didn't seem as concerned about what the community 'might' like best as much as he did for the quality of what he was doing. I give him credit for this.

Added, added comment: I think that many of the things that Edward did right, he did very right. This may have been reflected in audience attendance. Somewhere they may have known that they had a world class company, possibly one the best.

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I don't know the length of your experience, Buddy, but dancers come and go rapidly sometimes - ten or a dozen years is not unheard of, although Deanne Seay was there 21 years (and nowhere else), and there may have been others I just don't know about.

I saw Messmer only briefly, when she seemed in retrospect to be passing through Chicago on her way to San Francisco, but right away she seemed flowing with potential, which she quickly began to realize. We'll see, or you will, how she develops in MCB. (Maybe I'll see for myself when they're here in Chicago the end of April.)

Edward knew what to do, and how to do it. We pieced together that his project to mount Concerto No. 2 (billed as Ballet Imperial, but actually the later 1973 version) met with disbelief from a very knowledgable enthusiast of the company and sometime associate of Balanchine's in the day, who told him they couldn't do it; but he started rehearsing it in August, and, alternating with other repertory, by the following March, they could. Oh, boy, could they!

(I think Mary Carmen Catoya may have debuted in it, or possibly it was Emeralds. Seeing her in either of these radically different roles, I could imagine her presence gave him the idea for them.)

I don't know whether he gave much thought to playing to the crowd, though he did try to help people tune into what the program offered in his pre-performace talks in Ft. Lauderdale. (I'm not sure these went on in Miami/Miami Beach or in Palm Springs, too.)

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Edward knew what to do, and how to do it. We pieced together that his project to mount Concerto No. 2 (billed as Ballet Imperial, but actually the later 1973 version) met with disbelief from a very knowledgable enthusiast of the company and sometime associate of Balanchine's in the day, who told him they couldn't do it; but he started rehearsing it in August, and, alternating with other repertory, by the following March, they could. Oh, boy, could they!

Jack, I saw them perform "Ballet Imperial” at least twice, July, 2011, in Paris.

“Oh, boy, could they!” — Yes, indeed! I wrote this elsewhere at the time.

“This performance of "Ballet Imperial" was perhaps the finest expression that I've yet experienced of these dancers' remarkable ability to seem loose as can be and yet so totally together and refined at the same time.

“It was Transcendent, Exhilarating, Magnificent and Breathtaking ! “

Not only can they perform Balanchine like this, but much other choreography as well. I remain a great admirer of the other works that Edward presented and the dancers ability to adapt and shine in these.

To get a sense of the times, Jack, as you put it “in Villella's day.” In Paris I went to the last four performances and wrote this.

"After 18 days ( 14 different works ! ) of almost nonstop performing (two, two day breaks) they were as full of energy and doing as well as I've ever seen them.

The audiences loved them ! After each performance and numerous curtain calls, the stage curtain had to be lit up to stop the applause ! “

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