Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at MCB!

Some of the dancers shared what they are grateful for this holiday.

“I am thankful for my amazing family and close friends that are always there for me!” – Suzette Logue

“I am thankful for family and friends!” – Amanda Weingarten

“Donuts.” – Bradley Dunlap

“I’m thankful for my family, friends, and all the good things in my life.” – Jennifer Lauren

“I am thankful for my wonderful family, loved ones, friends, and all the opportunities I have received!” – Nicole Stalker

“I am thankful for the man in London who makes my special “L” freed pointe shoes! We have never met but I am so grateful.” – Patricia Delgado

“I’m thankful for all of the wonderful people in my life who contribute to making my world happier every day, especially my husband….I’m also very thankful for ADVIL, jelly-tips, and hot baths.” – Jennifer Kronenberg

“I am thankful for my amazing family, friends, and life!!!” – Sara Esty

“I am thankful for life.” – Leigh-Ann Esty

“I’m thankful to be with my family and friends.” – Reyneris Reyes

“I am thankful for my supportive, loving family, as well as all the wonderful friends I have made throughout the years here at Miami City Ballet.” – Rebecca King

“I am thankful to be livin’ the dream!” – Tricia Albertson

Meet the Dancers – Ashley Knox

As the Marzipan Shepherdess in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker™. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Alex Dufaur.

With my sister Amanda Caveney

Following Fanfare – Meet Maestro Gary Sheldon

Post by Rebecca King, Corps de Ballet

It is Miami City Ballet’s 25th anniversary and what better way to start this season than by bringing the orchestra back!  If you have attended any of our performances so far this season, you have experienced the delight of Opus One Orchestra.  However, there has been a change in the pit; our Artistic Director, Edward Villella, recruited a new conductor to lead the musicians – Maestro Gary Sheldon.  And Mr. Sheldon knows what he is doing! It’s obvious to the dancers as we interact with him, but his resume proves it.

Gary Sheldon is a native of Bay Shore, New York and a Julliard School alum. He was a conducting fellow for the Aspen Music Festival, Berkshire Music Center, and International Music Seminar.  Mr. Sheldon has been the principal conductor for the Opera Theater of Syracuse and Ballet Met, and principal guest conductor of the Columbus Symphony and San Francisco Ballet.

In 1988, Mr. Sheldon founded the Lancaster Festival Orchestra, which won The American Prize in Orchestral Performance. In 2010, he won The American Prize in Conducting in the professional orchestra division.  (To learn more about Gary Sheldon, click here.)

As we continue to celebrate the orchestra’s return throughout our run of Program I and Fanfare, I asked Mr. Sheldon if he would answer a few questions to enlighten readers about his role and his work with the dancers of Miami City Ballet.

You have worked with many ballet companies, including San Francisco Ballet and Ballet Met.  Has your experience thus far with Miami City Ballet been different than these other companies?

In some ways, working with different companies is quite similar.  Much of the repertoire is the same and the tireless commitment dancers must make to their art inspires me everywhere I go.  That said, the difference between companies can be great.  What repertoire does vary, and is usually very different, and dancer types and personalities will differ, both reflecting the preferences and repertoire predilections of the artistic director.

One striking observation I will make however is the remarkable connection I feel to the spirit and genius of George Balanchine working with Edward and our excellent ballet mistresses.  Even having conducted Balanchine with other fine companies for nearly 30 years, there is something extra special in the air here. In just one month with the company, I’ve seen some truly outstanding performances of Mr B’s work.

How is conducting for the ballet different than conducting a performance for a symphony?  What are the unique challenges that you encounter?

Conducting for ballet could not be more different than conducting for opera or symphony.  It all begins with an understanding of dance technique, which is something no conducting class or school in the world offers.  So one must find other ways to learn – like attend classes, competitions, apprentice with an established ballet conductor and ultimately, just jump in and “do it” if you are lucky enough to get the opportunity.

As we were in the final stages of rehearsing for Program I before opening at Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami in October, you attended many of our in-studio rehearsals.  What did you gain from this time in our studios on South Beach?

