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Program I Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Jan. 17-19, 2003

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(from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) In the wake of September 11th and in the presence of afternoon temperatures in the upper 50's, this resort town looks a little like a ghost town, but in contrast to the New York State Theatre, where, as Robert Gottlieb wrote recently, Balanchine's ballets become fainter and fainter, on stage at the Au Rene Theatre in the Broward County Center for the Performing Arts Friday night, there were no ghostly ballets but thriving ones, if not always so full-blooded as in Balanchine's own time.

For me, it was Deanna Seay's evening: Her only role was Terpsichore in "Apollo" ("only"!), and her movement was immediately lovely, because flowing; glowingly clear, secure; her dancing seemingly just coming into existence, without effort or even will; and so, very effective, the goddess of dance indeed. If young Apollo couldn't get it from this muse, he couldn't get it from anyone, anywhere. He was Carlos Guerra, very creditable, sometimes effective, sometimes just careful of this whale of a role. Jennifer Kronenberg was an effective Polyhymnia, and Katia Carranza's Calliope was more satisfying to me than her role as the bride in "Bugaku", which opened the program. Well, it's a more satisfying role, too. (In "Bugaku", her groom was Luis Serrano, who invested the role with some of the power and menace it requires, and got in abundance from Edward Villella years ago.)

"Apollo" is a hard act to follow, and it was followed after a pause by "Glinka Pas de Trois", danced beautifully by Tricia Albertson and Joan Latham, with Mikhail Ilyin, from whom I would have liked only a bit more quickness and altitude.

"Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" concluded, and with all the fun there were some slight shortcomings: Iliana Lopez as the Strip Tease Girl looked a little lacking in energy and stiff in the midsection in the first duet but was better in the second (after her costume change into black); her husband Franklin Gamero kept another big male role, the Hoofer, going clearly and often effectively, but also often lacked some energy (as well as taps); and Edward Villella, as the Gangster, didn't just reprise the role I'd seen him do very effectively in recent years, but tried it differently this time, and didn't come across so well this time. But Yann Trividic's Big Boss had elan, Serrano's Morrosine was pretty effective, getting the audience to chuckle at his character's vanity by his dancing more than by his spoken lines, and Mark Spielberger and Jeremy Cox's Bartenders had the right crispness and snap.

Saturday evening was Jennifer Kronenberg's as the Strip Tease Girl in "Slaughter". She invigorated the role right up to her eyebrows. "She's excellent! Sexy!," said the man next to me, "What presence!" I saw luscious flexibility and clearly maintained line. Her partner, John Hall, as the Hoofer, energized his part perhaps at the expense of a little clarity, and his tap steps were also silent. Michelle Merrell enlivened "Bugaku" more effectively than Carranza had, but while her partner, Yann Trividic, was tall enough for her, I thought he held the role together less effectively than Serrrano had. Carranza looked her best so far in "Glinka Pas de Trois", where Renato Penteado had the quickness and altitude I wanted to see. And Mary Carmen Catoya's Terpsichore was very good, but hadn't the same flow, and so not the same cumulative effect, as Seay's had had.

Sunday afternoon was Kronenberg's again, this time as the bride in "Bugaku". Her performance is just what this ballet needed this weekend: I had come down from Chicago thinking this is one of Balanchine's "weird" ballets, and there is some strangeness, like at the beginning of the last section of the first part, where the five women are still crouching with their foreheads on the floor after the departure of the men, and they begin some "women talk" with their hands. But Kronenberg's dancing not only clarified the beauty of the classical movements, the ancient simpering ornamental femininity - which she carried through past the end into the applause, remaining "in character" until the final curtain - but also, especially in the pas de deux, the strength and power behind the feminine facade, and not least, the strength of female desire, to the point of appetite, not fully acknowledged in society even today but running through Balanchine's complex view of women. And this realization of the role was underlined by Kronenberg's partner, Carlos Guerra, good as he was, whose dancing had less presence than hers. (There were moments when I was reminded of Robbins's "The Cage".)

