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Miami City Ballet: Program 1Balanchivadze's "Swan Lake", "4 T's"..and...


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 07:07 AM

Last night i went, full of expectations, to see the Program 1, as it happened to be the only time i would be able to. (Couldn't go on Friday night and same with the upcoming Sunday matinee, due to personal issues). Right now i'm a little hurried up, so i'll try to write some words on the performance
Swan Lake.
There are few things i would like to hightlight of this "sui generis"-(at least for me)- take on the work. First, to thank Deanna Seay and Rolando Sarabia for being the leads. They always make a beautiful pair. Seay totally shows the command and experience that all this years as a Company Principal has given her, and Sarabita was , as usual, there, always attentive, always in place to enhance his ballerina's performance. He certainly has mastered the art of the partnership, and his variation-(didn't know it was going to be taken for the original Act I Pas de Trois!)- was, as usual, impecable too. Even many years later, and with a limited offer of his old Havana Petipa roles, he certainly dominates the dancing, the stage, his partner and the audience as good as when he was the newest wonderboy back then. Keep the good job, barbaro! Now, here are some points that right now I can recall thinking while watching Mr. B's choreography:

1-The mechanical swans . Never saw them before, and they were a bit distracting althought i found the idea candid, but still they made me smile for sure.
2-The Corps tutus...not pancake ones, nor long romantic either, but sort of a short version of a romantic one, above the knee(with the exception of Odette). Karinska's...?
3-The hunters. They didn't dance, nor partnered, just showing up for a couple of seconds to quickly stand by the maidens in pose at some point, just to rush out right away.
4-Most of all, the fact that all along the ballet my overall impression was that this was just another case of restaging of the classic lakeside story that we all know. I'm sorry if i couldn't detect "blank"/"expressionless" faces, or ballerinas "inhabitating roles" who were just dancers and not characters. What i saw tonight was Miss Seay clearly portraying old Odette one more time as vulnerable and dramatic as it has been from the Russian imperial times , and very beautifully, by the way. Everything was there to tell the story...the backdrops with the castle in the distance, the hunting party, the usual mime gestures-(minus Odette's sequence telling her story to Siegfried, but this is even erased from the most of the current productions nowadays, so no big deal...), the suffering faces, the love gestures, and most of it, the very explicit story of the romantic encounter between a Prince and a Princess who gets to be cursed to inhabit her swan nemesis during the day for the rest of her life.
Basically, i saw a cropped/arranged version of Ivanov's SL Act II, with some changes in the choreography, musical additions-(from Acts I and IV) ,substractions and the name of Balanchine instead of Ivanov on the Playbill when crediting the choreographer.

The 4 T's.
I loved the minimalistic sets and costumes, the modern atmosphere, the peculiar dancing. Among all the dancers i want to point at Jeremy Cox as Phlematic. He's so charismatic, and seems to understand very well Balanchine's dinamics. I certainly need more future visual contact with the work to talk with a wider comprehension, to be fair.
The other dancers were:
Melancholic: Alex Wong
Sanguinic: Jeannette Delgado/Renato Panteado
Choleric: Andrea Spiridonakos.
I need to watch this ballet for a second time for sure.

In the Upper Room.
I left the Theater before it even started...We all know i have my issues with Twyla :flowers: (Oh, well... just like Miss Danilova-RIP-)

#2 cahill

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 06:45 AM

This program got a great review in the New York Times written by Alastair Macaulay.

Balanchine and Tharp and a Bit of Brio

#3 bart

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 07:01 AM

Thanks for that review, Cristian. We don't get to see this program in West Palm until mid-November.

Your Odette/Siegfried (Seay and Sarabia) are just the partnership I would have chosen. I'm glad I have tickets for all the WPB pefomances, so I'll get to see the same cast you saw. I hope I'll see it at least twice. What it is about Rolando Sarabia that draws so much richness and depth from ballerinas in roles like this? I know that Macaulay preferred the classical correctness of Wu and Zou, and I'm sure they are lovely. But I'll go with Seay/Sarabia on this, for expressivity, pathos, and magic.

The 4 T's.
I loved the minimalistic sets and costumes, the modern atmosphere, the peculiar dancing. Among all the dancers i want to point at Jeremy Cox as Phlegmatic. He's so charismatic, and seems to understand very well Balanchine's dinamics.

