Katia Carranza featured in Pointe Magazine

Principal dancer Katia Carranza is featured in the February/March issue of Pointe Magazine and shares what she likes to do “On the Side.”

“In salsa, you can be totally spontaneous. It’s a chance to let go and express whatever the music makes you feel.” —Katia Carranza

Reflecting on the World Premiere of Viscera

After much anticipation, Liam Scarlett’s Viscera opened on January 6 to standing ovations, and received rave reviews by The Miami Herald and Dance Magazine. Before returning home to the Royal Ballet, Liam reflected on the World Premiere in this emotional video by corps dancer Rebecca King, which takes us back to the joyous night.

If you missed Viscera at Adrienne Arsht Center, you can see it this weekend (Jan. 27-29) at Kravis Center and at Broward Center on February 3-5. Click here for more information.

Open Barre…From Behind the Barre

Post by Ashley Knox, Corps de Ballet

This weekend, Miami audiences will have the unique opportunity to enjoy a performance by Miami City Ballet in the intimate setting of the Lynn & Louis Wolfson, II Theatre. This venue also offers the dancers a unique onstage experience. For us, inviting you to our Open Barre Dance Series is like inviting you into our living rooms. We perform in the very studio where we approach the barre each day to prepare for the rehearsals needed for every show MCB presents. This is where we dance, but also where we laugh, cry, sweat, stumble, persevere, create, and breathe as people, friends, and artists. It becomes our second home. In this setting, the audience is able to get up close and personal to the performers. You are able to hear each step we take as our pointe shoes lightly tap the floor, see every detail of our costumes where each bead has been carefully hand sewn, and practically hear the beating of our hearts as we dance solely from them.

But how are things seen from behind the barre? Open Barre is certainly a bonding experience for the dancers. Getting ready and warming up in one studio all together while blasting our favorite songs, definitely generates high energy and lots of laughs. Usually we listen to the orchestra while warming up, here we listen to the crowd settling in just five feet away from the edge of our dancing space. The closeness of the audience is our main challenge as we try to stay focused. While performing at Adrienne Arsht Center, for example, looking out from the stage we see mainly darkness and only the outline of the audience seated in their seats. During performances of Open Barre, there are times where we actually feel as if we meet eyes with our spectators which can be somewhat alarming. We can also make out familiar faces, and find our family and friends. Even though we are used to being on display and always giving our all, feeling the presence of the audience so close makes us even more aware of our every move. Everything from our facial expressions to our ballet technique is more pronounced and exposed. Like looking through a magnifying glass. It does, however, add a certain thrill to our performance.

This weekend I will have the chance to reverse roles and be among the audience! I’m looking forward to watching the concert version of Balanchine’s Who Cares? and Edward Villella’s “Mambo: Mambo No. 2 a.m.”  Who Cares? has fun yet extremely challenging variations and three different pas de deux set to jazzy, romantic Gershwin music. “Mambo” gives the dancers a chance to let loose and shake it to some latin rhythms. This program demonstrates the Company’s diversity, from ballerina to ballroom, and will be followed by a Q&A with Edward Villella.

Hopefully, insight from a dancer’s perspective will enhance your experience at the Open Barre Dance Series. See you there!

Ritualistic Preparation

Post by Callie Manning, Soloist

Pointe shoes to a dancer are like paint brushes to an artist. They are the key instruments we use to create our art. Our shoes are hand made and custom ordered specifically to our liking. Most of the Miami City Ballet dancers wear a brand of shoes called Freed, which are made in London. Each cobbler, or “maker,” makes their shoe slightly different and there are over 20 to choose from. Then there are different lengths, widths and degrees of hardness. The shape of the shoe can even further be adjusted down to 1/8 of an inch! Once you find the right maker and adjust the shoes to be made just right, they are not nearly ready to wear upon arrival.

