The Miami City Ballet is enjoying its biggest success in 25 years -- or so artistic director Edward Villella told the Miami Herald this past week. He was responding to fantastic reviews of MCB's three-week season in a historic Parisian theater, where --according to international dailies Le Monde and Financial Times-- packed audiences bestow standing ovations. London's FT went as far as to say MCB's "exuberance and faith in the steps are infectious, and theirs is an all-American musicality that sheds new light on ballets that have grown formulaic and dull on this side of the Atlantic." Did you hear that? Miami's hometown pirouetting troupe is reviving the dance in the very place it was invented, Europe.
And a success of that magnitude can only result in one thing: a reality show. Of course, when Dreamfly Productions started shooting En Pointe, the premiere of which centers on MCB's Paris debut, they had no idea the performances would be met with such widespread acclaim.
For the Les Etés de Danse Festival, the MBC is performing 14 ballets at Paris's Theatre du Chatelet through this Saturday. Much of the fanfare praises the company's skill with George Balanchine numbers, which makes sense considering Villella's own success with the choreographer's A Midsummer Night's Dream while with the New York City Ballet in the '50s/'60s. The company is also applauded for mixing in more modern numbers such as Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room and Paul Taylor's Pomethrean Fire.
The FT, however, thinks the troupe should stick to classics from Balanchine, calling their interpretation of Taylor's 9/11-inspired Pomethrean Fire "heavy-handed" and some of their costumes from other performances "Disney-esque."
And although the reviews are mostly glowing, did anyone else
cringe at the FT's phrase "all-American musicality"? Is that the Brits'
passive aggress way of saying our dancers can twirl despite a diet of Big Macs? Does it mean they lapse into jazz hands from time to time?
Does it mean they transform into the Black Swan by dousing themselves in
another country's oil?
Speaking of Black Swan, it's highly likely
that no producer would have bank rolled a ballet reality show if not for the Natalie Portman freakout film. The Darren Aronofsky flick highlighted the extreme pressure, and
possible psychological breakdown (complete with imagined sexual encounters
with Mila Kunis), behind ballet's curtains.
En Pointe, which will
eventually follow ballet companies in Austin and Atlanta among other
U.S. cities, will undoubtedly capture the extreme physical and mental endurance it takes to perform on the tips of one's toes with grace. But
without genius Aronofsky behind the camera (and say no one sprouts
feathers from their shoulder blades or swaps spit with a Kunis
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lookalike), the series may indeed fall very short of the success of Black Swan. In fact, as of this posting, no
channel has signed on to air the ballet reality series.