Remembering MCB School Days – Nicole

Post by Nicole Stalker, MCB Corps de Ballet

I came to Miami City Ballet School in the fall of 2007. I was sixteen, had just graduated high school, and was excited to train at the school of my dream company. I have now been a dancer with Miami City Ballet for four years, and am currently a member of the corps de ballet. I grew up watching the Company perform George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida. I was lucky enough to perform many of the children’s roles with the Company, including my two favorites of Marie and Chinese Tea. Needless to say, Miami City Ballet already meant a great deal to me before I even came to train at the School.

Nicole, as Marie, with her Fritz

Although I only spent one year as an MCBS student, I can honestly say that it was one of the most influential years of training I ever received. The insight and knowledge given to me by my teachers, Carter Alexander and Geta Constantinescu, taught me how to combine artistry and technique, and then apply it to my dancing. They also instilled in me a level of confidence I needed to be successful. One of my favorite performance experiences during my time at Miami City Ballet School was our Student Showcase. I was a member of the corps de ballet in George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, and also danced the “Bluebird Pas de Deux” from the classic Sleeping Beauty. Having the challenge of dancing in the corps of a Balanchine ballet one night, then performing a classical pas de deux the next night was wonderful for a student, as the two styles of ballet are so different and need completely different approaches. From my experience, I can say that Miami City Ballet School provides every opportunity a young dancer needs to become a professional.

Nicole dancing with MCB in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Choreography © George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust.

Remembering MCB School Days – Elizabeth

Post by Elizabeth “Lizzy” Keller, MCBS Teacher

Showcase is such a special time at Miami City Ballet School for both the students and the teachers. Because it wasn’t that long ago that I was in my students’ position getting ready for their first performance,  I can remember so clearly all of the hard work, dedication, emotions and magic that encompasses Showcase!

My fondest memory as a student performing in Showcase would have to be the first year the School was allowed to do George Balanchine’s Who Cares?.  I was dancing the principle role in “The Man I love” pas de deux and the “Turn Girl” variation. We started working on Who Cares? at the end of January and were fortunate enough to get to perform it as a part of the Ballet for Young People series before the big … Dun dun dun… Showcase weekend and the final show being danced at The Jackie Gleason. Every day leading up to Showcase we would work in a very detailed manner; breaking down every step and attempting to perfect it. The entire class was very professional, talented and close! We operated like our own mini company. I can honestly say that I made friends for life that year!  One day I will never forget is when Mr. Edward Villella came into rehearsal one evening a few weeks before our big weekend of performances. He walked in and right away the energy in the studio changed! Now, as a teacher, I am so lucky because I got to experience being on the other side when Mr. Villella came into my studio — and funny enough the energy in the studio was exactly the same!! I had a huge smile on my face and got a bit nervous because I was immediately taken back to my days as a student at Miami City Ballet School!! On that magical day when I was still in the School, every student was eager to impress, learn and soak up all of the knowledge Edward had to share. We broke down every step of the pas de deux and talked about the feeling and intention behind each step and what kind of dialogue my partner and I were having in every second of the pas. He told me to let my body sing and show the music. This one rehearsal changed everything about the pas de deux for me! It was then time for my “Turn Girl” variation. After my variation was over, a moment I will never ever forget , Edward came up to me and placed his hand on my cheek , smiled, shook his head up and down, looked me in eyes and said “That’s it! Good.” With a smile from ear to ear, I was finally able to take a deep breath and relax a little!  I took everything my teachers had taught me, Edward’s words and how I felt that special day in rehearsal and tried to recreate it during the big performance at the Jackie. As a teacher now, I always say what my teachers said to me, “You’ve done all of the hard work, now go enjoy yourself. Be in the moment!” As soon as the music started and I stepped out on that stage I remember the feeling of getting lost in pure happiness!!!!  Showcase was so magical for me as a student and I only hope that my students feel the magic, too!!