Yes, as to Miami's 4T's. And Yes, as to Cox as Phlegmatic! This was my dream castisng, and I'm glad I'll get to see it.

Macaulay goes out of his way to praise the 4T's. Speed is definitely a factor. Over the years at NYCB, all except Choleric seemed to get slower and draggier, for some reason. Villella remembers the way it was done in his day. Not "speed" for its own sake, of course: there are so many subtle details to encompass as one moves along!

Thanks, cahill, for the link to Macaulay.

The art of program building in ballet, often supposed to be a thing of the past, is not dead. Miami City Ballet’s current program — “Swan Lake Act II,” “The Four Temperaments” and “In the Upper Room,” the third of its couplings of choreography by George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp — demonstrates to newcomers and connoisseurs alike just how diverse ballet, and one ballet company, can be.

You could simplify this triple bill by calling its works classical (Balanchine’s one-act “Swan Lake”), modernist (his “Four Temperaments”) and postmodernist (Ms. Tharp’s “In the Upper Room”).

I understand your feelings about Upper Room. But -- if you look at it as an exercise in the variations in dance style -- it can be riveteting. As Macaulay mentions, it's a crowd pleaser. I'm not one of those who loves it, but I find it fascinating to watch -- and I enjoy so much the way the dancers seem to dive into it and explode from it.

#4 SandyMcKean

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 09:12 AM

I understand your feelings about Upper Room. But -- if you look at it as an exercise in the variations in dance style -- it can be riveteting.

I certainly find it riveting.

#5 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 09:42 PM

Oh!, and one more thing that i found fascinating from Mr' B's SL. It was the first time that i saw the original Tchaikowsky's music for the Coda of the Love Duet being used...

#6 Natalia

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 03:39 PM

Oh!, and one more thing that i found fascinating from Mr' B's SL. It was the first time that i saw the original Tchaikowsky's music for the Coda of the Love Duet being used...


True, cubanmiamiboy. It's a vigorous staging. I am hoping to catch one of the upcoming shows in Ft. Lauderdale, as it is very rare opportunity to see the "Mr. B Swan Lake" with the corps wearing the all-white tuts (unlike NYCB).

#7 Jack Reed

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 12:35 PM

Not only that: There were fewer of them in Mr. B's day. That, and white instead of the current black made them visible. And Alain Vaes' new lighting looked like dusk when I saw it a few years ago. Dusk is the time of day when you can't see anything, right?

Okay, it's night. How can you see a stage full of dancers at night? Ron Bates was not the first one to do that, and he (or Mr. B, who knew more than notes and steps, to put it mildly) had a great idea for the moment when the corps, having danced, circles the stage and then runs off upstage on our right: They were lit from the wings, just low enough that the dancers running around one side of the stage cast moving shadows on the dancers on the other side -- in the opposite direction! Thus they seemed to be moving even faster, heightening the effect of their rushing off, and apparently increasing their number, yet while leaving them unobscured. I don't expect to see this recreated. Cristian, did you notice?

Another thing I remember is seeing lots of Mr. B's SL (with Verdy or Hayden) and then going across the Plaza one night, when something less interesting was on, and seeing the RB Swan Lake and being startled in Act II by how many sequences were familiar. Every other one or so, it seemed like. Where the Royal had a less brilliant sequence, Balanchine had brightened up his version. Cristian, do you know the "standard" Petipa version well enough to compare them?

Anyway, I expect to see all the Broward performances, and a BTer who wants to meet me might look for my white hair and pink face, and - usually - my portfolio, in the theatre. It's my custom to wear a suit opening night, too.

#8 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 03 November 2008 - 09:18 PM

Jack...i'll go to the Broward Performances. Let's meet there. Look at my pic in my profile to get an idea, but the easiest way for you to identify me would be by looking for a guy with a blond loose hair above the shoulders. I will pm you to give you details. :wink:
Now, can somebody explain me about the Corps tutus in SL. I find them weird. Are they Karinska's...?

#9 Jack Reed

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 01:37 PM

Aren't the costumes credited in the program? "Haydee Morales after Karinska" maybe?

#10 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 04 November 2008 - 07:08 PM

Aren't the costumes credited in the program? "Haydee Morales after Karinska" maybe?

