Tag Archives: Jerome Robbins

On The Balcony With Edward Villella


 

Edward Villella as Apollo with Suki Schorer, Carol Sumner and Patricia McBride 1964
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Apollo” with Edward Villella and Patricia McBride, Carol Sumner and Suki Schorer, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/cf2b7020-2566-0132-40dc-58d385a7b928
Dances at a gathering rehearsal 1969
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet rehearsal of “Dances at a Gathering” with Patricia McBride and Edward Villella, choreography by Jerome Robbins (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1969. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/4ea19e90-1f3d-0132-37a8-58d385a7b928
Edward Villella as Apollo in Agon 1958
UNK, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Agon” with Edward Villella, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1958. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/2c8625c0-4e92-0133-cac5-00505686a51c
Edward Villella 5
Edward Villella in George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "New York City Ballet - Publicity photo Patricia McBride and Edward Villella on the balcony of the unfinished New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, in "Tarantella" costume, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5baf78c0-2565-0132-8aa0-58d385a7b928
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet – Publicity photo Patricia McBride and Edward Villella on the balcony of the unfinished New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, in “Tarantella” costume, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5baf78c0-2565-0132-8aa0-58d385a7b928
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "New York City Ballet production of "Dim Lustre" costumer Beni Montressor with Patricia McBride and Edward Villella in dressing room, choreography by Antony Tudor (New York)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/a0756e90-2618-0132-beed-58d385a7b928
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Dim Lustre” costumer Beni Montressor with Patricia McBride and Edward Villella in dressing room, choreography by Antony Tudor (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/a0756e90-2618-0132-beed-58d385a7b928
Edward Villella 1
Edward Villella, The Prodigal Son. Photographer unknown.
edward villella and patricia mcbride
Edward Villella and Patricia McBride

 

New York City Ballet "The Nutcracker"   Edward Villella as a Candy Cane (Hoops), choreography by George Balanchine
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “Edward Villella as a Candy Cane (Hoops) in a New York City Ballet production of “The Nutcracker.”” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1958. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/77808970-9e34-0131-8409-58d385a7bbd0
villella with Patricia McBride in Rubies 1967
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Jewels” (Rubies) with Patricia McBride and Edward Villella, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1967. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/f24c63e0-1fdc-0132-761a-58d385a7bbd0
villella oberon
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “A midsummer Night’s Dream” with Edward Villella as Oberon and Patricia McBride as Titania, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1969. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/516da190-1fff-0132-c986-58d385a7bbd0
Trantella Edward Villella
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Tarantella” with Edward Villella and Patricia McBride, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1965. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/61e90650-2565-0132-3802-58d385a7b928
Edward Villella coaching Mikhail Baryshnikov
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet rehearsal for “Jewels” (Rubies) with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Edward Villella & Patricia McBride, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1978. Villella coaching Baryshnikov http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/16280ba0-2584-0132-30c0-58d385a7bbd0
George Balanchine and Edward Villella
UNK, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Swan Lake”; George Balanchine rehearsing Edward Villella, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/123cf740-3f81-0133-cf5c-00505686d14e
edward villella jerome robbins dance martha swope
Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. “Edward Villella lunging holding out two very long canes” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1972. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/b12b9b47-94aa-4f66-e040-e00a18066d80
edward villella featured
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “Edward Villella, Boni Enten and Ted Mann” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1976. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-fb45-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Edward Villella Brahams Quartet 1967
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet – “Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet” with Edward Villella, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1967. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/84330590-2ad9-0132-4e71-58d385a7b928

Enter. Edward Villella, former dancer and artist of The New York City Ballet. Who has not heard of Edward Villella? Well, until a few years ago it seems like not many of the new generation had, that is, until he built, over several years time, against much opposition, a ballet company in Miami-The Miami Miracle-from the ground up. From then on, we have enjoyed regular articles, references and symposiums featuring him although his videos are still a little scarce. Older, and wiser, but clearly fit, with the same, recognizable posture as Balanchine, D’Amboise, and other former male dancers of the era, steps up Mr. Villella, or “Eddy,” as friends call him. Older, yes, but not less handsome or engaging, intelligent, or talkative, than other dancers of the era who, now mature in years, seem to have something to say, are not merely saying something. He does a little jazz shuffle, entering stage right, and hops up onto the podium, clearly happy to be there, and talk about his passion-dance-with the assembled fans; it’s a full house.

