LOURDES LOPEZ / ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Gyrotonic 101

Miami City Ballet dancers exercise in other ways, outside of ballet, to keep in shape. One popular option is Gyrotonic, an exercise that guides users to simultaneously stretch and strengthen muscles and tendons while also articulating and mobilizing the joints. Lucky for MCB dancers, they don’t have to go too far…we have a Gyrotonic room right here in our building!

We recently caught up with principal dancer Jeanette Delgado during one of her sessions to learn more about this specialized exercise routine.

Michael’s summer update

Post by Michael Sean Breeden

The layoff period between seasons is a much-needed time in a dancer’s life. We are able to sit back and reflect on the past season now that the demands of performing are over. Best of all, perhaps, the time off allows us to take vacations that will leave us refreshed and mentally ready to come back for another season.

For the second consecutive year, myself and fellow corps de ballet members Ezra Hurwitz and Neil Marshall have embarked on an extensive European vacation. We began in London, went to Paris and then on to the Cote D’Azur and Provence in the south of France and are presently in Barcelona. One great thing (among the many) about being on vacation in Europe is that it is so rich in art and steeped in its long-held traditions. We often miss out on other art during the season due to our hectic schedule and there is no better time to get our fix than during the layoff.

In addition to seeing major sights, we’ve been spending hours in many, many museums — small and large — with art work ranging from the Renaissance to Surrealism. We wandered through Monet’s gardens and had new-found appreciation for his work when we later saw it in various museums. We stopped in at Dali’s bizarre and stunning house in Figueres, Spain, full of huge-scale works that have impeccable attention to detail. Presently, we’ve been running through Barcelona taking in all the revolutionary Gaudi architecture that seems light years ahead of its time, or any time really.

While architecture and painting are art forms that differ very greatly from ballet, one can still learn much through appreciation. The skill and dedication necessary to have created these masterworks is more than admirable and these are lessons than can be applied to any trade.

We did, however, find time to go to the ballet. In London, we saw the Royal Ballet perform a mixed bill of contemporary and new works. Even though they were working with new choreography, one can still see the great English training and style vividly in almost all of the dancers. It is especially fascinating because it is an almost 180-degree difference in style from the way we dance at Miami City Ballet. They are all about elegant placement and soft poetry whereas we love physical strength, attack and freedom of movement. Even the musicality is different. They often ‘coast’ through the music, gently dancing along the surface of it, while the Balanchinean way is to directly inhabit and reflect it.

Before we jetted off to Europe, I also had the chance to see the New York City Ballet gala, an evening of two premieres by Benjamin Millepied and Alexei Ratmansky. Having worked with Benjamin for my SAB (School of American Ballet) workshop and gone to school with two of the ballet’s principals and many of its corps, it was a particular pleasure to see how much all these artists had grown. While it is nearly impossible to keep up with your peers during the season, it is always wonderful during layoff to see what directions their careers have taken.

While I am sad that my trip is coming to an end, and I’ve enjoyed experiencing the arts and cultures of several different countries, I always come out of a layoff looking forward to coming back to class and rehearsals. This trip has left me feeling refreshed, invigorated and ready to be back in the studio.

With Ezra and Neil at Notre Dame

On a boat ride in Cote D'Azur

Pont du Gard in France

Neil enjoying the view

Brad’s summer update

Since the dancers went on layoff at the beginning of May, it’s been pretty quiet here at 2200 Liberty Avenue. Luckily, some of them will be blogging and keeping us updated on their whereabouts throughout the summer. The troupe will be back in June for a brief rehearsal period, but have had plenty of time for fun and relaxing before returning to the studios.

First at bat – Brad fills us in on what he’s been up to during his time off.