Don't have the playbill at hand-(think i lost it)-, but yes, usually all MCB's Balanchine's costume designs are Karinska's-(faithfully reproduced by Morales). In the case of SL i'm still confused, so i was wondering if the newyorkers who grew up watching this version can shred some light on the subject...bart? :P

#11 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 07 November 2008 - 10:30 PM

Friday 11/07 @ Broward Center.

I-95 was easy on my way back to Miami, so here i am, in time to make a few comments on tonight's performance.
Swan Lake.
Odette was danced by Principal Haiyan Wu, and Siegfried by Soloist Yang Zou, the two of them very light and airy young dancers. The atmosphere was more "impersonal" this time than that of provided by Seay and Sarabita-(i suspect that this is Wu and Zou's own style rather than Mr. B's SL's call for "blankness" or "expressionless" faces). Anyway, my thoughts remain the same on this production. One can tell that there is a love story going on, with an easy to follow pathos, and even enhanced by leads like the hunters and the mechanical swans. Thanks to Jack Reed, who showed me a beautiful picture of the original production-(with Tallchief and Eglevsky)- showing the Corps wearing long romantic-inspired tulle tutus with wings. He also can't tell where the current -(and weird to me)-tutu designs come from. It was a pleasure to finally meet another real person from this board.

The 4 T's
I could "see" more of the ballet tonight. I found the very end with the leaping lifts very beautiful, and Andrea Spiridonakos was a revelation in Choleric. I love tall ballerinas, and she certainly stands out, sparkling with joy while displaying an effortless-(at least visually)-footwork.
Melancholic-Alex Wong. Another air entity. This short dancer reminds me of a ping-pong ball, graciously rebounding all the time. Always love him in Balanchine's ballets.
Sanguining. Jennifer Kronemberg and Renato Panteado. Kronomberg is so beautiful that her stage presence always makes the whole thing work, along with a solid technique and great partnering. A plus.
Phlegmatic-Jeremy Cox. Now THIS boy is something. What an interesting body language does he displays... He's certainly becoming the Company Balanchine's male speaker, with that particular boneless appearance to his dance. Nice job, Cox. Love your Grand Battements, BTW.
Choleric-Andrea Spiridonakus. A true revelation, as i said earlier. This soloist certainly will be knocking soon in the promotion doors. Or at least i hope to. Very energetic, with a direct step attack. Great.

Intermission:

In the Upper Room-(. Nothing further to add to my earlier comments on Tharp.

#12 Natalia

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 04:50 AM

Thanks, cubanmiamiboy! I've sent you a PM regarding possible meeting, if you're going to tomorrow's 2pm matinee.

Do you happen to know who will be the leading principals of SWAN LAKE on Sunday (Wu/Zou or Seay/Sarabita or other)? Curiosity is killing me. Also, I am really hoping for Jeremy Cox in Phlegmatic of FOUR Ts. I'll be happy no matter who I'll be seeing. :)

I'm a big fan of UPPER ROOM so am also looking forward to that one. This is as close to a perfect program as I've ever seen on paper. Definitely worth the trip.

Natalia

#13 Jack Reed

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 02:25 PM

(from Ft. Lauderdale, FL) With so much having already been written about this program, here and in The New York Times, I'll try just noting a few observations in passing, based, so far, on seeing Friday night's performance:

Swan Lake Act II: This version, staged by Maria Calegari, is almost exactly what I began to see Balanchine's company dance in the mid-70s, eleven musical numbers from parts of Tchaikovsky's score, mostly from the second act but also from Acts One and Four.

(If MCB is wrong to call this Swan Lake Act II, as Alastair Macaulay says in the Times, what then would be a better title? "Swan Lake"? I think MCB renamed Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 as Ballet Imperial because the more musicologically-correct title was a little off-putting for south Florida. Would people have been misled into thinking this was the whole Swan Lake? Should they have called it Swan Lake Acts I, II, & IV? Now, there's a title! Maybe Swan Lake Suite? Hmm.

Titles of art works can orient the viewer toward the work as their makers see them. Balanchine considered that he had distilled the traditional ballet into its essence, and the cognoscenti who troop into the Met during first intermission and leave after Act III of the full-length version might go part way along with his judgement. "I got all the cholesterol out," he's supposed to have said. Hence Mr. B's title. I'm not going to say what Villella should have done.)

