Legendary Balanchine ballerina, Merrill Ashley, recently visited Miami City Ballet to teach our dancers the ballet that propelled her into stardom. For 10 days, she worked with the company on Balanchine’s Ballo della Regina – a work that he created on Ms. Ashley, herself. Principal dancer Tricia Albertson trained intensely with Merrill Ashely during her visit and shares her experience working with this Balanchine great here on our Blog!
Merrill Ashley was the most virtuosic, technically precise ballerina of her time, if not ever. George Balanchine was inspired to choreograph Ballo della Regina on Merrill, and created steps to highlight her strengths: precise, razor sharp, lightning-fast footwork, musicality, and hops on pointe. Merrill was not an amazing technician by chance; she worked and analyzed every moment and every step to become that dancer. To have Ballo della Regina passed on to me by Merrill Ashley has been both an amazing and frightening highlight of my career.
Merrill Ashley in Ballo della Regina.
Merrill pushed herself to the limit as a dancer and asked that of all of us. Working with her, I did not just learn the steps of Ballo della Regina, I learned precisely how to approach each step to make it sparkle. Now, the challenge is to get myself to actually do it! Merrill doesn’t let anyone cut a single corner, and being the perfectionist that I am, I was grateful to be pushed beyond what I thought my body could do (though, I will admit that I did get frustrated. I tend to want to get things right immediately, and that simply wasn’t possible).
Merrill Ashley coaches principal dancers Tricia Albertson and Renato Penteado.
Ballo is Merrill’s. She loves this ballet, takes pride in this ballet, and has passed that pride down to us. In a rehearsal, Merrill said that Ballo was a diamond of a ballet, but without the details and precision, it doesn’t sparkle. Those details make it brilliant. Now that she has left (until she returns on opening night), I will have time to process and work on what she taught me and also to make it my own. Perhaps there is no one that can make Ballo della Regina shine as Merrill did, but I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to try.
See Tricia Albertson perform this special role during Program I: First Ventures!
Adrienne Arsht Center: Oct. 18-20
Broward Center: Oct. 25-27
Kravis Center: Nov. 15-17
Headshot © Gio Alma.
Merrill Ashley in Ballo della Regina. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Martha Swope.