Get to know choreographer Justin Peck!

26-year old Justin Peck is the artist behind our most recent commission Chutes and Ladders. Find out how this California kid is climbing the ranks at New York City Ballet and into the spotlight, as one of today’s up-and-coming choreographers. Catch his work performed live during Program II: See the Music.

What’s on INSTAGRAM this week?

Tonight, the worlds of Broadway and ballet literally collide during our first Open Barre of the 2013-2014 Season. The original Anita from the Broadway production of West Side StoryChita Rivera joins us onstage to discuss working with Jerome Robbins, while the company gives a sneak peek of the “triple threat” premiere of West Side Story Suite. This will be the first time that our dancers test their signing talents in front of a live audience….and to capture it all on Instagram is dancer Jovani Furlan!

Jovani Furlan

Jovani Furlan

Jovani will not only be taking you behind-the-scenes of Open Barre this weekend, but will also be documenting the exciting work happening in our studios next week with Répétiteur and Artistic Director of Oregon Ballet Theatre Kevin Irving. Kevin is here to set Nacho Duato’s Jardí Tancat – the profoundly Spanish, lyrical work that allows our dancers to kickoff their pointe shoes and dance barefoot! As the former ballet master and head of the artistic department with Nacho Duato’s Compañia Nacional de Danza in Spain, Kevin has intimate knowledge of Duato’s choreography that he will instill in our dancers before we bring Jardí Tancat to the stage during Program II: See the Music.

Jeanette Delgado and Renan Cerdeiro in Jardi Tancat.

Jeanette Delgado and Renan Cerdeiro in Jardi Tancat.

Sneak peek of the action on Instagram!

Sneak peek of the action on Instagram!

Make sure to follow Jovani on Instagram #JovaniMCBphotos to catch all of the exciting happenings here at the ballet!

Want more on Chita Rivera? Check out our Pinterest Board to see more legendary roles performed by one of Broadway’s leading ladies!

Headshot © Daniel Azoulay.
Jardí Tancat © Gio Alma.


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!

From Studio to Theater

If you’ve attended our Open Barre Dance Series, you may have wondered how we convert Studios 1 and 2 into our studio theater. Well, we have an amazing production team that completes the transformation in about two hours with a staff of nine people. Studio 3, which is right next door, is used as a crossover space by the dancers during Open Barre.

Check out this transformation video for a quick view on how we go from studio to theater!

Adrienne Carter Q&A

So much is going on at MCB these days! The final Open Barre of the season is this weekend, Romeo and Juliet closes next weekend at Broward Center, and the Company is rehearsing for the Paris tour!

In all this excitement, something big is happening to a young dancer. Adrienne Carter, a member of the corps de ballet, will be dancing an major role during this weekend’s Open Barre. We caught up with Adrienne for a quick Q&A before she ran off to rehearsal!

MCB: You’re dancing the role of ‘Choleric’ in George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments this weekend during Open Barre – your first major role with the company! How do you feel?

Adrienne: I am so excited and honored to be given the opportunity!

MCB: What have you found to be the most enjoyable?

Adrienne: This part has always been one of my favorites. Just the fact that I have been given the chance to dance it is enjoyable!

MCB: You will be dancing this role in our intimate studio theater. Does that offer you more or less comfort than if you were dancing on a main stage?

Adrienne: I wouldn’t say it offers more or less comfort, but it is different than dancing in a bigger theater. Even though it is a smaller audience, they are a lot closer and much more visible than usual.

MCB: What do you hope to gain from this experience?

Adrienne: I hope that the experience of dancing this role, especially in the small studio theater, helps me grow as a dancer and develop more maturity on stage.

Lexie Overholt’s Company Experience

Miami City Ballet School student Lexie Overholt has recently had the opportunity to dance with the Company. We had a chat with Lexie about the time she’s spent dancing with MCB and how she got here.

Don’t miss Lexie this weekend at Open Barre in Symphony in Three Movements. She’ll be dressed in white!

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.