The discussion, led by Jennifer Homans of The Center For Ballet and the Arts at NYU, and author of “Apollo’s Angels”, didn’t need much prodding; Mr. Villella was as ready as ever to discuss his viewpoints and perspective,  relate stories, critique management, recent choreography, and his directorship, as well as probe the deeper meanings behind the ballet arts, at least from his position as a premier dancer for The New York City Ballet, when it was at its peak circa 1954-69. Ms. Homans and the Ballet Center have provided these evenings of intimate discussion and reception free of charge as part of their mission to make ballet more recognizable, accessible, and to also discover what is or has been there already and to preserve this information and knowledge, add to it, share it, and possibly look into the future of what may possibly be, by bringing a discussion about of the past, and its examples.  It was in all a very interesting and inspiring evening particularly with the guest last night. A short q&a and a reception followed.

Edward Villella talked about his history with Balanchine and shared three short video segments which gave dancing interludes to the dialogue (much as I should do with these photos), reminding the participants that Balanchine was intricate, musical, and an artistic director who employed artists and gave them the opportunity to expand when they seemed ripe and ready, encouraging them to make their own statements, and to imbue each role with their own take and style, and often leaving them, as Mr. Villella put it, to discover what was already there, learn about it, listen to it, bring it out, highlight it, but not to actually create it, only to interpret it in their own way.

Edward expanded on how Balanchine communicated the intricacy and layers of the ballets, described how you felt it, and you were inspired by his stories, descriptions and development of the roles, and how ballet really is of the moment. He also explicated what seems to be missing nowadays is the passion that Balanchine brought to the ballet with his fellow dancers, and how inspirational he was to them,  what that impact was like, and how it is not observable today in many cases. Ms. Homans commented on how many of those movements may be being lost-nuances-information-a concern of everyone important in the dance world today. These things were also “of the moment,” need to be recorded, and you feel that this is something that she wants to bring about, a larger vocabulary of dance-for dancers-in a world where colleges are teaching the perfect 15-word email. Know more, think more, be more studious!

This point of search, discovery, fortitude, and especially commitment was repeatedly interwoven in Villella’s short speeches by recalling past history and examples. And this, he explained, was his art, his passion, his whole life, even despite a break of nearly four years as a young man due to pressure by society, and by his father, not to pursue the career of a male ballet dancer (another fully-attempted profession which left him thinking only of dancing).  He abandoned a future desired by others for him in order to fulfill his passion for dance; maybe, in part, because of George Balanchine. Mr. B., he made clear, was inspiration personified and he provided this inspiration to his dancers to perform their best and to continue dancing.

Edward Villella is part of the iconoclasm of American Ballet and that legacy of artists, muses, composers, visionaries, etc., the “geniuses” Balanchine’s period, carefully assembled and cultivated by Balanchine, Kirstein, Stravinsky, et al., into a New York City ‘local ballet company’ which would serve New Yorkers and the world more dutifully and consistently, it might be argued, than many public or government office-holders have, for now almost a century. Art is part of the fabric of New York, and not least among those provided services is ballet. But how Mr. Villella seems at odds with the current ballet mindset and panorama clearly and quickly becomes apparent as he is eager to live up to his own self-given mission to give not only his best, but also his opinions, viewpoints and perspectives fueled by a life lived in the arts, and to also voice his considerable concerns for the future, by example, comparing and contrasting those myriad differences from then and today. The audience sees plainly his position as a scholar and spokesperson, aptly done. He then proceeds to narrate, punctuate, clear up, and skillfully guide us through a brief engaging and informative personal history. It is obviously planned, laid out in advance of this evening, how his own point of departure was different from anyone else’s, but he never boasts this directly. Ms, Homans accentuates by giving her own opinions, too, and asking direct questions in a nice self-effacing way, without apologizing for them. The discussion seems frank enough. He expresses just how thankful he was to have the opportunities to dance the parts he did, and how amazed he was that Mr. Balanchine gave him the parts he did to work with, to create, and how this is his responsibility, and that of others, to pass on, what he thinks is, a very serious undertaking.