Remembering MCB School Days – Lisa

Post by Lisa Holzknecht Barroso

Although it has been 15 years since my days at Miami City Ballet School, the experience and memories are so much a part of who I am today.  It is hard to pin down a single favorite memory because there were so many. From the opportunity to learn from dance legend Edward Villella, to the daily inspiration from Miami City Ballet principals like Iliana Lopez and Deanna Seay, to the hours after hours spent with my Miami City Ballet School family – many of whom are still dear friends of mine today; the experience forever shaped my life. Dancing alongside the Company as a Snowflake, Flower and Chinese Tea during The Nutcracker gave me a first hand glimpse into the real life of a professional dancer, such a rare and treasured privileged for any budding ballerina. But, perhaps the best memories I have are the lessons that I learned through years of training at the School that, despite the fact that I no longer dance, continue to serve me in my career and aid in my success today:

·         Passion is everything – if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you will commit whole heartedly to something, never look back and never feel like it is work.

·         Dedication, respect and loyalty will always come back to you two fold.

·         Take risks. Carve your own path. If you don’t take a big risk, you can’t get a big reward.

·         Being a mentor to someone, and believing in someone when others may not see their gifts, can be the most important thing in a young person’s life and change them forever.

To all the Miami City Ballet School teachers that put their blood, sweat and tears into me and the rest of the inaugural class of MCBS, days in and days out, thank you. My time at MCBS was the most special and formative of my entire life. I am forever grateful.

Lisa with Violette Verdy

Lisa and her son

Remembering MCB School Days – Patricia

Post by Patricia Delgado, MCB Principal Dancer

My memories of performing in the MCBS Student Showcase are all so wonderful.  One of the greatest things about performing when you are a student is the amount of detailed coaching that takes place.  You begin working on a ballet months before and spend every day breaking down each step with your teacher so that it becomes so much a part of your muscle memory that when you get to the stage, you can just dance your heart out and enjoy yourself. One of the main lessons I learned from all of my teachers at the School was that if you put the time and effort into every rehearsal, you can trust yourself the day of the performance and really let go.  If it weren’t for all of the skills I learned at the School, I wouldn’t have the basic tools I need to continue growing as a dancer in the Company.

When I was a student we did several mini performances/ lecture demonstrations at high school auditoriums and gyms.  We had one shot at the stage at the end of the year!   That performance became such an important focus in my life, that all of my excitement and anticipation would build up until that very moment when I was finally doing what I love!  Now, after 12 seasons with the Company and performing out on stage over 100 times a season, I find myself sometimes craving that feeling of only one show!  I believe that craving comes from the incredible memories I have from being a student!

Patricia Delgado as a student at MCBS.

One specific moment that I will never forget was working on Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux my last year at the School with Edward Villella!  It was always a nerve wrecking and exciting feeling when towards the end of the rehearsal process Edward would come in and coach us on last minute details.  I remember getting more butterflies in my stomach for those rehearsals than for the actual performance.  From the minute he stopped us to give us a correction on the very first step of the pas de deux, he was so calm and nurturing that all my nerves went away and it became all about the work and soaking up all of the valuable information he was passing on to us and  applying it to the choreography.  The way in which he expressed how important it was for us to “sing” the music with our bodies and phrase our steps immediately changed my focus.  After many rehearsals trying to perfect the lines I was trying to create and controlling my technique, he showed me for the first time the idea that there are an incredible amount of elements that are important to making a ballet come alive out on stage!  For example, when and how to connect to your partner, and how to “attack” the music, and even in a plotless ballet like Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, to ask myself what am I trying to say and communicate to the audience through these steps.  I knew from working with Edward in the School how much I wanted to dance for him and continue to learn and grow from all of his knowledge and love of the art form!

Since graduating from the School in 2001, I love attending the Showcase! I  look forward to it not only to relive the magic I remember feeling, but to see what new and inspiring young dancers continue to come out of the School!  To see such talent is always a reminder of how special and how much hard work it takes to be a dancer!

Patricia Delgado with MCB dancers in Western Symphony. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Kyle Froman.

Remembering MCB School Days – Nicolas

Post by Nicolas de la Vega, Los Angeles Ballet

I trained at the MCB School from 2007 through 2009. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was my first time living away from home and my first time ever being taught by Carter Alexander and Geta Constantinescu. Their classes were not only challenging but got me to push myself in a way that I had never been pushed before. They taught me so many things, from improving technique, to musicality, and to making every movement more and more interesting. Having that and watching the very talented Miami City Ballet perform was all very inspiring! I had the privilege of dancing the lead role in George Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie for the Student Showcase. I had an amazing time rehearsing this ballet and getting such great input from my teachers and even Edward Villella to help improve my performance.  After the last show I felt very accomplished and proud of myself for working as hard as I did. I was able to show both my teachers and the audience why I love to dance. Having not met Carter and Geta, I would not be where I am today. Thank you MCB School for giving me such a great experience!