Sharing Stage

Post by Principal Dancer Deanna Seay

When I was a student, my teacher, Melissa Hayden, used to tell us that, “Change is the only constant.” Indeed, change is what happens, and sometimes it happens faster than you can blink an eye. Plans have changed for me this week, as in the final performance of Who Cares? at the Kravis Center this past weekend, I landed from a jump and wrenched my left knee. This in and of itself was quite an experience, having to leave the stage in the middle of a variation, the instant (and since, continuous) replay of the series of events leading up to the moment of impact, the surreal moment of not knowing what my leg would do, and not really being able to control what was happening. If there is a bright side to this sort of thing, it would be that I can now add this rather dramatic exit to my list of experiences as well as using it as a tool to learn more about myself.

The uncertainty of my prognosis doesn’t change the fact that there will still be performances this weekend, but I am hoping that, on April 24th, I will still be able to share the stage, in some way, one more time with some of the dearest people in the world. I was really looking forward to these shows- to be able to visit and rediscover these three ballets one more time. “Emeralds”, with its watery green world and romantic movement, is the one I have known longest. When I first danced this role sixteen years ago, Edward introduced me to the idea of “the man who isn’t there,” to help me create a narrative that would link my steps together. The music, as well as the beautiful green costume, led me to a mysterious world of aura and nuance. I thought of the long solo as a Shakespearean soliloquy, with the curving gestures of the arms telling a story of longing, memories and loss. The choreographic marvel of the related pas de deux is the constant walking that links the steps together. The ballerina floats across the stage, guided by a man she cannot see, and perhaps isn’t really there except in her memory.

Allegro Brillante
, which I was fortunate enough to revisit earlier this season, is an exhilarating essay on being a Balanchine dancer. This ballet came to me shortly after I became a principal dancer, and I remember being daunted by its sophistication at first. But who can resist Tchaikovsky’s piano works? Where else can you fly and feel as free as in Allegro Brillante? This ballet holds a strange power- with its sweeping choreography it creates a very romantic mood. In the seconds when you look deep into your partner’s eyes, you also have to trust that he will be there to catch you in the next daring moment. This powerful combination of trust and romance eventually worked its magic on me, as I married the man with whom I first danced Allegro.

Theme and Variations, also set to Tchaikovsky, is probably one of the most difficult ballets I ever danced, and one of which I am sincerely proud of what I accomplished. The technical challenges are formidable for both the man and the woman, and to be truly effective, these challenges should be delivered with as much beauty and joy as is held by the music. Balanchine choreographed many beautiful ballets, but Theme is particularly special to me. It represents the pinnacle of classical dancing- a perfect fusion of choreography and music coupled with an untouchable sense of purity. The restraint of the movement speaks volumes about the drama behind the choreography. With such purity, a mere sous-sous becomes a dramatic statement, and the presentation of the ballerina’s hand tells an entire story. To dance, this ballet feels as if it is part fairy tale and part real life. I think that dancing Theme was part fairy tale for me, considering my memories of watching Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov dance Theme with American Ballet Theater during the “Live from Lincoln Center” broadcasts of my childhood. The fairy tale continued for me, as it was after my third performance of Theme and Variations that Edward told me that he was making me a principal dancer.

Yes, I was looking forward to exploring these ballets again, but I was most looking forward to sharing the stage one more time with this wonderful family that surrounds me. I have never been able to write enough about the people that I dance with, to tell whoever may read this what a wonderful group my colleagues are, and how much they inspire me and how much I learn from them. It is amazing the things they go through to be able to dance everyday…aside from the usual aches and pains that come with this career, I watch as one of my colleagues painfully refits her pointe shoes every morning. Others experience the death of someone close, but this does not keep them away from the studio. Sometimes it seems that lives outside of the studio are falling apart, and yet everyone shows up each day with unfailing determination to create beauty out of whatever they can. Between the injuries, the issues and the difficulties, I admire all of these dancers more than they can ever know. Their singular dedication to this company and to ballet makes me proud to have been a part of this group, and honored to have been able to share the stage with them.

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!