He said he was not sure of the present mindset of younger dancers being given this role and he seems desirous to reach them, and teach them, and he stressed this need and its importance. A few recognizable young dancers from NYCB sit in the audience, aloof, somewhat overwhelmed and intimidated, I would imagine by their responses. We are definitely not sure these people are aware how much is vested in them, or can handle that pressure or position, or even care-especially after viewing his videos, in one of which Mr. Villella is at the point of physical collapse due to his dancing exertions; he pushed himself to the limits of physical endurance. It was really quite moving. Perhaps, it is only the difference of years of maturity and reflection to cast this formidable shadow, but one cannot picture these students with the silver spoon mentality even reaching that juncture. What students have today is the inability to appreciate some other dancer’s humble beginnings, immense talent, and fire, but they do not fail to appreciate their own embraceable luck and good fortune. They do not understand what exactly this all means to the people who have been before them-what they will have to pass on, live up to. Maybe they will learn, if they try. You get the feeling that, if possible, Mr. Villella is not going to let them slip away without considering his proposition and challenge. His emphasis is that you bring technical ability and you learn the rest: acting, art, music and performance. The picture and responsibility get bigger, not smaller, not easier. It’s already there, but you must discover “it” for yourself.

Though not much of the laborious schedule and rigors of ballet under Balanchine were discussed, Tanny LaClerq’s death, the females of the NYCB, other male dancers, or the recent changes at the company, but the emphasis on his opinion was as clear as a bell. Afterall that is what we usually hope to see and hear, and we don’t usually, so we come to expect the worst from the best. But have you ever-could you ever-doubt Edward Villella? Doubt that he would deliver? He never fails. It was an honor and a privilege. Video segments are what we know of his previous accomplishments, unless we lived in that era-his unique physical accomplishments, his dynamic was different, his remarkable stamina, verve and bravado, are evident in some of those videos, our common history of ballet to us older folk, but to younger audiences this might seem extreme, a little too hard, too much, and too fatiguing. But what is there to dance if the spirit is not in it? Why are you here, his whole body seemed to say. It was the narrow margin of art versus the talented, but absent, unmusical, shallow and competitive performer of today-the poser- which Villella obviously chastises, and puts up for discussion and exhibition by saying, “this is what we don’t do” by showing dancers, “this is what you do.” There is nothing in between, or so it would seem, for Edward Villella. This could be similarly expressed by many great dancers of the past, is repeated in many interviews of former great dancers, but was handled differently here by a living legend.

Instead of limiting his listeners by these evidentiary great videos, he also gave them verbal assurances and confidence to see exactly how this might be accomplished firsthand, a directive, a mission. It was not surprising to see it attempted again, but it was handled differently, expertly. No artist’s message, expressed in their own inimitable way could fail to make it clear, and none of them (really) ever shirk the duty of the confidence, from their responsibility and openness to lay it on the line, despite some people’s aversion to hearing it, we understand their missive. But, Mr. Villella’s wisdom was much more gentle and urging. His points were clearer and accentuated with proof by example, and that, so many of the other artists of today cannot demonstrate. There is a world of difference in the actions. Mr. Villella’s actions just speak louder than anyone else’s I’ve heard. His examples are better. He truly practices what he preaches and he doesn’t preach much.