Post by Bradley Dunlap

Over the past couple of years I have on-again off-again taken yoga classes. The practice offers great relief to an overworked body. As ballet dancers we spend a lot of time over-rotating our hips and yoga helps to alleviate a lot of that stress. After taking yoga, I would come in to work the next day feeling free, powerful, and ready for anything. I noticed a stronger breath and looseness, especially in my above average tight hips. It was awesome. I was looking forward to a break from dancing so I could spend some time to further my education in the practice. And here it is! It has been wonderful. I spend my time at Miami Yogashala, which is only a few steps from the ballet’s home. Great teachers have gotten me into positions I never knew were possible and I am pushing my body to new boundaries. Along with my yoga, I have been taking Gyrotonic classes from our ballet mistress Crista Villella. Her effort in the class to bring me new awareness is marvelous. I have also been rolfing, which is an intense form of massage to help realign the body. My IT bands [iliotibial bands] did not want to be messed with but David, my rolfer, had no mercy. The effects have been wonderful.

Along with taking time to work on preparing my body for the next season, I also think it is important to relax. To achieve that…..Disney World!!!! Besides one quick day trip, I have never experienced the Disney experience. Dreams really do come true! I felt like a kid and it was great. My biggest worry was which ride was next and deciding if I wanted a corn dog or pizza. I have to say, Epcot was my favorite park with Hollywood Studios in at a very close second. I spent it with my lovely lady Leigh, her sister Sara and my best friend. MCB dancers Callie, Didier, Stephen, and our friend Alan were also in attendance. The trip was perfect — even down to the weather. With three weeks left of vacation and no excuse to procrastinate, I hope to get some stuff done around the apartment like painting and putting pictures on the walls. However Roland Garros (Tennis French Open) does start in 5 days so we will see…

The missing link

Post by Principal Dancer Jennifer Kronenberg

I can only imagine how very excited our patrons and audience members were to learn that Miami City Ballet has been awarded a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (as part of its Knight Arts Challenge) that will allow us to perform with orchestral accompaniment for the next three seasons. But they should know how thrilling this news is for me and the other dancers as well! The elated feeling that most dancers get when performing to live music is almost indescribable. For as much as it enhances a performance from an audience member’s perspective, the experience that it gives performers is immeasurable. It truly brings the ballet to life…it is the last piece of the puzzle…the missing link that adds a fourth dimension to the performance for everyone.

Dancing to live music really keeps us “on our toes,” so to speak. We are forced to be completely present, aware and “in” the moment at all times; listening carefully for any changes in tempi. We are not at all permitted to function on “automatic,” as we sometimes do subconsciously, simply dancing to a recording that we rehearse to everyday. We adore the challenge presented when with an orchestra — we are forced to dance with the music-as one would dance with a partner. It certainly makes our performing experience all the more alive and enjoyable. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than being able to connect with and really feel the music that is accompanying me. It is a great partnership that exists between the musicians, the conductor, and the dancers, providing a uniquely whole and fulfilling performance for everyone. Having an orchestra for our upcoming seasons will be a gift for all of the dancers, as well as for the audience, and I, for one, am glad that we’re being given our missing link back!

Jennifer Kronenberg in La Sonnambula. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Joe Gato.

See La Sonnambula in Program II of the 25th Anniversary Season. Don’t miss out on what promises to be an extraordinary year — complete with the return of Opus One Orchestra! Get your season tickets now to make sure you have the best seats in the house. Click here for more information.

My Inner Ballerina

Post by Toby Lerner Ansin, Founder of Miami City Ballet

Since the age of 6, when I put my hand on the ballet barre and did my first plié, I have had a passion for the art form.  I studied seriously until the age of 12, when I realized I had neither the talent nor technique for a professional dance career and decided I had better start thinking about going to college!

But even after I earned my bachelor’s degree, dance remained in my heart and I continued to study ballet and take class for my own enjoyment until the age of 40.  Although I no longer don pointe shoes, I still feel a special connection to all students who work hard every day to express themselves–and touch the hearts of others–through the medium of dance.  Ballet was, and always will be, one of the greatest loves of my life.  In my soul, I am a ballerina.

It gives me such pleasure to provide an opportunity for young people who share my passion for dance, and possess both talent and a good work ethic, to train with a world-class ballet school like Miami City Ballet School.

My greatest joy is watching the dancers with the School become members of the Company, like Jeannette and Patricia Delgado. I remember when they started at the school I said to myself, “keep an eye on those two, they are going to be special!”