"Apollo" this time was led by Gamero and Lopez, and I was pleased by their clarity of significant detail but disappointed by some details: He sat casually on his stool at the right with shins crossed, rather than with his left leg back and an attitude of attention, and his looking away and then back toward the variations he was judging was slow and delayed, as though disconnected from what he was supposedly studying. Kristen Kramer, Charlene Cohen, and Didier Bramaz distinguished themselves in "Glinka pas de Trois" in making what must be very difficult look pretty easy to do and so, very easy to enjoy. And Andrea Spiridanakos and Jeremy Cox led "Slaughter" effectively, if her clear, spirited dancing didn't quite produce the presence Kronenberg did last night. The audience responded, down to one of the smallest members: At the moment when the Big Boss has accidentally shot the Strip Tease Girl, there was stunned silence, and a small voice observed softly, "Uh, oh."

On opening night, we got a couple of short speeches before the performance telling us the company, which still can't afford an orchestra, broke its attendance record of sixteen years last year - they add a performance now and then if ticket sales warrant - and is "ahead of budget" this year, retiring some of the "burden" they have ben carrying. It looks like this show will go on.

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I see Miami City Ballet at every possible opportunity. I have been known to schedule long weekends in Florida to coincide with something that I really want to see. Of course, those ballets that I really want to see just happen to come along in January and February--what a coincidence.

One of the reasons that I was so keen to get tickets for the festival at the Kennedy Center was to see MCB do 4Ts. I hope it will be all that I expect.

This winter, however, because of other commitments, I'm not going to make it to Florida until the weekend of March 22, so I am planning to catch Ballet Florida at the Kravis Center. Can anyone tell me anything about them?

Anyway re MCB--every time that I have seen that company, I have seen growth and improvement. It is amazing to see what has been built there in such a short time--1989, am I correct? I do know that as Villella was adding Balanchine works to the rep, he was calling on old friends to come to Florida to coach his dancers. So he used Patty, Suzanne and Violette to help him with Jewels, and boy does it ever show!

I feel so disloyal in saying this: but sometimes I would rather see MCB dancing Balanchine to recorded music than see Balanchine's own company with an orchestra.

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I watch Miami City Ballet in Naples Forida where they are also a resident company. I saw program I there last Wednesday. The Naples Philharmonic also has an orchestra that always plays for them. So live music here. And a beautiful and small place where there are no BAD seats. Come a couple of days early to Naples rkoretzky and they will be doing their third program on Tues. and Wednesday March 18 and 19th. The Gulf Coast is nice.

I'll write more on what I thought of what I saw after I get back from taking to school duty.

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rkoretzky, for the record, MCB started up in the 1986-7 season with a repertory of seventeen ballets, eleven by Balanchine and 6 by others, presented in four programs.

In regard to your "loyalty" dilemma, I offer the idea that "Balanchine's company" disappeared in 1986. That was the year the end came, about four years after he left the theatre, when, apparently, NYCB forgot how to dance his ballets, and began to look like what New Yorkers are pleased to call "regional" companies: They dance often minor ballets made on them well enough but ballets made on other companies without comprehension, just going through the motions. It's been Peter Martins's company since then, I think, though not to blame him. (That's another story for another thread.) So it seems to me your loyalty is misplaced. You might be happier forgetting that and going with your deeper sense. Have you ever heard of Joseph Campbell? Not one of the greatest thinkers, but he had some nice phrases, like this one: "Follow your bliss, and don't be afraid."

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Whoa Jack! Did I pull your chain? If so, I'm sorry, I didn't intend to.

Thanks for clarifying the date. I did know that but messed up with the mental math.

I won't agree with you that Balanchine's company has disappeared. For sure there are changes and if you read back through my posts, you'll find that I have had my share of disappointments with favorite ballets that have looked awful. But for every performance that let me down, there have been many that sent me soaring. I would also be very curious to know where you do assign responsibility, if not with the Ballet Master in Chief.

I also will absoutely disagree that NYCB is dancing like a "regional company", whatever that is, and for the record, New Yorkers are not the only people who use that term. Yes I am a New Yorker, born in the city, lived almost my entire life within the state, and proud to call myself so, maybe I am being a little defensive here? If so, sorry!