Much has been heard about Mr. Villella’s troubles, fatigue, exhaustion, injuries, and his unrivaled performances, which in my opinion, were all the more brilliant because it seems that if he was going to be a dancer, defy his father’s wishes, he had to be the greatest male dancer of his era, and possibly he was. He adds, that a lot of that was PR, played up, by the media, to show he was a rare performer to see, to promote the ballet, make it news, as a world-class performance of dancing. He claimed that his reputed speed, stamina, strength and agility, such as you might expect to see at a sporting event, were fabricated, but then you see the videos and remember. But he doesnt come across as insincere. But what of art? Perhaps he, like many other dancers always feel lacking, they don’t know the stories today, maybe they don’t seem believable. But looking at him in those roles, I would believe. I would! His attotude seemed to be that art could be exciting, death-defying, and a real punch in the face as well as all the rest. He brought it to life for generations of ballet-goers. Art for the he-man, the boxer, the street kid, the thug, the athlete-and Mr. Villella, was at one time or the other, all of those things. A regular guy, a New Yorker. He points out that he is married, has a wife-that ballet is not for sissies, but for real men, too, and family men, with family values. He makes ballet accessible for everyone. Maybe in his life his real ability, and he needed it to make a point to himself, in order to find acceptance from his own father, to keep an audience glued to their seats, and became one of the best at, was his ability to reach people-to communicate-he is expert at reaching people. He is obviously a skilled teacher and supporter of education and youth, and dance.

Maybe Balanchine played on Villella’s own personal conflicts, in selecting roles for him, those involving a father, because he knew this was in Edward’s vocabulary, his nomenclature, to state and to express it. It is clear from his perspective at least, that Balanchine’s suggestions to his artists invoked the best performances from them, and Villella said, “he knew you, he was a genius.” He gave praise, he thanked, he was lovable, and no wonder his dancer’s tried very hard to please him, or so Edward seemed to be saying, and is evident in all their admiration for him, the wide acceptance and repeating of his works, and the way his legacy is carried on by his proteges. Nowhere else is this more apparent than The New York City Ballet, or was, even though it is purported that more Balanchine works are performed in Europe than in the US. Balanchine had the gift of being able to use psychology, music, spectacle, different genres of dance, and hype, to create magic and everyone at his factory were in reality living their dreams. Part of that super-reality mixed with theatricality involved bringing to life ballets which demonstrated deeper and deeper levels of emotion brought about by human experiences to increase human understanding.  Is that is what is being done today at the NYCB?

It is also very clear that the audience and their response was elemental to this process, the final countdown. But they were conditioned to expect greatness by Balanchine-not the reverse. Mr. Villella’s jumps were always just a tad higher, and his movements slightly more intense and large, and his acting at its best onstage, a performer of the highest caliber. Balanchine clearly knew how to elicit these performances from his artists, how to discipline them, and how to train them. Do they alone see this now, appreciate this, because without a force like him, they cannot recreate his masterpieces. Yet, they continue to share their unique perspective of this man, perhaps the organization’s most valuable asset is its dancers, and it should be the dance. It is also of major importance to younger dancers, and the future of ballet, to see exactly what is passed on in ballet, with many other things as well, and only they can teach. So why aren’t they all there? You definitely got the feeling that he feared for this future. But, Edward Villella remains one of the very few tangible ‘elite’ even if you catchphrase it as an “era”, those dancers dreamed of even greater things. It was hard work, day and night, for you the public and for Mr. B, whom they all sought to please. The New York City Ballet is still one of the foremost companies in the world attached to the major education division of ballet in this country, and therefore is the U.S.’s greatest ballet company. Perhaps the artists and director of that company needed to hear this talk even more than the audience did.