Now, they are principals with the Company. Jeannette’s performance at City Center was named by The New Yorker as one of the top ten cultural events of 2009 and they have been photographed by Bruce Weber for W Magazine.  I want to be a part of making sure that others with talent like theirs have the means to reach their goals and make their dreams come true. My inner ballerina will continue to dance through the students.

My family knows me very well, and they gave me the most wonderful gift by creating this scholarship to honor me.  Nothing could have made me happier! The entire Ansin family is especially proud to follow the rising careers of Miami City Ballet School’s talented dancers.

I also want to give a special shout out to Andrei Chagas, the first Toby Lerner Ansin Scholarship recipient. Congratulations and keep up the great work!  I look forward to watching you on stage.  Bravo!

From students to pros

“A wealth of fresh talent is emerging… Numerous dancers who made impressions in solo roles included several who have graduated (from the company’s school and then its apprentice ranks) into the corps de ballet.” The New York Times, 2010

It’s that time of the year again when parents and friends from all over the world visit our studio theater to watch their favorite students in the Miami City Ballet School Student Showcase. With a program that includes George Balanchine’s Serenade and The Four Temperaments, the School is buzzing with excitement about the performances!

Dancers, who are now members of the Company, remember feeling the same rush as they prepared to dance in the Showcase.  Here are some faces you may recognize from our stage  — check them out in their MCB School days!

Rebecca King, Corps de Ballet

Ashley Knox, Corps de Ballet

Sara and Leigh-Ann Esty, Corps de Ballet

Elizabeth Smedley, Corps de Ballet, with MCBS faculty member Geta Constantinescu

Nicole Stalker, Corps de Ballet

Patricia Delgado, Principal Dancer

Jeanette Delgado, Principal Dancer

Bradley Dunlap, Corps de Ballet, with Sara Esty

Zoe Zien, Corps de Ballet

Q&A with Jennifer Lauren

Corps de ballet member Jennifer Lauren answers all our questions about the 2009-2010 season.

MCB: Looking back on Miami City Ballet’s 2009-2010 performance season, you’ve had some great opportunities to dance featured roles in Who Cares?, Dances at a Gathering, Flower Festival, Divertimento No. 15, The Nutcracker, and Company B.  What role or roles have been most significant to you as far as your artistic growth?

Jennifer: I am delighted to have danced so many new roles this year. Every part I am involved with is a fabulous learning experience.  New roles give me a fresh perspective on all that has come before; and with each opportunity I work my hardest to get every little detail down. I watch videos over and over of as many great past performances as I can find, and I’m constantly going over details of the choreography, even before I sleep every night. It’s really hard to label one role as the most significant, even with roles I’ve repeated so many times, as with the Nutcracker, there is still so much I can learn with each performance.

I loved dancing Company B.  It was great fun to work with Patrick Corbin, and to wear jazz shoes for a change! We all really enjoyed Paul Taylor’s choreography, dancing to the music of the Andrews Sisters, the costumes…and those hairdos!

Valse Fantaisie (1953) was a big deal for me. To be chosen for opening night was really exciting for Sara Esty, Zoe Zien, Yang Zou and me. I was surprised and delighted to see my photo accompanying the fantastic review of Program II in The New York Times.  One-on-one rehearsal time with Ballet Mistress Joan Latham was tremendously helpful for that role.

Divertimento No. 15 is such a beautiful piece, and probably the biggest “ballerina” role I danced this year. I felt so elegant in that work. Ballet Mistress Roma Sosenko and Joan really pulled me out of my comfort zone and got me to dance “bigger.”

Getting to work closely with Deanna Seay, Alex Wong, and Edward for Flower Festival was a special experience. Flower Festival made me feel at home; it was very similar to the way I was used to working with the artistic team at my previous company of eight years. Alex has such great energy, and Edward and Deanna gave me corrections as well as the power to go beyond what I thought was possible.

It was such an honor to be a part of Dances at a Gathering. Dancing the choreography of Jerome Robbins, to the music of Chopin and having Francisco Renno play for us every day — quite lovely!