Sonatine, Coaching and Being Coached

Post by Principal Dancer Deanna Seay

I think that Sonatine is one of my favorite ballets to dance. Set to Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine for Piano, the dancing in this pas de deux is subtle and conversational. There is a perfume of intimate delicacy that pervades the atmosphere in Sonatine as the two dancers, dressed in elegant navy blue, enter the stage. Except that it is not a stage that they are entering; it is the arena for an experience to be shared between the dancers, a pianist, and whoever else may be in the vicinity. After initially listening to the sounds emanating from the piano, the dancers’ movements begin to describe the music. The genius of the beginning lies in the fact that the dancers direct their attention to the piano as the first theme is introduced. By the time that theme is heard again, the choreography has embraced the imagination in the score, with the steps performed by the dancers bringing new musical nuances to life. As the piece progresses through the contemplative middle section into the exciting final movement, it is possible to see that the dancers have illustrated the musical journey on which Ravel sent the listener. What began as a quiet, intimate composition, with the dancers constantly close to each other for support, moves on to introduce new moods and different energies before concluding at the opposite end of either a musical or dance spectrum: energetic, explosive, and expansive.

When we first prepared Sonatine, Violette Verdy and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous came to help stage and coach the work. They originated this pas de deux, which was created for New York City Ballet’s Ravel Festival in 1975. As I learned the steps, it became clear that with this ballet, Balanchine had created a portrait of these two dancers. The sequences created for Violette are intelligent, witty and sublimely musical; and by incorporating steps that are not entirely conventional, it is possible to see Violette’s sense of humor and imagination, too. It could have been easy for me to impose these ideas onto the choreography, though, as I had known Violette for a long time. However, I had never met Jean-Pierre before, but having studied a video of Sonatine for several days prior to their arrival, I was not surprised that he had a big, masculine presence and shared much of the same wit, refinement and intelligence as Violette.

Even though it has been ten years since I worked with Jean-Pierre and Violette on Sonatine, their memories still replay in my head. Violette’s comparisons between ballet and food are priceless, and while I can’t remember specifics, I am sure that she mentioned “whipped cream” more than once. I also fondly remember her attention to costume details; according to Violette, the best way to determine the length of a skirt is to have the ballerina stand on pointe in costume before trimming the edge. This way, it is possible to find the best overall proportion of lower leg, skirt length and bodice. Jean-Pierre worked primarily with the men, and he pushed them to find their own nuance throughout the work. He described one section of the male solo as “improvisation,” and allowed each man to create his own sequence of steps for this section.

Remembering my own coaching sessions in Sonatine also helps me find my way when trying to coach other dancers myself. For this Open Barre series, I was assigned to assist the dancers with Flower Festival Pas de Deux. There are many challenges that come with teaching a ballet to other dancers. For instance, once the steps are taught, how do I help them to look their best? How do I provide them with an accurate representation of the style? How do I push them to overcome whatever technical difficulties there might be? How do I convey the image I see in my mind, and how do I encourage them to push beyond the limits they may have set for themselves? I find myself often telling stories to the dancers I am working with, as I try to describe the origin of the idea I am trying to convey. These stories, in the case of Flower Festival, often come from my own experience dancing this ballet many years ago, as I try to remember the details I learned from Edward back then. So, it is a welcome relief when Edward comes into these rehearsals; I try to learn from him which details to look for, and how to communicate those details so clearly. Listening to him as he explains technical and artistic nuances, I am often amazed by his ability to identify problems and offer the simplest of solutions. Towards the end of Flower Festival, there is a sequence of hops during which the girl hangs on to the boy’s shoulder as he propels them both around to face the next direction. When the dancers seemed awkward attempting this sequence, Edward merely pointed out that they were initially too close together, and that the man needs to “duck” underneath the woman’s arm. “That was from Stanley,” he said, referring to Stanley Williams, the former School of American Ballet teacher who brought his Bournonville background to Balanchine’s company. With such depth of knowledge and experience as an example, I try to absorb as much as I can from him when he is in rehearsal so that I might be at least somewhat as helpful as he, but most often I just find myself happy that he is here to share these things himself.

Deanna Seay and Didier Bramaz in Sonatine. Choreography by George Balanchine. © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Joe Gato.