CriticalDance Forum

Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Mar 16, 2010 1:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

Ballet Nacional de Cuba will be at the London Coliseum from March 30 through April 11, 2010. They will present two programs: "Swan Lake" and "Magia de la Danza." Sanjoy Roy previews the performances in The Guardian.

The Guardian

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Mar 31, 2010 3:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

Reviews of the March 30, 2010 performance of "Swan Lake."

Gavin Roebuck in The Stage.

The Stage

Sarah Frater in The Evening Standard.

The Evening Standard

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

Judith Mackrell reviews "Swan Lake" in The Guardian.

The Guardian

Debra Craine in The Times.

The Times

Author:  ksneds [ Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

It's sad to see these reviews of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, but hardly surprising. They have plenty of talent and good teachers, but I have to agree that Alonso is dragging the company down with her. She's been, as far as I know, completely blind for many years, which heavily restricts her ability to properly run a company in terms of overseeing sets, choreography, costumes, staging etc. I completely agree with Ismene Brown when she says: "Alicia Alonso will be 90 this year, and the miracle-worker who gave birth to Cuba’s amazing incarnation as one of the world's great ballet nations has now turned, thanks to her determination never to retire, into the obstacle to revival. "

Being able to have dancers like Carlos Acosta in the leads will only take the company so far - if they continue to go downhill, presenters are less likely to be inclined to take a chance on them. And when you are getting just 3/5 stars when Acosta is dancing and his dancing is praised, that's a very bad sign.

Unfortunately, I think the problem is not a new one, nor totally linked to the US embargo. The embargo does raise some obstacles... A number of years ago (2002ish?), the US dancers who were supposed to stage and perform a Balanchine ballet for a gala were not permitted (by the US gov't) to go Cuba. Defying the Balanchine Foundation, Alonso still had the company perform the ballet, and from what I remember reading, it was more a poor imitation of Balanchine, than Balanchine. And I suspect that did not endear Alonso or the company to the Balanchine Foundation.

But even if the US were to get rid of the ridiculous embargo/travel ban right away, I think Alonso's iron grip would still be an issue. For one, the company still tours a bit, and the choreographers & dancers without US passports can still travel to Cuba. Plus, some of the ballet masters/mistresses spend a fair bit of time abroad. However, the continuing stream of dancers who are willing to defect suggests that even the foreign touring and modest inflow of new choreography is not enough to challenge and motivate the dancers.

Lack of funds is certainly an issue, but when you hear dancers talking about why they left Cuba, it's often less about the lack of things and more about the lack of a balletic future and choreography.

It's a real shame because Alonso has done so much as a performer and as an artistic director. But now she's like the ballerina who continues to dance well past her prime, and thus people's most vivid memories are the less pleasant ones.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

Ismene Brown reviews the Wednesday, March 31, 2010 performance of "Swan Lake" in The Arts Desk.

The Arts Desk

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Apr 05, 2010 1:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

Further reviews of "Swan Lake."

David Dougill in The Times.

The Times

Jenny Gilbert in The Independent..

The Independent

Alastair Macaulay reviews the Friday, April 2, 2010 performance in the New York Times.

NY Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Apr 05, 2010 2:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

One more review of "Swan Lake" from Zoe Anderson in The Independent.

The Independent

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

Clement Crisp reviews "Swan Lake" in the Financial Times.

Financial Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Apr 07, 2010 1:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

Reviews of "Magia de la Danza," a program of gala fare presented by the Ballet Nacional de Cuba at the London Coliseum, April 6-11, 2010.

Gavin Roebuck in The Stage.

The Stage

Sarah Crompton in The Telegraph.

The Telegraph

Donald Hutera in The Times.

The Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Apr 08, 2010 12:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

Alastair Macaulay reviews "La Magia de la Danza" in the New York Times.

NY Times

Ismene Brown in The Arts Desk.

The Arts Desk

Judith Mackrell in The Guardian.

The Guardian

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

National Ballet of Cuba, “Swan Lake”
Coliseum, London, 4th April 2010

Cuban ballet dancers are famed and feted around the world, and the recent UK tour of Danza Contemporanea de Cuba proved a revelation, with superb artists putting their own stamp on Mats Ek among others. So, National Ballet of Cuba's “Swan Lake” promised to be a treat.

Alicia Alonzo's production dates from 1948 and has a number of distinctive features. The opening party scene is hectic and shows peasants, rather than the usual mix of court and town, celebrating the birthday of their much-loved Prince. When the Queen appears, she immediately disapproves of this mixing with the lower classes before the usual clash over a suitable marriage partner – no birthday crossbow for this Siegfried. The Tutor and Beppo have less to do than in most productions and the emphasis is on dance with the pas de six, pas de trois and busy ensemble work. Act II is traditional and the main innovation for Act III is the late arrival of Rothbart and his daughter just before the Grand Pas, danced with only the three characters on-stage. This change allows virtually no time for the relationship between Odile and the Prince to develop, nor for our anticipation of the climax. Act IV becomes a short Epilogue and follows the Soviet happy ending model, but with Rothbart simply pushed into the wings and the restoration of the original castle and court, rather in the manner of “The Firebird”.

Of course, there are any number of variations on the “Swan Lake” plot and I have no problem with that, but particularly in Act III and the Epilogue I didn't find that Alonso's innovations add value. With the exception of an atmospheric lakeside setting for Acts II and the Epilogue, the sets are ugly and cluttered, and the tutus are cut high at the back producing inelegant views at the best of times.

