A Note From Ashley

Post by Ashley Zimmerman, MCB School Resident Assistant

This is a compilation of photos and laughable moments that make me smile, hope you all enjoy! It’s my way of saying thank you. : )

MCB’s Summer Intensive has filled me with a lot of joy this year. I look forward to hearing about all the adventures that are ahead of you guys. Don’t stop dancing, no matter what obstacles may try and break you down, let difficulty strengthen the quality of your artistry and build an even deeper resilience inside your bones. I love you ALL!

-Ashley Marie

Back to MCB School

Post by Vanessa Woods, MCB School Resident Assistant

It’s the hump week in Miami City Ballet’s 5-week Summer Intensive Program. The bus ride on the way to the studio this morning was eerily quiet with sleeping ballet dancers, however by mid day, there is an energy buzzing through the air. I am one of the six chaperones living at the University of Miami with the 120 students. It’s almost surreal being back here because 10 years ago I came to this very summer program as a student. Then in 2006 I came back and studied here year-round before landing my first job. I have been dancing professionally ever since, currently with the Saint Louis Ballet. In an ever-changing world, it seems not much has changed here. It still has the incredible teachers, staff and fellow dancers who all come together to make this program a unique and a valuable learning experience.  Sixteen-year-old McKenna Karnes says that getting to have classes with so many different teachers is a real highlight. The real standout teacher is Mr. Edward Villella himself whom the girls got giddy talking about. They describe him in awe, saying, “he’s not scary” and love how he dances to the music throughout class.

The 2012 RAs! (I'm the second on the left)

After powering through a semi slow-moving first two weeks, little time elapses before friendships emerge that seem life-long. At the studio, students are focused but have a real sense of camaraderie as they lounge around the hallways resting or changing shoes in between their rigorous 4-5 classes a day. When we get back to the dorms, rare do I find a student not huddled in among a group of giggling bun-heads.  Regularly, you catch a gaggle of them flocking from the dining hall to scamper off to the pool, TCBY, Starbucks or some other popular close by destination. Last Wednesday broke up the busy week with our July 4th IndepenDance cruise. Packed into a two-story boat, the students dressed to the nines parade aboard after concluding a full day of classes at the studio. Soon, there is a pile of shoes growing and sweaty dancers crowd the top level of the boat for non-stop dancing leading up to the breathtaking fireworks overlooking the water. Even with training some six hours a day, it seems the students always have a reserve of energy saved for the lucky chaperones at night.

Hanging out on Biscayne Bay

By week three, the ever-important act of icing becomes key and many dancers are seen waltzing around the dorms with bags of ice for their various ailments. After a week of hard work and limited sightseeing, the students are able to sign up for exciting weekend excursions. Last weekend we went to Lighthouse Beach at Key Biscayne and Parrot Jungle. On Saturday’s beach trip, we unloaded our busses-o-ballerina and after turning a few heads, the dancers enjoy some sun on the sand, turquoise warm waters and traditional Dominican snacks under a shady pavilion.  With the snorkeling and Spiderman in IMAX trips this weekend combined with the end of program show just weeks away, the students have much to look forward to. After ten years since doing this summer intensive, I am amazed at how quickly the adaptation process to this whole type of program takes place. With quick adjustment to dorm life, dancing all day, making new friends, having roommates and eating cafeteria food, one would think these students have been doing this for years…then you realize, with this kind of talent, many of them have.  Still, there are some adjustments no amount of experience can prepare you for. When asked what she misses most about home life, 16 year old Morgan Povinelli says with smiling conviction, “home cooked meals”.

Remembering MCB School Days – Ashley

Post by Ashley Knox, MCB Corps de Ballet

Performing in Miami City Ballet School’s Showcase was a defining moment in my life. The experience helped me make the decision to become a professional dancer. This may seem late to other aspiring or professional dancers, but at that point in my life I was still undecided between college and ballet. My mind started to change once I stepped on stage. It was as if I had stepped into a dream, a dream not everyone has the chance to live.

Ashley Knox (as a student) in Serenade. Choreography © George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust.

