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

Awaiting Open Barre

Leigh-Ann Esty got her hands on the Flip camera once again and headed straight into the studios for some thoughts on Open Barre. What are you looking forward to seeing during Open Barre 2?

Friday and Saturday nights are sold out, but you can still attend the Saturday afternoon performance at 2 p.m. Don’t miss it!

Enraptured in two major Balanchine roles

Post by Michael Sean Breeden

When I was a young dancer at the School of American Ballet, I became enraptured with the world of Balanchine. I had always known that it was music that made me want to dance, but the steps in his ballets seemed to pour forth directly from the music in ways that sparked my imagination like never before. Each new ballet I saw or learned revealed different facets of his genius to me. I knew that I wanted to make dancing these ballets my life.

The majority of the repertoire we dance at Miami City Ballet is George Balanchine’s work and being in this Company has given me many wonderful opportunities to dance corps and demi-soloist roles in his ballets. In ballets like “Diamonds” and Square Dance there is nothing like sharing the greatness of the stage, music and choreography with your peers who, in this Company, we are lucky to say are also our closest friends. While I have relished these opportunities, I was very excited to have the chance to perform two major roles in ballets by Balanchine done in Program II: Divertimento No. 15 and Valse Fantaisie (1953).

Divertimento No. 15 is a Balanchine classic danced by many companies around the world, and the only major work he ever made to music by Mozart. Balanchine said it was the greatest divertimento ever written and he paid homage to Mozart by accompanying it with some of his finest choreography. The ballet is a classical dancer’s dream, with each step perfectly blending Balanchine’s own choreographic innovations with tributes to past masterwork by Petipa. After navigating through typical opening weekend jitters, I find myself presently comfortable enough to find ways to make each show unique. Trying to fill the music differently or find new moments to relate to your partners onstage is a wonderful way to make the ballet come alive for you and the audience. Getting to perform a lead role in a classic like “Divert”, as the dancers call the ballet, is one of the most rewarding onstage experiences I have had yet.

While “Divert” is a revered classic, the 1953 version of Valse Fantaisie we perform is a gem that is little seen and would be all but extinct if it were not for Miami City Ballet. Having danced the 1967 version of Valse Fantaisie as a member of Boston Ballet II, it has been a particularly interesting experience for me to perform the earlier version. While both have many merits, they are similar only in sweep and lightness; little links the two choreographically. Being able to compare two very different perspectives by George Balanchine on a single piece of music has proven fascinating.

Both ballets have provided me with great challenges and pleasures. “Divert” is a masterful exercise in classical simplicity and elegance, while Valse Fantaisie (1953) challenges its dancer’s stamina and requires them to devour space. While it is bittersweet to be nearing my final performances of these ballets, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope that one day I will find myself performing in them once more.

Michael Sean Breeden and Tricia Albertson in Divertimento No. 15. Choreography by George Balanchine. Copyright The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Sayre Berman of the Miami New Times.

Don’t miss your final chance to see Michael in Program II this weekend.

Miami City Ballet Trivia Corner – Nutcracker Edition

Ezra Hurwitz and Michael Breeden are at it again! This time they bring you a special Nutcracker edition of Miami City Ballet Trivia Corner.

See Miami City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ this weekend at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Friday, December 18 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 19 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, December 20 at 2:00 p.m.
Tuesday, December 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, December 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Miami City Ballet Trivia Corner

Company dancers Ezra Hurwitz and Michael Breeden bring you this new MCB blog feature! Michael seems to know everything about ballet, so they set out to see who could match his skills.

See In the Night, Black Swan Pas de Deux and The Four Temperaments at Open Barre this weekend.

Friday, November 13, 2009 – Reception 6:30 p.m. Performance 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 14, 2009 – Reception 2:00 p.m. Performance 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 14, 2009 – Reception 6:30 p.m. Performance 7:00 p.m. with after party at Aero Bar.