All this could be forgiven if the dancing was of top standard, but often it seemed raw or mechanical. Matters were not helped by tempi from conductor, Giovanni Duarte, so slow that frequently I wanted to get up and give it a push. The opening night was danced by Carlos Acosta guesting with a familiar partner from the company, Viensay Valdés, and on the basis of past evidence I'm sure they brought colour and élan to their performances. I was interested to gauge the depth of the company's talents and saw Elier Bourzac and Anette Delgado as the leads - both Premier Dancers, the highest level in the company. Bourzac has an attractive stage personality, jumps with soft landings and is an attentive partner. Delgado has the signature attributes of the company: rock-solid balances and furious spins. But we saw little beyond steely technique and scarcely any chemistry with her Prince. Of the Act I dances, only Gretel Morjon impressed me with fluid, elegant movement in the pas de trois and the three men in the pas de six regularly failed to dance together. The swan corps were impressively synchronised, but with a lack of high quality finish. The four little swans reminded me of a wind-up toy with sharp movements but little else. Throughout the evening, the women cranked their wrists parallel to the floor, a stylistic point which for me breaks the natural line.

Nevertheless, there were compensations: Yonah Acosta, as a relatively unobtrusive Jester, jumped out of his skin and hammed it up amiably; the Spanish dance with Yanela Piñera and Alejandro Virelles abandoned most of the mock Iberian gestures that can make it into a farce and provided accomplished ballet steps that worked well with the music.

Overall, I am struggling to remember a “Swan Lake” from an international company that engaged me so weakly. I am well aware of the dangers of generalising from a sample of one, my impression was of a company that badly needs a firm hand to raise the artistic standards of the company beyond technical accomplishment; to add a finish to the raw ability of many of the younger dancers. Alicia Alonso well deserves her place in the first rank of ballet's high achievers and she would only add to her standing by making way for a successor.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Apr 14, 2010 12:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

Luke Jennings reviews "Magia de la Danza" in The Observer.

The Observer

Author:  AnaM [ Thu Apr 15, 2010 9:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

Ballet Nacional de Cuba
Magia de la Danza
London Coliseum
Wednesday 7 April 2010

As part of their London Season at the Coliseum, Ballet Nacional de Cuba brought a second programme of excerpts of classical ballets called “Magia de la Danza” (Magic of the Dance). I am not usually keen on this kind of programmes, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to see the dancers tackling different bits and pieces of their repertoire.

The evening opened with a fragment from “Giselle” Act II. It was good that the company actually framed the soloists and story by their presence and introduction to the pas de deux. It was then disappointing not to see Albrecht’s variation culminating the scene. The main roles were danced by Anette Delgado and Javier Torres, both of them very good and intense in their portrayals of the doomed pair. Alonso’s mannerisms for the corps and main female character are well known and, in this particular case, not too obtrusive to the choreographic content.

Next came the pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty Act III, once again, framed by the corps the ballet and introductory music. Dancing the main roles were Yanela Piñera and Elier Bourzac who managed a nice and elegant start before the dancing became a little bit stiff and without the grandeur that the music actually demands.

It is difficult to understand how so many Alonso’s mannerisms have remained unchallenged throughout the years. Her admirers talk of a tradition and faithful rendering of original choreographic texts, but what Alicia Alonso did (and good credit to her for doing so) was to actually adapt the “original” choreographic texts to the tastes and abilities of her dancers at the time. However, there seems to be a mismatch in how the male school has progressed with the times, while the female school has remained still and, quite frankly, out of touch with today’s canons and tastes. BNC’s female dancers suffer from having to comply with a way of dancing that restricts their innate musicality and even technical abilities. That Alonso uses the laissez faire motto for the men in the company and yet prevents its women to shine as some of them could is an artistic tragedy.

As the programme progressed, this seemed more and more evident. In the Nutcracker, Alejandro Virelles gave a much better rendition of the choreography than his partner, Sadaise Arencibia, who danced her Sugar Plum Fairy Variation with little lightness and grace.

Same happened in Coppélia’s pas de deux. Yadil Suárez’s appeared as a young, promising dancer who enjoys being on stage and who has that beautiful quality of being able to share that enjoyment with his audience. However, Amaya Rodríguez’s Swanhilda did not quite had the sense of joy and light heartedness that the role requires.

The next item on the programme balanced things out and proved what a very exciting company this would be if only women were allowed to shine a little bit more. Viengsay Valdés and Carlos Acosta’s rendition of Don Quijote’s pas de deux was simply great fun to watch. While Acosta jumped and turned and enjoyed every single moment of it, Valdés held impossible balances for impossible lengths of time. Their enjoyment was so obvious that it just made the audiences respond accordingly.

Next came Swan Lake pas de deux and, it has to be said, this was not a great choice considering the fireworks that had just been displayed. Anette Delgado and Jorge Villazón were correct, but without any passion to hold the audiences and enthral them as by now they should have been enthralled.

Last piece of the evening was Gottschalk Symphony, Alicia Alonso’s experiment in plotless ballets following, in her own way, Balanchine’s aesthetics. The piece was fine as it allowed a last glimpse of the company, but it also lacked momentum and it was difficult to know if the end of the music meant it was the end of the piece or if there was more to come. It marked the end of the evening, actually.

Difficult to judge the company as it presents itself at the moment. For me, there was a lack of talent at the very top ranks, which is what has always made the company shine, in spite of their choreographic material.
Too many years of isolation and lack of funds have shown their mark on this company unfortuntely. The continuous loss of their best dancers over the years has not helped either. Choreographically or stylistically (not to mention the sets and costumes!) the company is definitely not at its best. Let’s just hope that things start changing slowly, but surely and that this company can shine again.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Apr 23, 2010 12:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ballet Nacional de Cuba in London, March/April 2010

Donald Hutera interviews Alicia Alonso in the Birmingham Post.

Birmingham Post

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