Edward Villella said that he would never describe himself this way, a “jumper,” he says, as though in all the roles he danced in this was the perceived reason he was selected, how he was featured, why, and his main “selling point.” He did not, was not made to, see himself this way. All the dancers were encouraged to think as a group, then. But it was plain to us, to the audience, why this charismatic and exciting performer was featured so often-maybe not enough if public videos serve right. His acting was exciting, his masculinity and energy palpable, his stamina was fatiguing just to watch, and he had bravado in spades. At that time, by dancers in this country, he was truly unmatched, and unique. Ironically, he remains alone today in that regard to a large extent. If memory serves there were many unheralded fine dancers of that institution, and where are they today? They are needed to reinforce the ideals of American ballet. The public, everyday people. because of Edward Villella, began to view ballet differently. They began to attend ballet performances in overwhelming and unprecedented numbers. He sold tickets! His impression was felt across the country, through tv, and by description, by millions of people in their homes, and ballets became popular-attendance was up!

He made an impact around the world, too, but in America, where he was needed most, he did the most good for our ballet. His presence must have been felt too, in Russia, and London, and the rest of the world, where later dancers followed his path exactly, seemly inadvertently, benefiting from the swathe he tore. It became a competition-he was not the man to follow. He was not only a major star of ballet in the 1950’s and 1960’s, he paved the way for others, such as Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, to appear in the the forefront of future ballet productions, in roles he had made famous, and increasingly made more famous in those ballets over a long career, and which he alone performed, often, when others were out due to injury, staples of The New York City Ballet and the world. As Edward Villella says, although these roles were worked on him, their difficulties are evident in the lack of ability of most performers to do them today, with perhaps the exception of a few similar stars, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Daniel Ulbricht, and some of the dancers Edward Villella has trained himself, such as at The Miami City Ballet, possibly. Not all of them shine in exactly the same or numerous ways in them, that Edward Villella did, or they would be household names.

Consequently, the search for dancers to recreate his original roles, brought us dancers of the same ilk, and then Russian, gradually, since the late 60’s-70’s, and not so many after the 1980’s were able to perform them as imaginatively or as well as he did at all. Now it is a feat just to teach and stage some of them once per year or decade. Edward Villella did them every night. He was a blueprint for what made ballet acceptable to major audiences in the public sense, what was to be expected, and allowed, and he set the barre higher, though he probably did not realize it at the time. No wonder so many of them fall short of it today! Now he does a tour, making up for lost time, by putting forth his presence and knowledge today and sharing that with others, letting people know that he is more than willing, anxious even, to convey those secrets to young hopefuls, companies, and audiences. Edward Villella was really one of the first American male dancers, along with Jacques D’Amboise, and others, who set the stage for an American prototype of the male ballet dancer, with the help of a Russian choreographer and composer, Balanchine and Stravinsky. The videos and discussion also included : an excerpt of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream with Villella as Oberon, Jewels (Rubies tcherzo-furioso, specifically), and discussions of The Prodigal Son, Agon/Apollo, and a few of his other roles (Sleeping Beauty, Scotch Symphony, Nutcracker) were alluded to, including some I have never heard of, such as Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, which had a deeper meaning for Villella (he says) too. But to Villella, all of these roles, and Balanchine’s choreography, are conveyed with the caveat that the choreographer’s role is not to create a stamped role for a performer, but is the role of a teacher- to give the performer the chance to ‘discover’ it himself. By inspiring the dancer, suggesting, and individualizing his approach to a role, and so that the line where the choreography, music and dancer or artist begin, as well as the live impact or performance, is nearly invisible or becomes one unique blend or “a moment in time.” “Dated” Villella says, possibly, but rife with meaning and ‘great things’. Mr. V does not think, and this is my interpretation, that performers today work hard enough, take ballet seriously enough, or convey enough emotion or passion in their dancing. I think this is perhaps the most important thing he said last night.