Every dancer prepares their shoes differently. It can take years of trial and error to find what works best for you. Some of my tricks include: using super glue to make my pointe shoes EXTRA hard and last longer; stitching around the tips (this is called “darning”) to make a nice flat platform; and I also sew an inch of elastic into each ribbon to give them a little stretch. When we are performing I can go through roughly 2-4 pairs per week (even after adding 8 tubes of super glue per pair). It can sometimes take me up to 45 minutes from start to finish to prepare my shoes.

The way we prepare our pointe shoes is extremely important. I would never dare to forget a step or my shoes would be almost un-wearable.  Many dancers will agree with me that if your shoes are bad, your performance will be bad, too. Trust me, we do everything we can to keep that from happening!

Here is an inside look at my ritualistic preparation process!

A Look Back at 2011 With Tricia Albertson

Post by Tricia Albertson, Principal Dancer

Oh, 2011, what a whirlwind of a year! There was no time to reflect, barely time to rehearse, yet, for me, just enough time for some of the most exciting and gratifying of MCB experiences.  The standouts for me were three particular ballets and one mind-blowing month in Paris.

Having danced for MCB for almost 14 years, I have performed most of our repertoire.  In my very first season we performed Scotch Symphony; I was second-cast of the corps.  I remember watching Deanna Seay rehearse the Sylph-like principal and admiring her lyricism and control as she rolled through her beautiful feet in the romantic pas de deux, and then fly around in the 3rd movement in some of Balanchine’s most bravura dancing. It was a role I had loved to watch from the corps. As a soloist, I imagined dancing many roles, but never the Sylph in Scotch Symphony; I never thought I suited the role.  Then, in 2011, I was privileged to dance the Sylph, and was forced to move outside of my comfort zone.  I felt so lucky for the chance to grow.

Then, there was Promethean Fire.  I always find myself having the most fun in Paul Taylor works.  He’s a genius with a sense of whimsy and a musicality that I appreciate.  When I found out Patrick Corbin was coming to stage Promethean I desperately wanted to be in it.  Patrick is one of the very best to work with.  He loves dance, and has a deep sense of the artistry beyond mere technique.  The central pas de deux that I ended up dancing is slow, dramatic, and weighty, the opposite of what I’m typically cast to dance.   As it was originally choreographed on Patrick, he shared with us every intricate detail and idea behind each step.  On a personal level, he helped me explore a new way of moving, in a non-balletic language, and his positive feedback gave me the courage to be less hesitant and to really go for things.  I cherished every show of that work.

When I was 12, NYCB had a Balanchine Celebration on PBS.  My mom taped it and I think I watched it everyday after school for about a year.  The pas de deux in Theme and Variations had such an impact on me.  It was a powerful awakening.  The musicality spoke to me.  It was like no other steps could be put to that music.  When I joined MCB, Theme was just being staged here.  I danced the corps, and later danced one of the four soloists.  When I was called to learn Theme principal last season, I nearly cried!  Theme and Variations, one of the most historically challenging and frightening ballets ever!  Then, I thought about when I was 12 staring at the TV in awe of this magic in front of me and felt in some way that my life in ballet, my dreams of ballet had come full circle.  I got to dance to that music and to dance those steps that belong to that music; I got to be that ballerina.

When I first found out we were definitely going to Paris I thought, “Oh boy, we might be in trouble!”  The Paris audience is known to be tough.  If they don’t like something, they let you know it.  The Paris audience has somewhat been exposed to Balanchine, though not necessarily to the way we do it.  Also, just the thought of the workload, 14 ballets in 17 shows was, overwhelming.  I convinced myself that the best part of this journey would be getting to experience Paris and if we weren’t appreciated, so be it.  I steadied myself for the worst case.  Opening night, when the curtain came down to roaring applause and was lifted again and again, and again, curtain call after curtain call, I was blown away!  But, still, I thought that response couldn’t possibly last for 3 solid weeks.  But it did, and not just for the final ballet of the evening.  Every ballet in every show received curtain calls and many received standing ovations.  I am so grateful to have been a part of the MCB Parisian debut, and welcomed by the most embracing, warm, and appreciative audience for whom I have ever danced.  It was the biggest success MCB has ever seen, and it filled my heart with pride to be a part of it and to share that success with some of my closest friends.

