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Flash Review 1, 11-12: Florida Picks a Winner
It's Miami City Ballet

By Lauren Feldman
Copyright 2000 Lauren Feldman

MIAMI -- Wanting to take my mind off the election mess here in Florida, I went to see Miami City Ballet's second program of the season Friday for a night of politics-free art at Miami Beach's Jackie Gleason Theater. I was a little upset that I got there too late to be correctly seated because my mother had talked me into walking through the humidity to the theater. However, we arrived just in time to see the curtain rise on a secluded frozen pond lit by hanging Chinese lanterns. This was MCB's premiere of Sir Frederick Ashton's "Les Patineurs" (The Skating Party), to music by Giacomo Meyerbeer.

The set was beautiful and I was actually thankful that I was seated far back enough to see the white frosty floor, and to see the dancers (or should I say skaters?) glide onto the stage. I admired how smooth some of the moves appeared, especially some of the chasse-fouette combinations. It really seemed as if the dancers were skating. The costumes were really adorable -- I'd love to pick up some of those fuzzy-anklet booties for my old pointe shoes! However, this plotless piece didn't really grab me and move me. The dancers' innocent facial expressions were cute, but that's about it; I'm not really into dance for the "stunts." In addition, it was hard to tell if some of the "skating" moves were deliberate, or just the tiniest bit sloppy.

Next on the program, also a premiere, was Balanchine's "Duo Concertant" to Igor Stravinsky's music of the same title. The violinist, Tom Moore, and the pianist, Francisco Renno, played onstage while Jennifer Kronenberg and Eric Quillere listened and danced. The music was breathtakingly performed, and the dancers seemed genuinely stirred by the raw emotion nurtured by their proximity to the instruments. The first movement in which the two danced was playful, but they seemed a bit uneasy with the quick angular movements. They rejoined the musicians for a breather as the movement concluded. The second section was more romantic in tone, and Ms. Kronenberg showed constant control in her musical elongees, without appearing static. I especially loved the shape of the catch in arabesque devant, with Mr. Quillere supporting her extended leg, while she shielded him with her body and arms stretched forward. The third movement, faster in tempo, seemed precise when one looked at one of the dancers separately, but perhaps a bit more rehearsal is needed, especially when the dancers' movements come together and then separate temporarily, almost as contrapuntal in nature, going with and against the music. The final movement, when the dancers hands and then bodies are spotlighted (as well as the musicians) reminded me of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, of course more sensual than religious.

Last night's presentation of Balanchine's 1953 "Valse Fantasie," set to Mikhail Glinka's Valse Fantasie in B minor, was in my opinion an almost flawless performance. The only thing less than perfect, I felt, was that the dancers seemed too strained in their opening jetes. All three women (Katia Carranza, Mary Carmen Catoya, and Tricia Albertson) showed superb control and musicality, without looking artificial. The male lead (Bernard Courtot de Bouteiller) also had perfect control and balance in his turns and holds. I wished this piece had gone on for longer than it did.

I was looking forward to the last piece, "Pas de Dix," choreographed by Balanchine (after Marius Petipa) to excerpts of Alexander Glazunov's "Raymonda," all evening. I've loved Eastern European folk references in classical ballet ever since I was a baby ballerina, and I adore Glazunov's music, brimming with melody and allusions to much of Europe's gypsy and folk heritage. The four opening couples showed excellent charisma, and when the principal couple entered the stage, I was hooked. I was so intent on following the stately promenade around the ballroom, that I missed the lead ballerina, Deanna Seay, slip and (almost?) fall during a group chasse-saute combination! My mother could not really explain what happened (perhaps it was some leftover snow from "Les Patineurs"), and (thank goodness) we don't have instant replays in ballets, so I tried to sit tight and enjoy the rest of the piece. Ms. Seay recovered gracefully; in fact, I think the mishap gave her enough spunk and attitude to pull off the regal demeanor of a Hungarian aristocrat, which she did stupendously. The four supporting ballerinas also performed well, whether they danced fast and furious, or slow and sweet.

One problem with ballet-trained dancers performing Eastern European flavored dances is that their bodies are not quite used to a parallel position of the legs, let alone a turned in position. I couldn't help but think that when the principal male, Franklin Gamero, did the czardas, he wasn't quite turned in enough. It seemed instead like he just wasn't turned out. But then I'm pretty picky about turn out, since I'm so turned-in myself! I loved Ms. Seay's last solo to a gypsy-like tune on piano and was so happy that she hadn't let her initial slip flavor the remainder of her performance negatively. She had a chip on her shoulder, but it was perfect for this piece! Instead of her head flips and hand slaps looking contrived or impractical, it looked like she really wanted the audience's attention. The coda was quick and spirited, and I loved the dancers' legs as they darted back and forth underneath them, almost as fast as a frog's tongue! But then I saw it: something on the stage right where Ms. Seay was headed from her circle of turns! Not another fall! Phew! She saw it out of the corner of her eye and avoided it in her arabesque to a head-flip. My heart was beating rapidly as the final cadence thundered out and the dancers struck a triumphant final pose.

I thought I'd enjoy a quiet relaxing night with no worries of messed up ballots and razor-thin vote tallies, but I ended up experiencing a tense, but ultimately well performed evening of dance and music. At least somebody came out a winner in Florida last night!


Lauren Feldman graduated last May from Columbia College of Columbia University, where she received a BA with a Pre-medical Concentration in History. While a student there she studied dance at Barnard College of Columbia University with Elena Kunikova, Frances Patrelle, Janet Soares, Mary-Lisa Burns, Katie Glasner, Sandra Kauffman, Henry Van Kuiken, and Donlin Foreman, among others. She is currently working in research in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Miami's School of Medicine.

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