Several times, he spoke of his concern today, for Balanchine ballets, the loss of their details, and the ignoring of the many layers of his productions, the dancer’s lack of investigation and art, even ability to dance(!). He also spoke of his desire to work on coaching and teaching these things, passing down those details to new dancers and entire companies, successfully, as he has tried to do with Miami City Ballet. He wants to encourage ALL dancers to dig deeper into the legacy and history of the art of ballet, art and cultural history, to discover new meanings relevant to them, and to today, seek to convey more to the audience, not less, and to especially add something besides a smile, behind which, apparently, lies “nothing.” He repeated these warnings and concerns often, also criticizing the current mode of the backers of the art, critics, and board members, in taking the egotistical ‘front seat’ ahead of the art of ballet. He said in some ways for this reason alone “art suffers”, and a little of his particular problems with Miami Ballet in general, but also other institutions.

He is a Balanchine expert, and despite his many other performances, roles, and directorships, he remains a student of Balanchine, so why would they hire him if they didn’t want the Balanchine/Villella influence? This also emphasizes the need for organizations and individuals to do their research before pursuing a line of art they do not understand and he feels we all, they all, need to know more. We do, and we need to communicate about it more, not just in pictures, but in words, and in art-our impressions, our versions, even if we’re wrong, it opens discussions about it, if only to correct, or argue-it is something. SOmething is always better than nothing. Always. Dry critiques, tweets, and posts do not do art justice. All in all, this was a very enjoyable, provocative evening well-spent, and as you can see, INSPIRING. Spent in the company of one of my life-long favorite dancers, Mr. Edward Villella. Thank you very much Center For The Ballet and the Arts and readers of Mysylph.

To find out more about their objectives, programs and even possible excerpts from this evening, visit https://balletcenter.nyu.edu/

To find out more about Edward Villella, read his book Villella, Edward, with Larry Kaplan. Prodigal Son. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. Levin, Jordan. (another is in the works concerning the “two” Golden Ages of Ballet-one being ‘George Balanchine’s’ age, the other the previously known of Russia)

 

Videoed segments of interviews and background

#1-3 The Man Who Dances

 Ballet’s Greatest Hits Featurette: Edward Villella

Lolita Khosla. A&E Revue: Edward Villella

 

Other published articles and references:

Dancing for Mr. B, and Everything After by Roslyn Sulcas (NYT)

“Bitter Departure for Miami’s Ballet Patriarch” by Daniel J. Wakin (Nov. 13, 2011 NYT)

Dance Heritage Collection: Edward Villella by Lisa Traiger

 

To see an introspective grouping of performance and rehearsal photographs which often deliver the ‘moment’ in many productions, please visit The Billy Rose Theatre Division Collection at The New York Public Library. Search term: ‘Edward Villella.’   The New York Public Library Digital Collections

KEEP ON DANCING!

 

 

 

 

 

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Ballet San Jose, Fancy Free | Review | SFCV


Ballet San Jose Sharp in Season Debut

February 24, 2015

BALLET SAN JOSE
(from left to right) Rudy Candia, Walter Garcia, Grace-Anne Powers, Ommi Pipit-Suksun and Joshua Seibel; Photo Alejandro Gomez

Fancy Free, whose company premiere Friday highlighted Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley’s first repertory series, would seem a natural for the troupe. Now a close ally of American Ballet Theatre, its artistic director, stellar ABT alum Jose Manuel Carreno, was known for his macho participation in Jerome Robbins’ classic romp about three sailors on shore leave, the bones of which were to lead to the smash musical On the Town, now in Broadway revival, and thence, via Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, to the movie version and immortality.

 

Fancy Free, created when Robbins was still dancing with Ballet Theater, remains one of his greatest works, also paving the way for landmarks by its young and brilliant composer, Leonard Bernstein.

