LOURDES LOPEZ / ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Awaiting Open Barre

Leigh-Ann Esty got her hands on the Flip camera once again and headed straight into the studios for some thoughts on Open Barre. What are you looking forward to seeing during Open Barre 2?

Friday and Saturday nights are sold out, but you can still attend the Saturday afternoon performance at 2 p.m. Don’t miss it!

Sonatine, Coaching and Being Coached

Post by Principal Dancer Deanna Seay

I think that Sonatine is one of my favorite ballets to dance. Set to Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine for Piano, the dancing in this pas de deux is subtle and conversational. There is a perfume of intimate delicacy that pervades the atmosphere in Sonatine as the two dancers, dressed in elegant navy blue, enter the stage. Except that it is not a stage that they are entering; it is the arena for an experience to be shared between the dancers, a pianist, and whoever else may be in the vicinity. After initially listening to the sounds emanating from the piano, the dancers’ movements begin to describe the music. The genius of the beginning lies in the fact that the dancers direct their attention to the piano as the first theme is introduced. By the time that theme is heard again, the choreography has embraced the imagination in the score, with the steps performed by the dancers bringing new musical nuances to life. As the piece progresses through the contemplative middle section into the exciting final movement, it is possible to see that the dancers have illustrated the musical journey on which Ravel sent the listener. What began as a quiet, intimate composition, with the dancers constantly close to each other for support, moves on to introduce new moods and different energies before concluding at the opposite end of either a musical or dance spectrum: energetic, explosive, and expansive.

When we first prepared Sonatine, Violette Verdy and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous came to help stage and coach the work. They originated this pas de deux, which was created for New York City Ballet’s Ravel Festival in 1975. As I learned the steps, it became clear that with this ballet, Balanchine had created a portrait of these two dancers. The sequences created for Violette are intelligent, witty and sublimely musical; and by incorporating steps that are not entirely conventional, it is possible to see Violette’s sense of humor and imagination, too. It could have been easy for me to impose these ideas onto the choreography, though, as I had known Violette for a long time. However, I had never met Jean-Pierre before, but having studied a video of Sonatine for several days prior to their arrival, I was not surprised that he had a big, masculine presence and shared much of the same wit, refinement and intelligence as Violette.

Even though it has been ten years since I worked with Jean-Pierre and Violette on Sonatine, their memories still replay in my head. Violette’s comparisons between ballet and food are priceless, and while I can’t remember specifics, I am sure that she mentioned “whipped cream” more than once. I also fondly remember her attention to costume details; according to Violette, the best way to determine the length of a skirt is to have the ballerina stand on pointe in costume before trimming the edge. This way, it is possible to find the best overall proportion of lower leg, skirt length and bodice. Jean-Pierre worked primarily with the men, and he pushed them to find their own nuance throughout the work. He described one section of the male solo as “improvisation,” and allowed each man to create his own sequence of steps for this section.

Remembering my own coaching sessions in Sonatine also helps me find my way when trying to coach other dancers myself. For this Open Barre series, I was assigned to assist the dancers with Flower Festival Pas de Deux. There are many challenges that come with teaching a ballet to other dancers. For instance, once the steps are taught, how do I help them to look their best? How do I provide them with an accurate representation of the style? How do I push them to overcome whatever technical difficulties there might be? How do I convey the image I see in my mind, and how do I encourage them to push beyond the limits they may have set for themselves? I find myself often telling stories to the dancers I am working with, as I try to describe the origin of the idea I am trying to convey. These stories, in the case of Flower Festival, often come from my own experience dancing this ballet many years ago, as I try to remember the details I learned from Edward back then. So, it is a welcome relief when Edward comes into these rehearsals; I try to learn from him which details to look for, and how to communicate those details so clearly. Listening to him as he explains technical and artistic nuances, I am often amazed by his ability to identify problems and offer the simplest of solutions. Towards the end of Flower Festival, there is a sequence of hops during which the girl hangs on to the boy’s shoulder as he propels them both around to face the next direction. When the dancers seemed awkward attempting this sequence, Edward merely pointed out that they were initially too close together, and that the man needs to “duck” underneath the woman’s arm. “That was from Stanley,” he said, referring to Stanley Williams, the former School of American Ballet teacher who brought his Bournonville background to Balanchine’s company. With such depth of knowledge and experience as an example, I try to absorb as much as I can from him when he is in rehearsal so that I might be at least somewhat as helpful as he, but most often I just find myself happy that he is here to share these things himself.

Deanna Seay and Didier Bramaz in Sonatine. Choreography by George Balanchine. © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Joe Gato.

Frank Regan returns to the Ballroom

We were lucky enough to have Frank Regan, Period and Stylistic Choreographer of The Neighborhood Ballroom, join us once again to put the final touches on the ballet. Frank was here working with the dancers the week before Ballroom opened. Although he was very busy, we were able to steal a few minutes to chat with him!

Cindy takes you inside The Neighborhood Ballroom

Cindy Huang, MCB Corps de Ballet, recently took the Flip camera with her to document the behind-the-scenes of The Neighborhood Ballroom! Cindy captured rehearsal and backstage action in this special glimpse of the ballet during opening weekend at Adrienne Arsht Center.