That year we performed at The Jackie Gleason Theater, now known as the Fillmore. I was cast as the “Russian Girl” in George Balanchine’s Serenade. It was such a challenging role, very technical with high leaps and fast turns. I developed so much as a dancer with the opportunity of working with Nancy Raffa and Eric Quillier. Within the school environment I was able to slowly build strength and confidence over months of rehearsing. The hard work definitely paid off. By the time we were in the theater, I was ready and so excited! I loved, and still love, every aspect of performing — from preparing my shoes to applying my stage makeup and feeling the adrenaline rush while the overture begins. I had such a wonderful time dancing with my friends to the music of Tchaikovsky in beautiful long light blue tutus…what a dream. I remember one moment in particular, just before the “Russian Dance” in the ballet. The “Russian Girl” advances forward through the other dancers as if time has stopped only for her. She appears to have no awareness of her surroundings as the other corps girls cross in front and behind her. It was my favorite part and I remember thinking “take this all in, this may be your last time dancing on stage.” A chill came over me and I danced like I had never danced before. Then and there I realized I couldn’t possibly give this up! Ten years later I am still dancing with Miami City Ballet. I often think of my experience in the School to remind myself why I dance: because I love being a part of the magic. I hope that I help enchant the audience and take them to another world. I am so grateful to Edward and Linda Villella for their dedication to the School and to the Company. I would also like to express my appreciation for the support of donors. As a scholarship student, I would have never been able to live my dreams without their help.

Ashley Knox in Viscera. Photo © Mitchell Zachs

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.

MCB reaches out to the community with free performances for children

We think everyone should be able to enjoy ballet! Therefore MCB does everything in its power to make this art form accessible to families who otherwise wouldn’t make it to the theater – hence, Ballet for Young People (BFYP). The tickets to these performances are free and provide the opportunity for children and their loved ones to attend MCB performances. This season brings two BFYP performances: Carnival of the Animals – The Swansong (performed by MCB School) and Coppélia (performed by the Company). The programs chosen for this special series are ballets that are relatable to children and families, and are an excellent introduction to ballet.

Carnival of the AnimalsThe Swansong was performed by Miami City Ballet School advanced students at Adrienne Arsht Center on Saturday, February 18. It is a story that teaches us about the importance of respecting and living in harmony with nature. The plot was carefully designed to engage young audiences using relatable characters, colorful costumes and dynamic choreography. Children in the audience were marveled by the show and the MCB School students had a wonderful time performing the piece!

This family scored great seats! Photo by Eileen Soler.

These MCB fans brought special guests with them! Photo by Eileen Soler.

Almost show time! Photo by Eileen Soler.

MCB School's production of Carnival of the Animals - The Swansong. Photo by Gaston Cardenas.

MCB School's production of Carnival of the Animals - The Swansong. Photo by Gaston Cardenas.

MCB School's production of Carnival of the Animals - The Swansong. Photo by Gaston Cardenas.

MCB School's production of Carnival of the Animals - The Swansong. Photo by Gaston Cardenas.

MCB School's production of Carnival of the Animals - The Swansong. Photo by Gaston Cardenas.

MCB School's production of Carnival of the Animals - The Swansong. Photo by Gaston Cardenas.

MCB School's production of Carnival of the Animals - The Swansong. Photo by Gaston Cardenas.

MCB School's production of Carnival of the Animals - The Swansong. Photo by Gaston Cardenas.

On Saturday, March 31 at 2pm, ballet lovers of all ages will enjoy excerpts from comedic and charming Coppélia, as part of Adrienne Arsht Center’s Family Fest series. This performance is already sold out; however, the Company will also perform the full-length version on Friday, March 30 and Saturday, March 31 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 1 at 2 p.m.

MCB thanks the following supporters of Ballet for Young People: The Rockefeller Foundation, Peacock Foundation, Nordstrom, The Rundgren Foundation and Citizens Interested in Arts.

Saying Goodbye to Ashley and Erick

The five-week Summer Intensive Program is over and Ashley and Erick have moved on to other ventures. We miss them already! It seems like just yesterday we were halfway through the program. Before they left, we chatted with them one final time!