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Flash Review 1, 3-5: Prodigal's Progress
New Work from Villella at the Gleason

By Lauren Feldman
Copyright 2001 Lauren Feldman

MIAMI -- For being the final program of the 15th anniversary season of the Miami City Ballet, I thought Friday night's performance at the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach could have been more exciting. What was exciting was that Edward Villella was sitting three rows in front of me. The program consisted of Balanchine and Stravinsky's "Agon," the first section of Villella's evening-length work-in-progress "The Neighborhood Ballroom," and Balanchine's "Raymonda Variations."

"Agon" was my favorite of the evening. Even though I find twelve-tone music to be slightly unnerving, it also demands one's attention. Balanchine's choreography in "Agon" is perfection, with his varying combinations for the twelve dancers, and I thought that the dancers of the Miami City Ballet performed this piece with all the austere power that it required. Jennifer Kronenberg and Franklin Gamero were breathtaking in the main pas de deux. Their bodies fit together perfectly as they twisted in and out of the layers of their mutual partnering.

Villella's "The Waltz, Our Lady of Oblivion," the first section of his evening-length work-in-progress, seemed to me rather disjointed, but I suppose that this feeling resulted from its being performed apart from the other sections. The music was composed and performed beautifully on stage by pianist Francisco Renno. The set, lighting, and costumes were as elaborate as the late Belle Epoque that was depicted. Villella did incorporate an American form of the waltz, the "Boston" variety, and also the little known Waltz-Tango, but I found that the dancing was not quite engaging. There were so many people (the "Absinthian Habitues") on stage at once that I found it even harder to concentrate on the actual dancing. I even enjoyed the third pas de deux better than the main one between the "poet" and the "widow," complete with a shiny red cape. (Yes, there were four pas de deux.) And to top it all off there were constant entrances and exits of the "Muse," a sylph-like apparition clad in a white gown and pointe shoes amidst all the heeled shoes of the 1900s costumed waltzers. Hopefully this evening-length ballet will soon be performed as a whole, because individually this piece doesn't seem to stand well on its own.

The final piece, Balanchine's "Raymonda Variations," with music from Glazounov's "Raymonda," was alternately spectacularly and poorly performed. It started out wonderfully with Deanna Seay and Eric Quillere executing their parts flawlessly, but towards the end of the piece there were several mishaps. All of the variations were charming, but then during the final coda one dancer almost fell. Then Ms. Seay almost fell out of one of her supported pirouettes. All of this happened so close to the end that the last thing one remembered of the performance was the mistakes, even though the majority of the piece was beautifully carried out.

In the end, I was left wanting more. Perhaps it's because I subconsciously want to see a evening-length ballet. Perhaps it's because I've had the flu all weekend and feel bad in general, but I do feel that Programs I and II were more breathtaking and consistent with the caliber of dance that I've come to expect from the Miami City Ballet.


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