Nicolas de la Vega in Western Symphony. Choreography © George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo courtesy of Nicolas de la Vega.

Remembering MCB School Days – Kara

Post by Kara White, MCB Corps de Ballet

Some of my favorite memories from the School are of the preparation for the Student Showcase. Every dancer puts so much energy and focus into the program and all that hard work pays off when you finally perform! As a MCBS student, you get the opportunity to perfect each movement and you learn something new every day to help you grow as a dancer. I personally loved performing the principal role in Square Dance during the Showcase. It is one of the greatest performing experiences and memories I have as a dancer.

Kara White and Andrei Chagas (as MCB School students) in The Four Temperaments. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Alexandre Dufaur.

Remembering MCB School Days – Jessica

Post by Jessica Shults

I look back on my MCB School days with the fondest of memories, and a huge amount of gratitude for the wonderful growth and opportunity I was allowed to experience there. I joined the School in its inaugural year. I was 11 and had just been dancing in Boston over the summer with my aunt. She was also a dancer who actually had performed on the Boston Ballet stage with Edward Villella in her youth. She told me that “Eddie Villella was opening a company school and that I had to go there”- so I did.

Jessica Shults as a MCB School student.

We were still in the MCB studios on Lincoln Road back then and I loved every moment! We would take classes with the Lincoln Road crowd staring in and then finish up the day by running over to Granny Feel Goods or the Cuban Café on the corner for eats. I have always said that the very best part of the School was being able to study alongside the Company. I would peek into the doorway everyday and watch Company rehearsals or Edward teaching class. I gained so much by just observing and I also figured out pretty fast that there wasn’t anything more that I wanted to do than dance with those incredible dancers and work for that amazing, charismatic director. When I was just 16 I auditioned for the Company. My teachers told me to go for practice so that I would be ready for the real thing the following year when I graduated. Soon after the audition I was called into Edward’s office and asked to join the Company on tour to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta! I left his office trembling, went downstairs to my friends, and broke down in tears. They thought something was wrong but I was just so overwhelmed with happiness and excitement! The following year I finished my senior year dancing with the Company as an apprentice and continued on to dance for the next 10 years with those very dancers and director that I had admired so much. I am so honored to have had all the opportunities that both the School and the Company provided for me and grateful to both Edward and Linda for their commitment to building such a fine and exceptional arts organization here in Miami, my home.

Jessica Shults © Lucrecia Diaz

Jessica continues to be part of the Miami City Ballet family as a member of MCB’s Upper Room — the Company’s young professionals group.

The 2012 Student Showcase is May 18-20! Click here for more information.

Remembering MCB School Days – Jeanette

With the Miami City Ballet School Student Showcase just around the corner, some MCBS alumni are reminiscing about their days at the School. Did you train at MCBS? Share your memories with us by emailing amartinez@miamicityballet.org and you can end up on our blog!

Don’t miss the ballet stars of tomorrow at Miami City Ballet School Student Showcase – May 18-20.

Post by Jeanette Delgado, MCB Principal Dancer

I came to MCB School at 9 years old and grew up loving and learning all about ballet! I am now a principal dancer with the Company. I wouldn’t be the dancer I am today without the encouraging and nurturing environment that Edward and Linda Villella created at their school! We were part of a family, and it wasn’t until my first class back after a summer program at American Ballet Theatre that I felt nervous it would all change. I was 16 years old and I remember walking into a familiar studio and seeing lots of unfamiliar faces! It was shocking, exciting and nerve wrecking all at the same time. It was the first time a group of students from all over stayed after the summer program to study here for the year! There were some changes — but they were all good! I remember being inspired right away and feeling like I was part of the beginning of something great! Now I realize the best part of that experience was that the place I always loved and felt comfortable at, grew and became more professional without losing the friendly and supportive environment that felt so special!

Jeanette Delgado as a student at MCB School.

Jeanette Delgado as Swanilda in Coppélia. Photo © Joe Gato.