Enraptured in two major Balanchine roles

Post by Michael Sean Breeden

When I was a young dancer at the School of American Ballet, I became enraptured with the world of Balanchine. I had always known that it was music that made me want to dance, but the steps in his ballets seemed to pour forth directly from the music in ways that sparked my imagination like never before. Each new ballet I saw or learned revealed different facets of his genius to me. I knew that I wanted to make dancing these ballets my life.

The majority of the repertoire we dance at Miami City Ballet is George Balanchine’s work and being in this Company has given me many wonderful opportunities to dance corps and demi-soloist roles in his ballets. In ballets like “Diamonds” and Square Dance there is nothing like sharing the greatness of the stage, music and choreography with your peers who, in this Company, we are lucky to say are also our closest friends. While I have relished these opportunities, I was very excited to have the chance to perform two major roles in ballets by Balanchine done in Program II: Divertimento No. 15 and Valse Fantaisie (1953).

Divertimento No. 15 is a Balanchine classic danced by many companies around the world, and the only major work he ever made to music by Mozart. Balanchine said it was the greatest divertimento ever written and he paid homage to Mozart by accompanying it with some of his finest choreography. The ballet is a classical dancer’s dream, with each step perfectly blending Balanchine’s own choreographic innovations with tributes to past masterwork by Petipa. After navigating through typical opening weekend jitters, I find myself presently comfortable enough to find ways to make each show unique. Trying to fill the music differently or find new moments to relate to your partners onstage is a wonderful way to make the ballet come alive for you and the audience. Getting to perform a lead role in a classic like “Divert”, as the dancers call the ballet, is one of the most rewarding onstage experiences I have had yet.

While “Divert” is a revered classic, the 1953 version of Valse Fantaisie we perform is a gem that is little seen and would be all but extinct if it were not for Miami City Ballet. Having danced the 1967 version of Valse Fantaisie as a member of Boston Ballet II, it has been a particularly interesting experience for me to perform the earlier version. While both have many merits, they are similar only in sweep and lightness; little links the two choreographically. Being able to compare two very different perspectives by George Balanchine on a single piece of music has proven fascinating.

Both ballets have provided me with great challenges and pleasures. “Divert” is a masterful exercise in classical simplicity and elegance, while Valse Fantaisie (1953) challenges its dancer’s stamina and requires them to devour space. While it is bittersweet to be nearing my final performances of these ballets, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope that one day I will find myself performing in them once more.

Michael Sean Breeden and Tricia Albertson in Divertimento No. 15. Choreography by George Balanchine. Copyright The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Sayre Berman of the Miami New Times.

Don’t miss your final chance to see Michael in Program II this weekend.

Amanda is now officially a Soloist!

Amanda Weingarten, from Palm Harbor, Florida, joined Miami City Ballet in 2004 as a Company Apprentice and has since been promoted to Soloist (as of January 1). She trained at SAB, Classical Ballet Training Program in Tampa Bay, Florida, and Florida Ballet School. We sat with Amanda to talk about her recent promotion and her time with MCB.

We’ve shared pictures of Amanda at the Vail International Dance Festival in a previous post.

Come see Amanda dance this weekend at Broward Center. Don’t miss your last chance to see Program II.

Miami City Ballet WOWS The New York Times reviewer at Program II

“People leapt to their feet at each performance…after every work there were cheers from all parts of the large auditorium…the company, dancing five first-rate works, was looking better than ever…The virtues of unforced energy and warm enthusiasm are beautifully apparent here…I was struck by how acutely and eagerly responsive to fine details of style these (MCB) dancers are.”

Read Alastair Macaulay’s full review — In Florida, Fresh Talent Takes to the Stage, Along With a Veteran Team

Mary Carmen Catoya and Rolando Sarabia in "The Golden Section". Photo by Alex Dufaur

Sara Esty leaps into “The Golden Section”

This past weekend, Sara Esty filled in for Principal Dancer Jeanette Delgado during Program II at Adrienne Arsht Center. After dancing the corps part in Divertimento No. 15 and one of the principal roles in Valse Fantaisie (1953), Sara had to change quickly into her gold costume and leap into “The Golden Section”.

We talked to Sara about this busy, yet exciting, weekend.