Getting Ready for Ballroom – Part 4

Your last chance to see The Neighborhood Ballroom before the dancers get back into tutus and pointe shoes is this weekend at Kravis Center. You’ve already seen the costume bibles, the costumes for the first two acts of the ballet, and “THE FOX-TROT” costumes. Now, in the final installment of our series, Haydee shows us the hot costumes for “THE MAMBO” and gives us some background on how she found them!

From the Studio to The Neighborhood Ballroom

Post by Principal Dancer Deanna Seay

Ah…full-length story ballets. Often beautiful, always entertaining, audiences love to watch a story unfold onstage during an evening. Someone is always dancing, whether the corps de ballet or the principals, and the corresponding narrative seems to help the audience understand the dancing language. One of the six full-length works in our repertoire, The Neighborhood Ballroom is unique in its focus on several different time periods (the Belle Epoque, Jazz Age, 1940s war years, and the 1950s) and the related dance rage of each era). Edward Villella’s tribute to these different eras is a product of his extensive dance knowledge, and it is his vision that is fully realized with this production. His sense of detail brings to life four different acts dance trends, spanning from 1912 to the 50s.

Any full-length narrative work requires a lot of preparation, and The Neighborhood Ballroom is no exception. There are many details that must be polished to allow the story to emerge. Working these things out takes time; long rehearsals with intense focus are required to absorb these details, and while the process is ultimately rewarding, it is also exhausting. Each era must be recreated so as to be able to distinguish one from the other; the restrained behavior during the days of Absinthe and the Boston Waltz differs from the crazy experimentation that occurred during the Jazz era and the Quick-Step. One of the wonderful things about The Neighborhood Ballroom (or just “Ballroom,” as we call it) is that these nuances are achieved through the choreography, with the mood of each period expertly conveyed through its corresponding style.

It would not be possible to perform this work if the dancers in it did not love to dance so much. To begin with, there is so much dancing involved that several dancers are required to appear in all four acts. After many hours of rehearsals learning very detailed, style-specific choreography, watching the company members transform themselves from one period to another is very similar to watching a chameleon change colors – they fit themselves into the style instantly and effortlessly. The principals in each act work out the details of their individual characters, adding further dimension to the wonderfully-inventive pas de deuxs that occur throughout the evening. The technical side of this production is also very complicated; the level of excitement in watching the production crew accomplish the many special effects backstage nearly rivals the excitement of watching the dancers onstage. It never ceases to amaze me how much goes into the ambiance onstage; those beautiful serene moments that people see are the product of much more than meets the eye.

Deanna Seay in The Neighborhood Ballroom. Photo © Joe Gato.

Love Series – Linda and Edward

We are ending our Love Series with a bang! Here are Edward Villella, Founding Artistic Director and CEO of Miami City Ballet, and his wife Linda Villella, Director of the Miami City Ballet School. Edward and Linda have been married for many, many moons and have a daughter, Crista Villella, who is a ballet mistress with MCB.

We hope you have enjoyed our Love Series! Take the time to celebrate love and friendship on Sunday and have a very happy Valentine’s Day!

More MCB LOVE!

Joan Latham, MCB Ballet Mistress, and former MCB dancer Arnold Quintane, met while dancing together at Miami City Ballet and have been married for ten years! They have two beautiful little girls. Who knows? Maybe they will have the dancing bug just like Mom and Dad.

Principal dancer Deanna Seay and former MCB dancer Mikhail Nikitine completed each other after they met at Miami City Ballet. The married couple recently took the stage together again during Program II in “Diamonds Pas de Deux” to honor Deanna’s last season with the Company. She will be retiring in April after 21 seasons with MCB and will truly be missed.

Deanna Seay and Mikhail Nikitine in Divertimento No. 15. Choreography by George Balanchine. Copyright The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Steven Caras.

Getting Ready for Ballroom – Part 3

After seeing the costume bibles and costumes for the first two acts of The Neighborhood Ballroom, we are sure you’ve noticed that the attire changes with each era. In this installment of the series, Haydee shows us the costumes for “THE FOX-TROT” and some of the accessories the women wear. It is incredible the amount of details that go into all the dresses!

Don’t miss The Neighborhood Ballroom this weekend at Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Love Series – Haiyan and Zou

This is such a magical love story! Principal dancer Haiyan Wu and principal soloist Yang Zou (or just Zou, as we call him) crossed paths earlier in life but never met until they were at Miami City Ballet. They recently added the title of “parents” to their resumes after the arrival of their baby boy, Eric William.

More MCB LOVE!
Returning guest artist (and former principal dancer) Katia Carranza and former principal dancer Luis Serrano’s love blossomed out of a friendship created at Miami City Ballet. They are happily married and currently living in Mexico. Luis is a director in Ballet de Monterrey and Katia is a dancer with the company! We are so happy for them and very excited that Katia is back to dance with us once again.

Love Series – Callie and Didier

These two are practically on their way down the isle! Engaged dancers Callie Manning, MCB Soloist, and Didier Bramaz, MCB Principal Soloist, take part in our Love Series. Watch as they look lovingly at each other while giving you a glimpse into their lives.

More MCB LOVE!

Ashley Knox, MCB Corps de Ballet, and Alex Dufaur, former MCB dancer, tied the knot a few years ago and are living happily ever after. Plus, Alex isn’t just an MCB alumni, he also photographs the Company.