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"Slower is Faster"

Miami City Ballet on PBS

'Square Dance', 'The Golden Section' from 'The Catherine Wheel', 'Western Symphony'

by Dean Speer

October 28, 2011 -- PBS

I don’t recall exactly when he said it – either in our class with him or later in remarks to us teachers at the annual Tennessee Association of Dance Conference in Nashville, but I was very impressed by the wisdom of Edward Villella – Miami City Ballet’s Artistic Director’s observation that “Slower is faster!”

He meant by this, of course, that you have the lay the proper foundation for something in order for it to build the right way and to succeed. This especially resonated with us teacher-types, as all too often we find ourselves in the unenviable position of having to explain – mostly to families – why talented little Suzie cannot go up onto pointe, why she doesn’t have a solo in the recital, or how come Level 5 Ballet is still working on the same steps! [They do the same steps every day, folks.] Or educating even those who love the dance just how long it does take to make and build a dancer – about eight to ten years.

He also meant his remark in terms of building a ballet company. You have to plant the seeds the right way and to water and mulch it the right way. Laying the groundwork allows you to really take off when everything is in place.

The ascendancy of Miami City Ballet in its relatively short life span has been remarkable, no doubt due in large measure to the personality, drive, and vision of Mr. Villella but also ,I am sure, of its team of artists, staff, and supporters who have helped put MCB on the ballet cultural map. There have been some troublesome growth spurts along the way, particularly during the company’s “teen” years, but things seem to have settled down and now they are planning for the future – Mr. Villella’s announced retirement and the hiring of a new Executive Director.

That’s the backstory. PBS’ national broadcast of three ballets, each strongly performed by Miami City Ballet, certainly is a testament and I enjoyed each: Balanchine’s sunny “Square Dance,” his amusing “Western Symphony,” and an except from Twyla Tharp’s “The Catherine Wheel,” the so-called ‘Golden Section.’

One of my retired dance teacher friends jokingly commented that the first 32 bars of “Square Dance” would have worn her out. This ballet certainly is filled with many, many types of jumps and allegro – beats, relevé, turns, leaps – all done very quickly and smartly, within the context of square dance patterns. [It was originally done with a Caller, and some companies do it this way today.]

Jeanette Delgado and Renan Cerdeiro had the duet lead. She was sharp on the piqué backward step into arabesque penché, while he was a strong and sympathetic partner. I found Cerdeiro to be perhaps a little young for the male solo. My suggestion would be more use of rubato and contrast, as I found this fairly dramatic, soulful solo to be a little bland. As thin and lanky as he is, I'd like to see him work on his extension à la seconde. Never the less, he made an impressive television debut.

My only real fuss is that I found the backdrop to have been visually distracting. I would have preferred a plainly-lit blue backdrop and felt we didn’t need the clouds coming up over the horizon effect. You can see what I mean on their website:

Guest Daniel Baker and Patricia Delgado were featured in 'The Golden Section' and displayed an understanding of the nature of Tharp’s mercurial work. My same teacher friend was struck by how creative it was and you can see this imbedded in the movement motifs Tharp gives the dancers.

“Western Symphony” is very rarely performed in its original set of all four movements, with the word on the street being that Balanchine felt like no one could jump like Patricia Wilde [third movement]. Jump they did in this broadcast of the complete ballet. It was fun for me, partly because I really like “Western Symphony,”enjoying its humor, wit, and plain old good dancing and strong choreography but also getting to enjoy the “missing” movement was an education, never having seen it.

Lead dancers were: First movement – Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra; Second – Katia Carranza and Cerdeiro; Third – Jeanette Delgado and Renato Penteado; Fourth – Patricia Delgado and Yann Trividic.

Bravo to PBS for giving us this gift and to Miami City Ballet for quickly showing us that a careful foundation allows a tower to stand.

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