Corps member Zoe Zien dances in Valse Fantaisie (1953)

Zoe Zien took the stage on opening night of Program II with fellow corps de ballet dancers Sara Esty and Jennifer Lauren in Valse Fantaisie (1953). These are very coveted roles since principal dancers are usually the ones who dance them. Zoe talked to us about this very exciting opportunity.

Elaine Kudo sets “The Golden Section”

The main stage premiere of “The Golden Section” was a huge success at Adrienne Arsht Center this weekend. The costumes, the lighting, the music, and not to mention the dancers’ invigorating performances filled the theater with pure, positive energy! Recently, Twyla Tharp Repetiteur Elaine Kudo visited MCB to stage the ballet. We consider her part of the MCB family and were very excited for her return. Elaine has worked with the Company in the past on Nine Sinatra Songs, Push Comes to Shove and In The Upper Room. We had the opportunity to talk to Elaine about working with MCB and her experience with Twyla Tharp.

Feel the energy of  “The Golden Section” this weekend at Kravis Center and in Broward Center on January 22-24. Click here for more information.

Florida Travel & Life feature is here!

A few months ago, our dancers took part in an exciting photo shoot at the Mondrian South Beach for Florida Travel & Life (click here to see the behind-scenes). We have all been eagerly awaiting the release of the January/February issue so we could finally see the finished product.

Without further ado, here is the feature we’ve all been waiting for.

A Trip Down the “Diamonds” Path

Post by Principal Dancer Deanna Seay

The approach and passing of the New Year is an ever present reminder of the passage of time, as well as a reminder to get back to work. No sooner is Nutcracker over than we find ourselves hurtling towards Program II and some of Balanchine’s most deceptively difficult ballets. That the Company will return after the holiday break to perform Divertimento No. 15 is no small feat; Divertimento No. 15 is exacting and meticulous, an exercise not only in beautiful, clean technique but also in perfume, style and garden-party freshness. It should appear effortless and enjoyable, each ballerina displaying a distinct personality while exuding the joy of dancing. Valse Fantaisie (1953) is just as unforgiving as Divertimento No. 15, but where Divertimento requires porcelain perfect ballerinas, Valse needs dancers that fly about with the greatest of ease. The solo passages here move- sweep, rather- from one side of the stage to the other, filling the space with beautiful, full, bounding movement that never allows the dancers one moment of rest.

While I have been trying to tackle the challenges of one of the ballerina roles in Divertimento No. 15, my own special assignment for this program, recently added to Program II, is the pas de deux from “Diamonds.” Even though I have danced the role for ten years, it still continues to reveal its secrets to me. When I first approached this part, I tried to make myself into the dancer the role required- or at least the restrained, perfect dancer I thought was required. Originally created for Suzanne Farrell, there was not much that I could imitate, but I did my best to pretend that I might possibly be as perfect, mysterious and elusive as she must have been. Over time I realized that “Diamonds” is not about restraint or perfection in the least. Suzanne Farrell was known for her abandon, spontaneity, mystery and numerous other wonderful traits, and the perceived perfection she achieved in “Diamonds” came about because she was true to herself and her own way of moving.

When a dancer first looks at a role, it is impossible not to fantasize about how the role might look and the “things” a new dancer may want to “do” with a role. Looking at “Diamonds” now, though, after ten years, I realize that maybe it isn’t about what I want to “do” with a role. The role isn’t mine to shape, place a mark on, or to possess in any way; rather, I am the one who should be shaped and possessed by the role. I don’t mean to refer to my first approach, either, of becoming what I thought the role should be. To dance a Balanchine role is to serve the choreography and the music; to be chosen to present a role in one of his ballets is to be humbled by the responsibility of becoming the medium for which the role communicates with the audience. As dancers, we work to purify our “language”- the steps through which we bare our souls to express the essence of choreographic ideas. To add anything more than who and what we are becomes a distortion…and false.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it is about truth. As I study “Diamonds” now, the steps speak to me differently than they did ten years ago, directing me towards a truth that is more elemental than the physical truth of perfect execution. In the past where I felt that I needed to polish each step, I now let the music take me on a journey and lead me places that are products of that particular moment in time. Each day in the studio becomes a new journey down this “Diamonds” path, allowing me to spontaneously respond to whatever magic may be present in the most honest way possible.

Deanna Seay in “Diamonds”.  Photo by Joe Gato.

Deanna Seay in “Diamonds”. Photo by Joe Gato.

Don’t miss Deanna’s performance of “Diamonds Pas de Deux” this weekend at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets click here.