I don't feel any kind of dilemma, in fact, the opposite. My life is enriched by both NYCB and MCB, as well as ABT, Royal, Kirov, SF, Taylor, Ailey and all the other companies that I have had the privilege of watching. I'm happy to have so many choices.

I do feel that in some crucial ways, MCB is dancing a closer version of Balanchine choreography than NYCB is at this point, and I attribute that to several factors, not the least among them that Edward Villella uses the original dancers as coaches, whereas several do not seem to be welcome at NYCB, and this does make a difference, witness Merrill Ashley's coaching of Abi Stafford in Square Dance and the positive responses here. I didn't see Abi's performance but I did see a bit of a rehearsal with the two of them and it was beautiful to watch.

I also see MCB as a most versatile company. I drove my elderly aunt from West Palm Beach to Miami so that we could see their Giselle last year, and I was entranced, as was she.

I really do hope that I have been clearer on this point. My sense of disloyalty, I think, comes from my years of watching Mr. Balanchine here in Saratoga, and the closeness that I will always feel to him, and to his company. And maybe "disloyalty" was not quite the right word. There is plenty of room in my life for both companies, and if I enjoy Villella's vision of some ballets more than Martins', that's really OK.

Oh and would you please elaborate on your comment about NYCB's performances of ballets made on other companies, with examples? I really don't know what you are referring to, and I would like to know.

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rkoretzky, I'm relieved and glad to see from the list of dance companies you enjoy that you are well able to "follow your bliss" without advice from me!

But you might well wonder what I meant by that reference to works made on other companies! What I meant to do in that hasty post was to describe a type of company I've seen, and then to compare the new (post-Balanchine) NYCB to it, and I see I made a mess of it. Maybe I can say that part more simply: When I've seen NYCB over the past sixteen years, their programs have reminded me of some companies I had seen, based outside the Dance Capital of the World, where the completely-danced (but negligible) ballets of a resident artistic director were supplemented by ballets imported into the company to fill out eclectic schedules, but which are typically danced as though foreign to the dancers, who appear physically able, but whose preparation apparently lacks a dimension we often try to speak of in some metaphor like "authentic" or "comprehension" or "resonance". I see now a bad pronoun reference in my post had NYCB dancing ballets made on other companies uncomprehendingly. What I meant to say was that, now, to me, Balanchine's ballets look alien to the new NYCB, as though imported into a company easily familiar with the ballets of Martins, Wheeldon, and the others.

Whew! That explanation is longer than the post it's supposed to explain! I hope that helps, and that I haven't made a bigger mess.

Thinking about who's responsible at NYCB made me realize how far "out of sight, out of mind" they have become for me. I really don't know much about what goes on there, because, beginning around 1986, NYCB ceased to be the reliably satisfying "good bet" I need to make trips planned well in advance worthwhile, so that I see them infrequently now, and they still continue to disappoint in the way I've just tried to describe. (MCB continues to astonish.) Yes, I suppose most of the responsibility must be laid on the boss, although I don't know what resources are at Martins's disposal, compared with Balanchine's, for example. Your saying that you have more satisfactions than disappointments is encouraging, although how one can predict the satisfactions many weeks ahead is a problem for me. And I hope you won't mind too much if I say that I take your remark with a grain of salt, because, since we are all different, we might respond differently to the very same performance, too.

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Hello again, Jack,

I don't think you and I are all that far apart, truth be told. We are both enthusiastic MCB fans (I like your phrase: "continues to astonish" and I agree), both wax eloquently over Suzanne Farrell's company, and both see changes in NYCB that aren't always positive. I understand your reluctance to make a trip to see bad performances. I've had that reaction just coming to NYC from 150 miles north. Again, I've planned trips to Florida around MCB's schedule--always worthwhile.

So, more to a matter of degree, I suppose. In any case, your final statement couldn't be more true: we will all see what we see on any given day, through the filter of who we are, what our own state of mind might be, and what other experiences we bring with us. That is what makes this board so interesting and why I have enjoyed this interchange with you. I hope you haven't been offended by anything that I have said.

regards, rk

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