A Look Back at 2011 With Bradley Dunlap

Post by Bradley Dunlap, Corps de Ballet

It has been wonderful to be a dancer with Miami City Ballet in 2011.  We have had so much to enjoy.  From the premiere of Romeo and Juliet to working with choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, working at MCB has been very fulfilling.  The moments that stood out most to me this year were dancing in Paris and on national television.

Dancing with Miami City Ballet in Paris is an experience that I will always remember.  From the responsive, appreciative audiences to the tremendous reviews, it continued to give.  MCB had the honor of performing a three week season for Les Etés de la Danse summer dance festival in the historic Théâtre du Châtelet.  I danced in seven ballets and the company brought thirteen!!  That is equivalent to our seasons here in Miami.  It was a task that I believe Miami City Ballet only achieved through cooperation and hard work.

The airing of “Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine and Tharp,” on PBS was icing on the cake.  After a week of some of the hardest work I have put forth in my career, and a year in anticipation, it was great to see the final result.  And that result was great!  We had a performance that evening, so our fantastic crew hooked us up with a big screen TV backstage and we all took our breaks to sneak a peak.  A special treat of this being nationally broadcast was that my family in Cleveland (some who haven’t seen me dance in eight years) got to enjoy it.

After 2011, it is hard to imagine 2012 could get better, but with world premieres from Liam Scarlett and Alexei Ratmansky, and dancing with the world renowned Cleveland Orchestra, I feel it is just a new beginning to another extraordinary year.

Welcome Cristal!

Please join us in welcoming Cristal Segura to MCB!

Cristal is from Albuquerque, New Mexico and has trained with DTSW, New Mexico Ballet and Interlochen Arts Academy. She joins MCB’s corps de ballet.

Look for Cristal onstage!

Click here to see the entire Company.

Click here to see our newly promoted dancers and those who have recently joined the Company.

A Conversation With Maestro Gary Sheldon on the Music for Viscera

Post by Rebecca King, Corps de Ballet

As we gear up for the World Premiere of Viscera tomorrow evening at Adrienne Arsht Center, we’d like to continue the conversation on the music: Lowell Liebermann’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra.  I had the pleasure of discussing the piece with Mr. Liebermann earlier this week to get his perspective on the powerful score. Today we bring you a conversation with our very own, Maestro Gary Sheldon.  Throughout the season, audience members will spot him in the orchestra pit, leading the Opus One Orchestra.

Mr. Sheldon and I talked a little bit about the music and it’s interpretation through dance:

RK: Have you ever conducted a Lowell Liebermann work before?
GS: This is the first time I’ve conducted a work by Lowell Liebermann.  It’s especially helpful and inspiring to be able to consult with the composer and I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the music with Mr. Liebermann who lives in New York.

RK: What do you see as the defining element of this piece?
GS: I can see why Liam Scarlett was drawn to the music.  The accents and phrases in the music are clearly defined, making it inviting to choreograph.  While the idiom is relatively modern, with clashing dissonances, the form of the music is quite classical, making this music easy to digest on first hearing.

RK: As you anticipate conducting this piece for Miami City Ballet for the first time on Friday, January 6th, what do you most look forward to?  What element, if any, do you anticipate to be a challenge?
GS: It’s always exciting to work with a choreographer on a new work for me as a musician, just as it is for the dancers.  As part of the creative process, I have the opportunity to shape the music in ways that support the dancers and meet the choreographer’s vision.
I always enjoy presenting a new work to the orchestra.  My greatest challenge in conducting a new score is to reflect the nuances of the music as represented by the choreography to the orchestra.

RK: What should the audience be listening for when they are sitting in the audience?
GS: I think that the music will be quite accessible to the audience, as Liam Scarlett’s choreography itself is so ‘musical’.  The choreography mirrors the music in a natural and beautiful way.

