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Natalia Magnicaballi’s Farewell Performance Announced

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Don’t miss Natalia Magnicaballi’s special farewell performance, Sun May 6th at 1 pm.” – this tucked away in Ballet Arizona’s latest program booklet. Wow! One would imagine there would be a press release or some such, but in any case the word is out!!

The show will be the annual All Balanchine program, featuring Prodigal Son, Symphony in Three Movements, and La Sonnambula. Although the promo photo features Ms. Magnicaballi in the role of Prodigal Son’s Siren from several years ago, it seems more likely that she will be dancing the role of La Sonnambula’s Sleepwalker – a role which she has often professed a favorite.

Natalia undoubtedly occupies an enviable position in the Balanchine diaspora. Dancing for the Suzanne Farrell Ballet since its inception in 1999 obviously offered her an opportunity to learn directly from one of Balanchine’s most legendary dancers. In addition, she has danced at Ballet Arizona since 2002 for Ib Andersen, who joined NYCB as a principal at Balanchine’s invitation late in his career. As a result, Natalia’s repertoire includes the lead roles in more than 35 Balanchine ballets, not to mention most of the classics and many contemporary ballets. You can see much of her repertoire listed on Natalia’s Bio Page at Ballet Arizona.

Here’s a great video of Natalia discussing her early career and dancing for Suzanne Farrell.

Here’s a photo of Natalia as the Sleepwalker.

Ballet Arizona will offer five performances of the All Balanchine program at Phoenix Symphony Hall from May 3-6, 2018. Although casting isn’t generally announced until the week of the performance, it appears to be a sure thing that Natalia will dance at the Sunday (May 6) matinee. (Will update with casting when available…)

 

Edited by fiddleback
Change video link from Kennedy Center to Youtube

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Many thanks for the news, fiddleback.

I began to travel to Phoenix after seeing Magnicaballi when the Suzanne Farrell Ballet toured to California.  I searched for where else this stunning dancer was affiliated, and was able to see her many times, a great privilege.

 

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On 3/26/2018 at 1:53 AM, fiddleback said:

Natalia undoubtedly occupies an enviable position in the Balanchine diaspora. Dancing for the Suzanne Farrell Ballet since its inception in 1999 obviously offered her an opportunity to learn directly from one of Balanchine’s most legendary dancers...

None of these images are captioned on the page, but if you open the thumbnails in a new tab or window, the URLs up in the address bar give some clues:  The first image is from their Moscow tour!  (Opening the thumbnail of this image in a new tab gives an even larger image.)

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Here’s a great video of Natalia discussing her early career and dancing for Suzanne Farrell.

What Magnicaballi says around 1:20 and returns to around 2:00 put me in mind of what I'd picked up about Mr. B's approach, which Magnicaballi's great mentor absorbed (or maybe, brought with her into that fabled relationship to Mr. B; who knows?).  She speaks of Farrell's trust in her dancers, and the freedom she gives them; this is how Mr. B. nurtured his dancers.  

I can't cite the source right now, but in a slightly different context, apparently in answer to a question, he compared his work to that of another up-and-coming choreographer of the day, one garnering a lot of attention:  "Twyla makes the dancers look like her; I make them look like them."  (Accurate or not about Twyla, it was accurate about the direction he consciously took; some of his dancers have also testified that he taught them, not just how to dance, but how to live.)

Magnicaballi doesn't use the word, but this nurturing that Balanchine and Farrell made their practice, their way, speaks to their humanity - this is how we social animals, we humans, raise each other; what strikes me as great about this little clip is that Magnicaballi is so vivid.  That speaks not only to her intelligence but to her humanity; and as someone who doesn't like goodbyes, when you look back, and sense loss sometimes, I can imagine a future where she also teaches this way.  She is a knowing member of the tribe, you might say.

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Here’s a photo of Natalia as the Sleepwalker.

But the web address, the URL, of this image carries the last names of Paola Hartley and Astrit Zejnati; "The Sleepwalker" in it is unmistakably Magnicaballi, of course, not Hartley.  Who is her partner?  I think it's Brian Leonard.  He was her "Poet," according to my cast sheet for the Balanchine weekend in May 2015, when a cropped version of this image was used for the cover of the program book, which, however, only credited Magnicaballi herself.  (But maybe it's an older image.  Anybody know?)  

I believe in giving credit where it's due.  Tsk!  But thanks for the links, fiddleback. 

Edited by Jack Reed

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On 3/26/2018 at 12:01 PM, Helene said:

Many thanks for the news, fiddleback.