So entertaining, debonair and practically perfect was Friday’s performance that what it took to get it on its feet might well be left in the dust. That would be a shame. Robbins, for all his genius, was never a fancy-free choreographer, and without the precision he dictated, from inception through its passage from Ballet Theater, as the company wasthen called, down to the present, when it remains a staple of the New York City Ballet, ABT, and dozens of fortunate troupes around the world, Fancy Free would be oh, less than nothing.So entertaining, debonair, and practically perfect was Friday’s performance that what it took to get it on its feet might well be left in the dust.

But, like most great choreographers, Robbins left orders in place to guarantee that his work would be staged the way he wanted it staged. We also see this, of course, in the work of George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp among many others; both of them were also represented Friday in Theme and Variations, a BSJ standard, and In the Upper Room, which joined the rep last year.

The way staging happens is in part through the sharing of dancers’ physical and performance recollections – dance being very much a “body to body” art form, as Edward Villella says – as well as film and notation (and pointed remarks) directly from the creator. So the stagers for these three ballets, designated by the respective artists and their trusts, worked with Ballet San Jose’s dancers to make everything the way it ought to be. They were (Fancy Free) Philip Neal, who danced for Robbins when he was co-ballet master-in-chief (whew) at the New York City Ballet; (Theme and Variations)Sandra Jennings and Stacy Caddell for the George Balanchine Trust, also at City Ballet, and (In the Upper Room) two former Tharp dancers, the great Shelley Washington, and Gil Boggs (now Colorado Ballet’s artistic director).

Of the three, Fancy Free was the standout, rising way above the tinny, taped music (Ballet San Jose, still woefully short of funds, could not reach an agreement for the services of Symphony Silicon Valley). Richly nostalgic with its angular Oliver Smith bar-room set design and Bernstein’s score, its keen rhythms evoking his fascination at the time with things Latin, plus the entire notion of carpe diem or, dare we say, dame – it was, after all, shore leave in the middle of World War II; everything, particularly the rhumbas, the moments of boyish brooding, the fights, the flirts, the resilience, the friskiness of the chase, all of it came together at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts so precisely, with fine technique and such wonderful, readable nuance.

In the small cast, the great performances abounded: Rudy Candia, Walter Garcia and Joshua Seibel as the gobs; Grace-Anne Powers and Ommi Pipit-Suksun as their leggy quarry, and, in smaller roles, Emma Francis as a last-minute distraction, and James Kopecky as the long-suffering bartender.

Theme and Variations, all satin, tutus, Tchaikovsky (Suite No. 3 for orchestra) and chandeliers, went off without many hitches, though this taxing and stunning opener needed a few moments for the company to hit its stride. In the leads, principal dancers Junna Ige and Maykel Solas were prodigies of durability and grace, drawing in all viewers for the central ballet, Balanchine’s wonderfully intimate, tender yet frolicsome pas de deux.

Again, not to beat a dead horse, this company desperately needs, absolutely requires, live music. I can’t think of a ballet company that doesn’t. The likely exception would be for In the Upper Room, whose Philip Glass score might really demand the ministrations of a full-time and totally unaffordable company orchestra. On Friday, the audio sounded as good as anyone else’s, which isn’t really as grudging as it sounds, if you love Glass as much as this viewer.… this company desperately needs, absolutely requires, live music. I can’t think of a ballet company that doesn’t.

As noted here before, this – thanks in no small part to Glass – is one of the great creations of Tharp or anybody else. It flies by, and the minute it’s over, you want it all again. Is it the dry-ice fog, the lights, the Norma Kamali black-and-white prison pj’s contrasted with red tops and toe shoes, or white sneakers and shirts? Nah. It’s Twyla, first, last and always. Nobody has ever pointed up as viscerally what it means to dance and perform, in so many ways, as she does. (Oh, we could perhaps argue that her Push Comes to Shove is equally brilliant in this argument, plus it came equipped with Mikhail Baryshnikov at its premiere. But no.)

At any event, Ballet San Jose, even on its uppers, gets and represents In the Upper Room to the marrow of its bones. This company needs – and all of us need it – to keep on dancing.

