CriticalDance Forum

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Author:  Guest [ Mon Oct 25, 1999 10:24 am ]

As originally seen on another board...<p>MIAMI CITY BALLET’S JEWELS BERKELEY 9/24/99<p>It is difficult to write about the performance of a ballet that many know so well, especially one with so many technical qualities. At times there seems to be as many opinions of Jewels as there are dancers cast in the ballet. Indeed, for this series of performances, it seemed my friends saw two different companies. One thought the Corps was not entirely in proper synchronization and alignment while another was more impressed by the Corps than the principals. One thing can be said though that, no matter what the opinion, this dazzling performance of Jewels was a treat to Bay Area fans for this was the Bay Area premiere of all three acts, Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds, performed as a whole in one program.<p>Seeing the three acts together makes the traits of each one more appreciable as contrasts between the different styles can be more easily recognized. The elegant Emeralds, danced to Faure and ending in melancholy with the male principals reaching to the sky with outstretched arms from kneeling positions, is the basis upon which the other two ballets are contrasted. The sassy Rubies, with its hip-jutting prances to a jazzy Stravinsky, turns the heat up and then finally Diamonds with the aid of Tchaikovsky’s grandiose score brings order back with its precision. This is all familiar territory to Balanchine fans but there are qualities in this production by Miami City Ballet that made it seem fresh to me.<p>The biggest clue perhaps lies in the fact that Miami’s Artistic Director, Edward Villella, relished in the creation of the male lead in Rubies during his glory days at New York City Ballet. No doubt he had a strong influence in this production of Rubies, which was flirtatious, energetic, and fun to watch, with both Jennifer Kronenberg and Sally Ann Isaacks excelling at playing the foxy women. Kronenberg was especially alluring with her teasing glances at her partner, Arnold Quintaine. Quintaine, a late replacement for Eric Quilliere, was superb technically in the difficult male lead role, with its demanding athleticism. However, he lacked the spunk and spontaneity that I would normally expect in this capriccio role, giving the pas de deux segments a lop-sided feel with Kronenberg seeming to do more of the flirting. Perhaps however I’m biased, having seen other Rubies leading men, such as NYCB’s Damian Woetzel wooing Miranda Weese with his stylish body language and San Francisco Ballet’s Stephen Legate teasing real-life wife Evelyn Cisneros with his mischievous expressions. Nevertheless the saucy and spirited dancing by both the principals and the corps made this performance of Rubies the most electrifying I’ve seen.<p>The passion in Rubies carried over somewhat into Diamonds. Once again, it’s difficult to pinpoint what about this performance that made it different from the NYCB versions I’ve seen. I suspect however that Villella has applied some of the sentimentality in Rubies to Diamonds. In two recent NYCB performances of Diamonds, both Kyra Nichols and Wendy Whelan were magnificent goddesses of dance with their gorgeous lines and their ethereal but icy projection of grandeur, taking their cue perhaps from videotapes of originator Suzanne Farrell. Miami City Ballet’s Iliana Lopez, while also displaying gorgeous lines, seemed however to bring more human compassion to the role, in contrast to the NYCB dancers. There were instances for example when she glanced and smiled, somewhat demurely, at her partner, Franklin Gamero. Her movements, including some magical bourrees across the stage, also appeared softer as opposed to the rigid formality that is normally associated with the majestic Diamonds princess. Lopez must have felt fortunate to have been assigned a fine supporting cast of Gamero, who was excellent as the partner who successfully showed her off without taking the limelight away from her, and the massive corps of 32 dancers, that – other than the occasional odd limb out of place – sparkled in the grand closing segment, bringing a roar of approval from the audience.<p>While the audience showed its approval of the bravura in Rubies and the grandeur in Diamonds, its appreciation of Emeralds was a little more tepid, which is not surprising, given the melancholic quality of this first act of the trilogy. The elegance and languor of this piece was of course unmistakable. However, there seemed a certain sense of comfort between the primary principal leads, Mary Carmen Catoya and Julien Ringdahl, that invoked less an image of two elegant courtiers than of two affectionate lovers. And as with Lopez in Diamonds, there were also slight nuances in Carmen Catoya’s expressions that suggested a hint of the free-spirited passion of Rubies. Her gracious turns and longing gaze reminded me not of Helene Alexopoulos in the same role in NYCB’s production of Emeralds but, instead, of NYCB’s dark-eyed Jenifer Ringer as the fallen girl in Serenade. While the principals – including Deanna Seay and Douglas Gawriljuk as the other pas de deux couple and Paige Fulleton, Jared Redick and Callye Robinson in the pas de trois – excelled, the corps here suffered slightly, which is surprising considering the precision of the corps in Diamonds. With a grand roster of 53 dancers, perhaps Villella stacked his more experienced dancers in favor of Diamonds. Even so, this was a performance of Emeralds that in some ways excelled in comparison to NYCB’s.<p>Of course, the fine dancing of the evening would be for naught if not for the excellent musicianship of the orchestra, comprised of members of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. Directed by world famous maestro Kent Nagano, also Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Lyon Opera, this orchestra must be the Bay Area’s best-kept secret.<p>From what I’ve written here, it may seem that the women of Miami City Ballet have more powerful onstage personalities than the men. The truth however is that Jewels was created by Balanchine to showcase his female muses and as such the men were delegated to support roles. Perhaps in its next trip to the Bay Area, this company can bring pieces that will showcase its men. It will be sheer ignorance on the part of the organizers, Cal Performances, if they did not bring Miami City Ballet back on a regular basis.<br>

