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.