RK: You have sat in on quite a few rehearsals for Viscera.  Mr. Scarlett told the dancers how important the music is to his piece, citing it as the main source of his inspiration.  After studying the music, how was the experience of seeing the music come to life?
GS: There is nothing quite as exciting as seeing the music come to life onstage when the choreography is so naturally entwined in it.  Liam has created an outstanding ballet that audiences are sure to enjoy.

Come and experience this powerful piece of music come to life through Miami City Ballet’s World Premiere of Liam Scarlett’s
Viscera! For ticket information, click here.

A Look Back at 2011 With Adriana Pierce

Post by Adriana Pierce, Corps de Ballet

Endings create, and provide the necessity for, new beginnings. And new beginnings give clarity and meaning to those things that have ended. On the eve of this new year, the significance of many of my experiences in the past several months seems clearer than ever. My first full year with Miami City Ballet has been full of important personal and artistic discoveries. My identity as an artist has grown, and I feel well-equipped to begin a new year with all that I have learned under my belt. Here are some of my 2011 standouts:

MCB’s July tour to Paris was truly unforgettable. We spent three weeks speaking semi-bad French and eating pastries. We got a chance to explore a city and culture. We grew closer as a community. We got to enjoy a variety of unpasteurized cheeses paired with wines that I still dream about. But, most importantly, we got to dance our faces off for a month in a historic and beautiful theatre for audiences who would have jumped up onto the stage with us had it been allowed. Our performances at the Théâtre du Châtelet reified what I love about live theatre: the electric relationship between those experiencing art and those creating art. Each entity cannot exist without the other, and, when the chemistry is right, the force of the connection can transcend human understanding and blast down walls of materiality. Each night in Paris produced this kind of art euphoria; each performance felt as though a tremendous truth was being shattered and then proved true again. We lived inside that theatre. Paris was also an important personal triumph. Two summers earlier, with a different company I still love and admire, I was having similar artistic illuminations on the stage of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. As I bowed next to those dancers for the last time, I made the decision to dedicate my life to art that feels real and important. Finding myself in Paris with a new, equally brilliant company of beautiful people was a testament to that pledge, and reminded me both what it took to get there and how far I can go from here.

In August, Royal Ballet’s Liam Scarlett spent three weeks with us as he choreographed a ballet on the company. I had returned to Miami from Europe armed with new-found confidence and all sorts of crazy ideas about how to change the world through art, and I was eager to become immersed in a new project. New ideas, new ways of approaching movement, and fresh eyes for artistic design are an essential part of the growth of our art form, and one of the greatest ways to learn about our craft is to experience the creative process firsthand.  Besides being a total delight to work with, Liam is an excellent voice in the dance world. His piece for MCB, entitled Viscera, is an intensely musical study of human physicality. He has given us an invaluable opportunity to push our own limits and explore a different style of movement. As a young choreographer, watching Liam work with the dancers has also given me a chance to challenge my ideas about what I would like my own choreography to intend. Creativity is born from creativity, and we are constantly stimulated and inspired by those around us. I am so grateful to be surrounded by this family of exceptional and informed artists.

A dancer’s career goes through many ups and downs, but, within all the changes, there will always be pieces of choreography which are particularly meaningful. Balanchine’s Square Dance is a ballet that resonates quite deeply with me. It represents everything I appreciate and respect about intelligent choreography and performance, and has completely transformed my identity as a dancer. Square Dance is also the first piece I had ever seen MCB perform live. That performance at New York City Center in 2009 still stands out in my memory as one of my most thrilling live theatre experiences. The energy during that performance, as in our recent Paris trip, could have blown the roof off of the theatre. I have carried the feeling of that night with me for all this time, and I have been so honored to work on Square Dance with the very dancers who made it so sacred to me. When the curtain went up on my Square Dance debut this past October, it felt as though my dancing career had always been leading up to that moment. With help from the support and encouragement from my fellow dancers, the confidence I found in myself from Paris, and the strength and fearlessness I gained from Viscera, I was able to push myself beyond what I had previously thought I could do. I worked harder on stage than I ever have before. I transcended my own understanding. I broke down my own walls of personal perceptions. And each moment was perfect, unforgettable, and unmistakably, “art.”