I especially enjoy every opportunity I get to see the dancers rehearse in the studio. Doing so allows me to become familiar with the choreography which is helpful in several ways.  Learning the tempo of the music is critical to what a conductor does.  While one could simply listen to a recording to replicate the preferred tempos of the choreographer, going to studio rehearsals and becoming familiar with the choreography illuminates what prompted the choregrapher to pick those tempos.

Attending studio rehearsals also helps me become familiar with the individual dancers.  When there are casting changes, it’s necessary to become familiar with the varying interpretations and tempos that different dancers might require.

On average, how much time did it take for each musician to prepare for Program I? How much of that time is on their own, and how much is the entire orchestra together?

The Opus One Orchestra usually has four rehearsals per program, including two rehearsals with the dancers.  Prior to rehearsing with the orchestra, musicians practice countless hours on their own.

A special thanks to Mr. Sheldon for giving me a moment of his time for this interview.

If you still haven’t heard the orchestra play, you have one more opportunity to see Program I: Fanfare, Bugaku, and Theme and Variations at Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach.  Come Friday, Nov. 19 at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 20 at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m., or Sunday, Nov. 21 at 1:00 p.m.

Following Fanfare – Backstage at Broward Center

Post by Rebecca King, Corps de Ballet

Half an hour before the curtain rises on a Miami City Ballet performance, the audience members are probably just arriving at the theater, or in route. But what are the dancers up to? As I continue to bring you behind-the-scenes of Fanfare, this week I bring you backstage at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, at half hour call on Friday night.

Meet the Dancers – Patricia Delgado

With Renato Penteado in Symphony in Three Movements. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Leigh-Ann Esty

On my wedding day with my husband Matthew Leavitt

Meet the Dancers – Michael Sean Breeden

Dances at a Gathering. Photo by Leigh-Ann Esty

With fellow dancers Ezra Hurwitz and Neil Marshall by the London Eye.

Following Fanfare – Prepping for Broward

Post by Rebecca King, Corps de Ballet

Since opening weekend of the 25th Anniversary Season, Miami City Ballet has not again hit the stage, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy! Although we are focused on other up-coming ballets, Program I is always in the back of our minds. Many nights when I am trying to fall asleep, choreography is running through my head like a broken record. Often, I take this time to review steps in order to challenge myself by remembering ballets we haven’t worked on in awhile, or to re-enforce something I learned recently. What has been my choreography playlist recently? Fanfare. As we prepare to take this ballet to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, one thing I am always thinking about is the orchestra.

Dancing with a live orchestra is such a great pleasure and a welcome treat, but along with our newly-revived luxury comes a few challenges. When rehearsing and performing to a recording, we have become accustomed to hearing the exact same notes, with the exact same tempo every time. With live music, that all changes. The dancers really need to be on their toes (no pun intended) by listening closely to the music, as the tempo is never exactly the same. Also, with the orchestra in the pit, many times we hear different notes played by different instruments that we never noticed in the recording. Recordings can never completely capture the full effect of live music, which is why it is so important for us, as dancers, to understand the musicality of the choreography and constantly count the music. Dance is an illustration of the music; in order for us to represent the music as the choreographer intended, we need to hear each and every element of the music.

If you haven’t seen Miami City Ballet’s company premiere of Fanfare, accompanied by the Opus One Orchestra, you still have two weekends to choose from: Program I is showing November 12-14 at the Broward Center for Performing Arts, or November 19-21 at Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.

Company B is coming to the Barre

The first program of the Open Barre Dance Series is almost here! On Friday and Saturday you’ll get the chance to sip on complimentary wine and then watch the dancers perform in our intimate 200-seat studio theater. Paul Taylor’s Company B and Twyla Tharp’s “The Golden Section” will be the featured ballets this weekend.

Zoe Zien recently chatted with us about her role in Company B, “Rum and Coke,” and about dancing in the intimate setting that is Open Barre.

If you haven’t been to an Open Barre performance, you don’t know what you’re missing! Click here for tickets.

Meet the Dancers – Callie Manning

Performing the role of "Coffee" in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust.

Newlywed fun with my husband Didier.