I began to travel to Phoenix after seeing Magnicaballi when the Suzanne Farrell Ballet toured to California.  I searched for where else this stunning dancer was affiliated, and was able to see her many times, a great privilege.

My story was similar.  I had admired Magnicaballi in TSFB, accepted her absences when, so the story went, Ib Andersen wouldn't let her go to Washington (there was some compensation elsewhere in Farrell's company of the moment, not to mention the sometimes sensational vitality of their preparation), and then maybe in 2014, Farrell had three more excellent women, all four from Phoenix, and it finally dawned on me I could enjoy more of their dancing there.  It turned out there were even more excellent dancers in Phoenix - including some boys - and I've gone back ever since.  I'll be there this May, too.  

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An interview with Magnicaballi. It says something about her performing in future with the "Farrell Ballet" (?)

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“I’m currently working on mentoring young dancers,” the interview-shy dancer said via email. “Our art form is beautiful, but it can be very cruel at times, so it’s very crucial for me that young dancers become aware and receive proper guidance about the common ups and downs in our profession. They need to be strong physically and mentally.”

The annual “All Balanchine” concerts make for an appropriate sendoff. Magnicaballi has danced the lead roles in 36 ballets by the late George Balanchine — more, she says, than any other principal dancer outside of New York City Ballet.

 

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Casting has been announced for the All Balanchine program, and Natalia will be performing in EVERY performance!

On Thursday (5/3) evening and Saturday (5/5) matinee, she'll be dancing the Siren in Prodigal Son, partnering with Nayon Iovino.

On Friday (5/4) evening and Saturday (5/5) evening, she'll be dancing the Sleepwalker in La Sonnambula, partnering with Helio Lima as the poet.

For the Sunday (5/5) matinee (her final performance with Ballet AZ) she'll dance BOTH!

Here's a photo (scroll down) of Natalia rehearsing with Helio. (Also a great shot of AD Ib Andersen showing the guys how to be goons in Prodigal.)

With two costumed story ballets, and one big Stravinsky ballet (Symphony in three Movements), this promises to be a whopper of a Balanchine show. Mr. Andersen has been making the point that 'you won't even see this combination of ballets in NY'...

 

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Nice going, especaily for the link to the cast list, fiddleback; I missed that by just hours. Did you notice it showed a different order than what is implied on the "All-Balanchine" page?  The older page had the program open with Prodigal Son and then Symphony in Three Movements, which would have lent some interesting variety and contrast, not to mention giving Magnicaballi a chance to rest!

 

Speaking of that, if she can do all this, why is she retiring?  I'll confess there's some projection of my own wishes in this question - I'd rather she wouldn't quit!  I want to see more of her performances!  

 

What I like to see in dancing is a dancer exploring the role - never changing the steps and the moves but continually exploring how the moves fit the sounds - but Magnicaballi is one of those who goes farther with a role sometimes, exploring different approaches, especially if there is some characterization there.

 

For example, her two "Terpsichore"s a year ago:  The whole ballet, Apollo, shows us some gods from Greek mythology, and her first approach reflected, I thought, their pure, remote life on high; but there's a little plot in it too - the three muses are, like, auditioning for Apollo, who watches their solo dances from the side of the stage - and Terpsichore is the one he judges the best, the one he soon rewards and dances with.  Magnicaballi's second performance had some of the earthly exuberance, I thought, of someone who could feel, Hey, I got the gig!

 

So this time she will show us her take - or takes - on two roles, the dominating, seductive "Siren" in Prodigal Son and the remote, unreachable - almost unreachable - "Sleepwalker" in La Sonnambula.

 

But as to the program - I've picked up from talking with newbies in the theater over the years that some of them are afraid of watching a story ballet and missing something early and not getting the rest of it as a result.  Prodigal Son tells most of its story so clearly, you don't even have had to run across it in the centuries it's been around, and so it would not have been a problem to start with it.

 

And some ballet audience I've encountered think a ballet company does mainly one style, so following Prodigal with Symphony Three would have the advantage of demonstrating quickly the range a program devoted to one choreographer can have if it's George Balanchine.  (Not that I think proving a point like that is what a program should do.  It should provide a satisfying experience.  I'm not the only one who compares attending a performance to having a good meal:  I can't quote chapter and verse exactly, but I remember reading Mr. B himself remarking, in this context, that people like beef but "they don't want to eat beef three times; some people like oysters".  People like different things that go together.) 

