Beneath the Surface: The making of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Miami City Ballet is situated in Miami Beach, steps away from the shores of the Atlantic’s brilliant, aquamarine-hued ocean, providing endless inspiration and beauty.

For the company’s 30th anniversary, Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez had a seemingly insurmountable dream. Her vision was to create a reimagined, refreshed version of George Balanchine’s famed interpretation of the Shakespearean classic. While Balanchine’s choreography, story, and Felix Mendelsohn’s enchanting music all remain unchanged.

To stage such an ambitious production, Lourdes enlisted the talents of two notable Miami natives. Famed artist Michele Oka Doner was tapped to design the costumes and sets and Academy Award-winning playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney came in as dramaturge, helping give the dancers depth and meaning to Shakespeare’s words.

Artist Wendall Harrington, aka the Queen of Projections, was brought on board to create the ethereal, watery projections.

“The beauty of the projections, one more enchanting than the next, became a part of the choreography and created a sense of intimacy…
The simple and elegant costumes and the richness of the choreography all blended together to enhance and embellish the story of love and humanity.” – Palm Beach Daily News

Doner, whose work is frequently inspired by nature, proposed changing the ballet’s original forest setting to a mysterious underwater world.

“I chose Michele because there is a sort of lyricism to her work… It almost dances,” explains Lopez.

Doner is said to have made a connection between the ballet and her research at the Rosenstiel School of Marine Biology at the University of Miami, which boasts a collection of nearly one million marine life species unique to Florida’s coastal waters, and the real-life Coral Castle, located in South Miami-Dade.

Fun fact: Legend has it the oolite limestone structure (the primary setting for Act II) was created single-handedly by eccentric Edward Leedskalnin using reverse magnetism or supernatural abilities to move the giant boulders, many weighing several tons.

Beneath the surface, tutus become jellyfish, the King and Queen of the Fairies’ chamber is a clamshell, and Hippolyta leads a charge of warrior seahorses in a spectacular, other-worldly display of endless wonder and imagination.

Yet, the brilliance of Balanchine’s choreography and the enchanting tale of magic and love remains.


Watch the online premiere of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from Oct 14 – 31.
All tickets $20.



Photo credit: Miami City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo © Gene Schiavone.