Janice Berman was an editor and senior writer at New York Newsday. She is a former editor in chief of Dance Magazine

https://www.sfcv.org/reviews/ballet-san-jose/ballet-san-jose-sharp-in-season-debut

beat that! Millepied’s plans for the Paris Opéra


REPOSTED FROM DANCING TIMES

Millepied’s plans for the Paris Opéra : Wednesday, 04 February 2015

Benjamin Millepied has announced plans for the 2015–16 season of the Paris Opéra Ballet, the first he has programmed as director. It’s an ambitious season, with many new works, including one by new associate choreographer William Forsythe and a new production of The Nutcracker, to be choreographed by Arthur Pita, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Liam Scarlett, Edouard Lock and Millepied.

Millepied announced his season alongside Stéphane Lissner, who has been general director of the Opéra since July 2014: the two leaders promise a new level of cooperation between the ballet and opera companies. The new Nutcracker will be performed as a double bill with Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta – as these works were performed together at their premiere in 1892. The five choreographers will create separate scenes for the new production.

Millepied has also commissioned new works from Justin Peck, Wayne McGregor, Jérôme Bel and himself. Peck’s work will be danced to Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, with designs by artist John Baldassari. McGregor’s piece will be set to Pierre Boulez’s Anthème II as part of an evening celebrating the composer.

Millepied, who danced at New York City Ballet (NYCB) from 1995 to 2011, brings an American slant with some of his programming. The season will include Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Duo Concertant and Brahms-Schönberg Quartet, Jerome Robbins’ Opus 19/The Dreamer, Goldberg Variations and Other Dances. Justin Peck, the resident choreographer at NYCB, is represented by In Creases as well as his new commission; Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, created for NYCB, also joins the repertoire. The season will also include company premieres by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Alexei Ratmansky and Maguy Marin.

There are just three evening-length revivals: Giselle and Rudolf Nureyev’s productions of Romeo and Juliet and La Bayadère. There will also be works staged in the foyer of the Opéra Garnier. Choreographer Boris Charmatz will stage a new event to open the season, with 20 dancers performing solos from the 20th-century repertoire in the public spaces of the Opéra Garnier.

Millepied and Lissner also announced a new digital platform, “3e Scene”, or “Third Stage”. Hosted on the Paris Opéra website, this will present new work by composers, choreographers, directors, visual artists, filmmakers and writers. There will also be a new Paris Opéra Academy, which will offer residencies to young choreographers from inside and outside the company. The choreographers will be mentored by William Forsythe. Millepied told the New York Times that the academy aimed to teach dance-making as a craft. “We won’t necessarily discover more geniuses, but there will be more competence,” he said. “Composers learn the principles of harmony, counterpoint, technique, and choreography is no different.”

Millepied has also announced touring plans, and works scheduled for later seasons. The company will visit one French city each season, touring to Brest in the 2015–16 season. Major tours to the US are being planned. Guest companies at the Paris Opéra will include Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas, Batsheva Dance Company and English National Ballet, who dance Le Corsaire at the Opéra Garnier in June 2016.

Looking ahead, Millepied has commissioned an evening-length work from Alexei Ratmansky for the 2016–17 season. He also expects to schedule some work by the iconic modern dance choreographer Merce Cunningham. At the press conference, critic Laura Capelle reports, Millepied explained that he had almost left NYCB to dance for the Cunningham company.

Performances for the Paris Opéra Ballet’s 2015-16 season are now on sale.

Picture: Benjamin Millepied at the Opéra Garnier. Photograph: Julien Benhamou

via Millepied’s plans for the Paris Opéra.

Principal Dancer Wendy Whelan to Bid Farewell to the NYC Ballet in Special Performance, October 18


Principal Dancer Wendy Whelan to Bid Farewell to the NYC Ballet in Special Performance, 10/18 – Topix.