I was called to the principal rehearsals later in the year for Who Cares? That was a pleasant surprise to say the least. Under the circumstances, I was needed to perform Embraceable You and My One and Only, and was thrilled to dance with principal dancers such as Renato Penteado, Patricia Delgado, Tricia Albertson and Carlos Guerra. I really had the best time this season!

MCB: What role captured your strengths and came to you most naturally?

Jennifer: Even though Flower Festival was the first time I had performed Bournonville, I think my classical background made it an easy transition. Prior to joining MCB, I danced all the classics, most often portraying a young girl in love, so the artistic interpretation of Flower Festival felt very natural, allowing me to concentrate on the Bournonville technique, which was definitely a challenge.

MCB: While Miami City Ballet dancers are extremely focused on their art form, this company knows how to have fun and laugh whether on a bus ride from the airport on tour or around the theater at Nutcracker time.  What fun time will be remembered most from this season?

Jennifer: There are so many.  Vail was magnificent. Performing Serenade outside with the wind blowing our tutus at the beginning gave me chills, not from the cold, but that I felt very proud to be with all of my fellow dancers at that moment. There was a group of us in Vail who rode on a ski lift and we had the best time stuck up in the air. We all have so much fun exploring and seeing all the great places we go on tour.   Also being a part of Deanna Seay’s farewell performance was unforgettable.

MCB: What do you think you went through the most:  Band-Aids, super glue, hair nets, eye lashes, or Advil?

Jennifer: I definitely went through a lot of clear Band-Aids because I use them to secure my ribbons while performing. Probably the items I used most were pointe shoes; I feel like this year I went through more than ever.

MCB: MCB has had a jam-packed thirty-six weeks of more than 75 performances – involving plane rides, car pools, hotel stays, rehearsals, multiple theaters, costume fittings, highs and lows, and dancing mostly six days a week.  This obviously isn’t a 9 to 5 clock-in, clock-out job.  How did you stay positive with a rigorous schedule that is demanding in many aspects?

Jennifer: I love being onstage and performing. The long hours we sacrifice for our job, in the end, are all worth it when you feel the rush of being onstage, and you know an audience is watching and hopefully enjoying themselves. My husband Blake, and my pug Sophie are always there for me.  Blake helps me with anything I need, like driving me to work almost every day. It is so nice to have a loving and supportive family at home in Alabama, too. Both my parents were able to come and see me dance Flower Festival and we had two days off after the shows. We made it into a little family vacation in South Beach.

MCB: With your intensive schedule behind you for the moment, what do you look forward to the most during your layoff?

Jennifer: Visiting family and friends, traveling, enjoying life — and giving my body a break.  I’m also looking forward to reading Bob Gottleib’s “Reading Dance” that my husband bought me ages ago.

MCB: Do you worry about staying in shape over the summer or do you relax and rejuvenate guilt free?

Jennifer: That’s funny, I think everyone worries about staying in shape, but I feel our bodies periodically need extensive rest, just as other athletes in the off-season.  So I relax mostly, but I do take classes when they are available to me wherever I might be.  I’ve always found that it only takes a week to really get back in shape once we start our rigorous schedule again.

MCB: After wowing over our audience this year, what’s one thing you think they would never guess about you?

Jennifer: I once performed with Baryshnikov in his solo tour a few years ago, but it was equally fun to dance as Amor with Edward in Don Quixote last year!

Our “First Ladies”

The May issue of W Magazine includes a photo spread by famed fashion photographer Bruce Weber called “First Ladies,” which features Miami City Ballet dancers and School students!  This “portfolio of inspirational women” includes a breathtaking shot of Jeanette and Patricia Delgado in flowing dresses by Valentino and Burberry, along with photos of fashion icon Iris Apfel, Haitian human-rights leader Marleine Bastien, among others.  Click here to see the image of the Delgado sisters, which was shot on the private beach behind Weber’s Golden Beach home. The magazine is on newsstands now, but before you run out and get it, listen in as the girls chat about their W experience.