 

So we'll see what the order actually is.  But with two ballets offering Magnicaballi good opportunites to involve her considerable talents, as well as something completely different - but comparably powerful - this program looks like fun for everybody.

 

And as for seeing more of Magnicaballi's kind of dancing, the remark dirac picked up on is a hopeful hint.  (More about that I wish I could say, as a once and maybe future supporter of TSFB, but I can't.)  As for tracking her own future performances, she does have that web site... 

Edited by Jack Reed

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As it happened, the revised order of the program was the one we got:

Friday, May 4 Evening.  In brief:  Either Symphony in Three Movements has changed in performance since opening night or I've adjusted, watching it - an effect I've noticed before, watching BA - but I found myself thinking tonight that about all it needs is a little more snap in the dancing and less shrillness in the sound.  Tonight's audience went for it more loudly than last night's, too.

Watching it tonight, I remembered Magnicaballi's remark in the pre-performance "Chat" last night that Balanchine was ahead of his time but today, nobody is:  In the '70s, we used to kick around some ideas about the ballets we knew, and one of my friends asked me if "Symphony Three" was not about the Second World War, as Stravinsky said it was not, then what was it about, and I said, it's about the Twenty-First Century.  

Mimi Tompkins came into the Siren role in Prodigal Son, and if she was more lovely she was less sinister and domineering than Natalia Magnicaballi had been last night, which may derive partly from Magnicaballi's seniority in the role and in her career - she has about ten years or more on Tompkins, so enjoyable as Tompkins was, Magnicaballi had brought more appropriate power to the role; and Alejandro Mendez brought a little more strength and weight to the role of the Prodigal tonight than Nayon Iovino had.  And Arianni Martin was delightfully animated in the Pas de Deux divertissement with Eric Hipolito Jr.

Then in the Sonnambula pas de deux, the later sequence where the Sleepwalker's progress across downstage brought some chuckles around me because of the humor some see in the Poet's frustrated attempts to interfere with her progress, I wanted intensity; I wanted the dance to get us closer to the edge of a cliff, and it happened in the following sequence where the Sleepwalker bourrees upstage away from the Poet who has propelled her that way, and so on.  Magnicaballi with Helio Lima this evening did make the movement intensify in speed and sharpness of direction, and the superficial audience around me fell silent, finally absorbed, showing the power of the art visible onstage to draw people into this mystery.     

Edited by Jack Reed

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I attended both pre-performance "Chats," just to see what might turn up:

On Thursday (May 3rd), Magnicaballi told us she has been dancing since age 9, in school in 1986.  Since 1999, she's danced with  Suzanne Farrell, and since 2002 with Ib Andersen as well. She wants to teach and coach.

What inspires you about Balanchine?  

I love him.  I feel at home.  Also, he's so fulfilling.  Good, makes sense.

Is Balanchine unpopular? 

Balanchine was ahead of his time.  Not now, no one is ahead.  

In Balanchine, your pose is deeper (demonstrates).  You try to project to the last row.

"Siren" is an opportunity to be a woman, to be seductive.

Saturday will be different from tonight.  

Why "Sleepwalker"? 

Sonnambula was my first role here.

Where are you going from here? 

I have some special projects with Suzanne.  In Arizona, summer classes.

On Friday (the 4th), Martin told us about her background in Cuba, dancing in the National Ballet of Cuba, founded by Alicia Alonso, among other things.

What's your favorite role?  

I like the Coquette in Sonnambula - Martin started to giggle - because she's a seductive woman.  Martin was so overcome with the giggles she couldn't say more about this question.

(Frankly, I think my notes on these "Chats" are too skimpy, and if any other BA!-ers were there and can add some details, as always, feel free.) 

Edited by Jack Reed

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Reading all your reports with interest....(I don’t find them skimpy, though am always happy to learn more).

I am delighted Magnicaballi wants to teach/coach —- which would seem to include passing along her work with Farrell on Balanchine.

Edited by Drew
Typo....

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5 hours ago, Jack Reed said:

I attended both pre-performance "Chats," just to see what might turn up

Good for you, Jack Reed - I enjoyed watching the online broadcasts of Magnicaballi dancing for Suzanne Farrell Ballet.

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10 hours ago, Drew said:

...

I am delighted Magnicaballi wants to teach/coach —- which would seem to include passing along her work with Farrell on Balanchine.

I think she doesn't merely want to teach, but has work lined up, not least at the Ballet Arizona school in Phoenix.  And in her remarks - there was another "Chat" this afternoon, post-performance and scarcely announced, for example - she mentions Andersen together with Farrell as her Balanchinian mentors

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