Leigh-Ann Esty

Behind the Lens with Leigh-Ann Esty: The Nutcracker

Post by Leigh-Ann Esty, Corps de Ballet

As a professional ballet dancer, my life is very busy. I am always learning new techniques, rehearsing five different ballets at a time, and traveling to different places every weekend. However, there is one thing about my crazy life that always stays the same…The Nutcracker. It comes once a year, EVERY year! When we begin to perform The Nutcracker, it means that the holiday season has begun. It is one of my favorite times of year! I began to photograph this ballet about three years ago. The colors are so vibrant in this production, which helps the photographs to be quite visually pleasing. There are five different parts of The Nutcracker that are my favorite to watch and photograph as well.

My first favorite part in The Nutcracker is the snow scene. This is such a magical moment in the ballet. Little pieces of white paper fall onto the stage, portraying the illusion of a blustery snow-covered forest. As the dancers jump around, “snow” is kicked into the air. Then, all of a sudden, the whole group of dancers run to the corner and stop abruptly, folding in half. Just when you think they are done, they start up again, shaking their pom poms that look like snow balls. I love the dramatics of this part! The music and choreography fit perfectly together.

In the second half of The Nutcracker, there are a number of divertissements. These act as entertainment in the Land of the Sweets. One of my favorites is the Candy Cane dance. The male lead in this has a very impressive part. He performs all of these tricks while jumping through a hoolahoop! It is quite exciting! I also love this music. It really gets me into the holiday spirit!

My all time favorite dance in The Nutcracker is the dance of the Dew Drop in Waltz of the Flowers. Her choreography is so musical and fluid. She gets to fly and spin across the stage. I get chills every time I watch this part, especially at the end when the music builds and explodes into a burst of energy. This is a dream role of mine!

Nutcracker would not be the same if it weren’t for the children. In this production, there are over 60 kids that get to participate. I love seeing their joy and excitement. It makes me remember when I was just starting out as a ballet dancer. My first role in The Nutcracker was a pollychenell. I will never forget feeling tears of joy every time I ran out from Mother Commedia’s skirt to bow. Now when I see the kids smile and beam on stage, I know exactly how they are feeling!

Click here to see Leigh’s Behind-the-Scenes of Nutcracker album on Facebook.

Click here to check out Leigh’s website.

Photos: Miami City Ballet dancers in George Balanchine’s The NutcrackerTM.  Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust. Photo © Leigh-Ann Esty.

The Scotch Girl

You may have seen Leigh-Ann Esty front and center during Program III in George Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony as the “Scotch Girl” soloist. If you haven’t seen her, you won’t want to miss this diverse program which includes Paul Taylor’s Promethean Fire and Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs. And Leigh dances in all three pieces!

We recently chatted with Leigh about the experience of dancing a featured role and dancing in these three, very different works.

Leigh’s View of Program II

Post by Leigh-Ann Esty, Corps de Ballet

I am so thrilled to be sharing more photos with the MCB family! It has been such a pleasure taking photos of Program II. I love how each new ballet presents new challenges to me as a photographer. It is neat to be able to dance the ballets and then shoot them with my camera. I hope you enjoy the latest photos I have taken!

The first two pictures are of La Sonnambula. I love this ballet. I really enjoyed taking photographs of it because of the lighting. The set is darker than a usual Balanchine ballet, so there were a lot of shadows cast on the dancers. It made for an artsy feel to the photographs, not to mention a little creepy!

Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra dance La Sonnambula. I love this moment because it is the first time we see the sleepwalker. Her presence is haunting and mysterious. I love how she floats like a ghost and captures your attention for the entirety of her dance.

Callie Manning and Carlos Guerra in La Sonnambula. Callie plays the intriguing character of the Coquette. I would love to dance this role someday! The music and flirtatious choreography would be a fun challenge.

The next photo is of Diana and Actaeon. Mary Carmen Catoya and Kleber Rebello star in this beautiful pas de duex that Edward Villella once danced himself. It was so nice to see one of our most prized principal ladies (Catoya) paired with an up and coming young talent (Rebello). Their chemistry was delightful! I liked taking photos of this because both of these dancers have such beautiful lines and make such gorgeous positions that they like to balance in. It is such a joy for the photographer when this happens, because it makes for a more exciting and beautiful picture!

The next few pictures are of the company premier Baker’s Dozen by Twyla Tharp. This is one of the most enjoyable pieces I have watched our company do. I love how it is chill and jazzy. I actually have the pleasure of dancing this piece as well! It is so fun for me to take pictures of a piece that I also dance in, because I know the exact timing of a good picture. It feels like I am cheating sometimes when people ask, “How did you know when to take that picture?” It is pretty sweet having an insider’s look at the piece, learning it well, then being able to capture it on film. I love it!

Patricia Delgado and Renato Penteado dance as the 4th couple in Baker's Dozen. Their duet is fun and spunky, always playing around with each other like old buddies.