A Conversation with Lowell Liebermann, Composer of the Music for Viscera

Post by Rebecca King, Corps de Ballet

Miami City Ballet will be premiering Viscera, a new work by emerging young choreographer Liam Scarlett this Friday, January 6, 2012!  On the first day of rehearsals for Viscera, Mr. Scarlett told us that the music was his main source of inspiration and gathered us around him to just listen to the entire work.  Three weeks later, upon the ballet’s completion, he left us with an extremely musical piece to sink our teeth into.

In anticipation of the World Premiere, I’d like to give you a sneak peak into the orchestra pit for a discussion of the music, Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra, with American composer Lowell Liebermann. Mr. Liebermann composed this work in 1983, at age 22. This was his first time combining a piano with an orchestra.  In the orchestra pit there will be strings, a piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, an English horn, two clarinets, a bass clarinet, two bassoons, a contrabassoon, four French horns, three trumpets, three trombones, a tuba, and a percussion section with the timpani, a small triangle, cymbals, a suspended cymbal, a bass drum, and a ratchet!

In order to find out more, I spoke with Mr. Liebermann about the piece:

RK: First off, could you give us a little bit of your personal history with Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra?  What were you looking to accomplish with this work?

LL: It’s actually hard for me to remember where my mind was that far back!  I do remember that I wrote the work in a white heat during the summer in Southampton.  The whole piece was written and orchestrated in 11 days.  The second movement was inspired by a passage from De Quincey’s “Confessions of an Opium Eater” called “Dream Fugue.”  And all three movements quote a tune from the “Anne Cromwell Virginal Book” called “Fortune is my Foe.” The last movement, called “Maccaber’s Dance” was written after reading an account of the Black Death, which told the story of a Scotsman named Maccaber, or MacCawber, who moved to France in medieval times and instituted a Dance of Death to try to ward off the plague, which came to be known as the “Danse Macabre.” Evidently I was a quite serious 22-year-old!

RK:  How do you orchestrate a 20 minute piece in only 11 days?!
LL: By staying up all night and drinking heavily.

RK: On average, how long does it take you to compose new works?
LL: It depends on the length of the work, but I am a procrastinator, so I tend to think about pieces for a very long time, and scribble them down on paper in a very short time.  Nowadays the process of orchestrating and copying is much speeded up by music notation programs, but when I wrote the 1st Piano Concerto, that was all written in pen and ink.

RK: During the writing process, did you ever envision ballet being set to this piece?
LL: No, not at all.  But ballet was actually my first big love: my introduction to classical music was with some old 78’s I had as a 5-year-old of the Nutcracker Suite. I would put them on the record player and attempt to pirouette and mimic ballet steps that I saw on TV. I wanted to take ballet lessons at that age, but my parents wouldn’t let me…

RK: In 2002, Robert Hill choreographed a ballet on American Ballet Theatre set to this piece of music.  What was it like to see your work come to life through ballet?
LL: It was exhilarating! Normally a composer doesn’t see physical manifestations of the effect of his music, so to see all those bodies set into motion is a wonderful thing.

RK: Has technology changed the process of composing in recent years as compared with the year 1983 when you wrote this 1st Concerto for Piano?
LL: It hasn’t changed the process of composing at all:  I still compose at the piano with pencil and paper.  But again, the process of orchestrating (which is a much more mechanical thing than composing) and copying are much speeded up and enhanced.

RK: What is now playing on your iPod?
LL: I’m not even sure where it is right now! The only thing on it is actually my own complete works: I only use it when travelling to do a residency at whatever university or school so that I don’t have to lug along a suitcase of CDs. Otherwise, since I spend my working days either composing or practicing for performances, I tend not to listen to a lot of music in my down time. And when I do, I prefer it live.

Come and experience this powerful piece of music come to life through Miami City Ballet’s World Premiere of Liam Scarlett’s Viscera! For ticket information, click here.