The only real structural difference I noticed from what I saw years ago is in number 8, Odette's variation, where my notes from the 70's have "Odette & 4 girls" but Haiyan Wu danced alone Friday night. There's something to be said for this -- Odette is very much alone in this version, helplessly caught up in her fate as Rothbart's victim.

In some full-length versions, Odette and Siegfried hurl themselves to their death at the end, so they may be together at last in Heaven, as Rothbart dies in miserable agony, his calculations undone and his power broken, but while Balanchine uses the music of the Finale, "omitting the opening 26-bar andante and beginning with the allegro agitato," according to my old notes, his lovers are separated forever. Then again, there may be something to be said for the additional four girls, but by this time I don't remember what they danced, so I can't say it. But much of the rest of what was before us was familiar, if sometimes more gently though still beautifully projected than Balanchine's dancers did. In general, these dancers' movement quality tends a little -- a little -- toward the stiff, clipped, and efficient, while I rremember his as moving with a little -- a little -- more supple clarity, which was, for me, even more effective. What I'm saying is that we're seeing something pretty close to his.

All things considered, this production is yet, again, wonderfully achieved and yet, again, another thing for everyone connected with it to be very proud of, not least Juan Francisco La Manna and his orchestra, for their sensitive and perceptive and respectful performance of Tchaikovsky's rich music and in tempos which, mostly, moved without being driven; I quibble only with the adagio of the pas de deux and the moderato assai of Odette's variation as slowish, especially by contrast. But the conventional cheapening of Tchaikovsky's music too often heard in the concert hall was not heard in the ballet theatre.

The Four Temperaments was less effective for me. (But while opening with this Swan Lake was the superb programming move Macaulay said it was, it was so good in itself it created the show-business problem of being "a hard act to follow"!) Yes, it was very good -- and the caricature of this ballet NYCB showed in Chicago a year or two ago is not even in the running, IMHO -- and was free of the over-etched quality of Suki Schorer's otherwise excellent staging at a School of American Ballet workshop following that, but, a little like the SAB renditon, some of the leads were a little -- well, off, though none looked so green as Schorer's students. I liked Alex Wong (Melancholic Variation) best; not another Bart Cook, and no reason to be, either: Wong had the role in his grasp, and the opening-night audience in it, too. Maybe if I get to see Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg and Renato Penteado (Sanguinic Variation) and Andrea Spiridonakos (Choleric Variation) from a better seat their dancing will have more effect. But Jeremy Cox's Phlegmatic Variation seemed to me to elude him Friday.

In the Upper Room added some strobe-light effects in the upper reaches of the Au-Rene Theatre I hadn't remembered: There's so much smoke on stage it set off the theatre smoke alarms in the second number, but the situation -- the alarms, I mean, not the smoke on stage, which remains pretty thick, and adds to the effect of the effects -- was soon under control. (But only, I learned later, after theatre staff had determined the cause, as required by safety codes.)

I'm not crazy about this ballet, but everybody's in it, and so I got compensation for not seeing Mary Carmen Catoya and Deanna Seay earlier. Catoya "sneaks" into my awareness in it, because she's not naturally black-haired, as all the women are in this, so her outstanding dancing registers before I recognise her face. (The uniformity of the girls' hair, among other things, reminds me of Mr. B's comment on Twyla Tharp: "She makes them all look like her; I make them all look like them." And I still get conflicted in number VIII, when both Seay and Catoya are prominent downstage -- which one do I watch? But that's been one of the dilemmas Tharp's been handing me at least since As Time Goes By.

#14 Natalia

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 04:39 PM

Wonderful 'tip' that came to me via the very kind Jack Reed:

MCB director Eddie Villella will lead a pre-perf talk one hr before nominal curtain time -- so at 1 PM tomorrow (Sunday), as the show commences at 2PM.

Thanks, Jack! :)

#15 bart

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 05:31 PM

Natalia, let us know what you think about the Villella talk. You can read a great deal about what he really feels by the amount of time he devotes to each piece on the program and what he says -- and doesn't say -- about it. I confess that I can't wait to be able to compare his comments on each of these ballets. Villella, of course, never speaks badly of any item on a program. But he does know how to ignore that which he doesn't really care about.

The following weekend for this program is the Kravis in West Palm Beach. Buddy writes that he will be in attendance. So will I. Anybody else?


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