Bradley Dunlap tosses Sara Esty into the air for an exciting suspension in Baker's Dozen. I loved capturing this moment!

Yang Zou, Jennifer Kronenberg, Carlos Guerra, Haiyan Wu, and Renato Penteado in Baker's Dozen. This group has some fun energy between them, throwing inside jokes around between steps. This happens a lot in this piece, which makes it so fun to watch for details.

Isanusi Garcia Rodriguez leans on Bradley Dunlap as he jumps into the air, forming a perfect diagonal all the way down to Sara Esty's finger tips. I LOVE this photo! It has such appealing aspects to it. It's neat to see shapes being formed through movement.

The last few photos are of George Balanchine’s Western Symphony, a huge crowd pleaser! I love this ballet! It is so fun to dance, especially the finale where everyone is turning at once. It creates such an exciting atmosphere for the audience.

The corps of Miami City Ballet in the first movement of Western Symphony. This is one of my favorite movements!

Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra lead the first movement.

It's so cute to see a married couple dance together. The chemistry is fun to watch!

Well, that about sums up my favorite photos. I find myself super lucky to have opportunities to take pictures of such beautiful artists. This program is quite enjoyable to watch. There is such a mix of different choreography that I find it pleasing for all sorts of audiences.

Behind The Nutcracker with Leigh-Ann Esty

We are two weeks into our Nutcracker run, which started off in Naples on November 26. Leigh-Ann Esty took the Flip camera with her across Alligator Alley and gave us a glimpse into the backstage happening at the Naples Philharmonic Center.

MCB will perform George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ this weekend at Broward Center and December 17-19 & 21-23 at Adrienne Arsht Center.

Bugaku Girl Talk

Wigs, robes, tutus, and bikinis in a dressing room can only mean one thing: Bugaku! The Company is performing this George Balanchine piece in Program I of the 25th Anniversary Season which opens today! Sara Esty, Zoe Zien, Ashley Knox, and Leigh-Ann Esty had a chat about what it’s like to dance in the corps of this erotic ballet, and who was present during rehearsals.

Don’t miss the first program of the most exciting season yet, which also includes Jerome Robbins’ Fanfare and George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations.

On the other side of the camera

Post by Leigh-Ann Esty

I have been dancing with Miami City Ballet for five seasons. Two of those seasons have been dually dedicated to capturing photographs of the company. This became an interest of mine when I saw a few other company members taking pictures of performances backstage with professional cameras. As a flourishing photographer, I thought it would be cool to expand my skills and take a shot at action photos. I began by purchasing a sports lens for my SLR camera, and started bringing it to work. It was difficult at first, but I soon found my groove. Now, whenever we have a dress rehearsal, I am out in the theater snapping away … that is, when I’m not dancing. Even when I am dancing, every chance I get I sneak out front to take some photos. I find a great deal of importance in what I am doing. As dancers we rarely see photos of ourselves doing what we love, and I think it is important to be able to realize how cool our jobs are! I do have to say I may be cheating a little. You see, I usually know when the exact timing is for the perfect ballet photo. How? I usually know the ballets I am shooting. That’s the beauty of photographing something you are so well trained in!

MCB dancers in Dances at a Gathering. Photo © Leigh-Ann Esty.

MCB dancers in Dances at a Gathering. Photo © Leigh-Ann Esty.

Rolando Sarabia and Patricia Delgado in Who Cares?. Choreography by George Balanchine. © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Leigh-Ann Esty.

MCB dancers in Who Cares? Choreography by George Balanchine. © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Leigh-Ann Esty.

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!

Love Series – Leigh-Ann and Bradley

Leigh and Brad, sitting in a tree! In our second installment of the Love Series, Leigh-Ann Esty and Bradley Dunlap, both corps de ballet members, talk about life outside of the Company and play our question game. Will they get them all right?

Cupid’s aim was on the money when he hit Kristin D’Addario, corps de ballet member, and Peter Doll, former MCB dancer and current Assistant Stage Manager. They are another young, fun couple who met and fell in love at Miami City Ballet.

Leigh takes you to Chicago – plus Stephen’s exciting experience

Post by Leigh-Ann Esty

Hello everyone! It’s Leigh Esty back with another video installment of Miami City Ballet on tour–this time we traveled to Chicago! I’ll take you from hot Miami weather to chilly temps in the Windy City! You’ll see excerpts of performances, rehearsals and backstage action. Chicago welcomed us with open arms, blessing us with grand applause, full houses and wonderful reviews. This tour was full of exciting moments! Principal Dancer Patricia Delgado got her hands on the Flip and added her commentary during backstage activities. Two of our corps members danced new roles! To say the least, this tour was quite eventful. I hope you enjoy my video journal as much as we enjoyed Chicago!

Stephen Satterfield, MCB Corps de Ballet, had the opportunity to dance a principal role in Symphony in Three Movements on the Chicago tour. Check out this video about his experience.

With the support of the Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.