Author:  Guest [ Mon Oct 25, 1999 2:09 pm ]

Here's where things get a little tricky for me and I wouldn't bring this up as bluntly on other boards as I will here, but flame me if you will.<P>I see MCB far too often for my tastes. What they do well, they do exceptionally well ... but they don't DO anything else. The original choreo is horrible and the politics of this company as worse than any other I have heard about. Obviously I know quite a bit about SFB from a varity of source at different levels as well as friends who have danced with Joffrey, NYCB, ABT, Atlanta and throughout Europe and nothing comapres with "Mr. V". It has gotten so bad here in Miami that Edward has let it be known that HIS dancers should not take class with us even on off days and forget about guest with us even when they are in lay off!<P>There are other examples, but it is troubling that there isn't more togetherness and collaboration by companies in the same local. <P>Miami is still growing but I think we are big enough for two (yes we are only the second legitimate company in town ... professional dancers, full season etc).<P>I probably am ranting too much, but it really is an issue down here.<p>[This message has been edited by shag (edited 11-11-1999).]

Author:  Guest [ Mon Oct 25, 1999 3:30 pm ]

Okay,<p>I have a board related issue! I realised that my rant went a little far and wanted to edit it. Is this a function of the shareware? Anyhow, I would like the opportunity to so edit b/f we go public!<p>Thanks

Author:  Guest [ Mon Oct 25, 1999 7:19 pm ]

I wouldn't worry about it, Shag. I believe that freedom of opinion is welcome here.<br>

Author:  Guest [ Mon Oct 25, 1999 8:59 pm ]

Shag,<p>You posted on the wrong thread! Lucky for you, we don't have a "thread police" here. Yes, we/I will install the full commercial version "shortly" that will let you edit messages. This may happen sooner than I thought what with us going gang-busters so soon already.<p>...Azlan

Author:  Guest [ Mon Oct 25, 1999 9:19 pm ]

BTW, Shag, you hold the distinguished honor of being the first official complainer of this board. :)<p>I will see what I can do...

Author:  Lucy [ Tue Oct 26, 1999 8:22 pm ]

I for one would rather hear what is going on in the real world out there than what happened in 1865. So go for it.....I think that it is the issue of the monetary support that is probably at the core of the ungracious attitude from the Miami City Ballet. One pie and they don't want to share. It always surprises me that in the art world where we need one another's support and encouragement we can be so selfish.<P>------------------<BR>

Author:  Azlan [ Tue Oct 26, 1999 8:35 pm ]

Lucy, I think however that Mr. Villella may be worried that MCB's foundations might be taken away from under him if he dilutes his corps of dancers. I think most companies have a "xx-mile" radius rule, in which dancers cannot perform for another company within xxx miles. The reason is if all the principal dancers start dancing for nearby companies, then it reduces the glamour of them dancing for the parent company.

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