Miami City Ballet dancers Callie Manning and Neil Marshall in "Episodes."
Photo by Gio Alma
For Lourdes Lopez, becoming the artistic director of Miami City Ballet in 2012 was a homecoming. Though she spent her professional dance life at the New York City Ballet, she emigrated from Cuba to Miami at a young age. Miami is where Lopez first fell in love with dance, and Miami is where dance has led her.
“I think it’s a very interesting time for Miami City Ballet right now, because it’s a very interesting time for Miami,” Lopez says, the sun shining through her office window. On the wall hangs a painting of a young Lopez with her mentor, choreographer George Balanchine. A signature reads: “To my dear Mona Lisa Lourdes, with love, Leonardo Balanchine.”
Lopez met Balanchine when she was studying at the School of American Ballet as a young teenager. “At the end of the year, we would do these graduating performances, and he came in to watch the workshop rehearsal,” she says. So began a professional relationship that would inform both the type of dancer and the type of teacher she would become.
“Mr. Balanchine believed that ballet was akin to a religion. He always made us feel that we were great—not that we were great dancers, but as dancers we were already gifted, that we were already special," she says.
As a female artistic director, Lopez is, in fact, special. Of the 20 largest ballet companies in America, only two are led by women. “I’m a very lucky case,” Lopez says. “But I don’t wake up in the mornings and think, ‘I’m one of the few female artistic directors.’ I wake up thinking, ‘What am I going to do for this company?’”
Lopez put the company first when she began as artistic director in September 2012, nine months ahead of schedule. She’d been tapped to replace company founder Edward Villella at the end of the 2012-13 season. When Villella unexpectedly resigned September 4, Lopez found herself moving to Florida without her family and months early. “I couldn’t think. I had to hit the ground running,” she says.
A scene from "Don Quixote."
Photo by Joe Gato
The 2013-14 season—which will make a stop at Artis—Naples on February 26—is the first conceived and executed with Lopez at the helm. Each program is a pastiche of recent and contemporary works, ranging from ballet standards like Balanchine’s “Serenade” to reinterpretations of Broadway classics including West Side Story and Don Quixote. The season reflects Lopez’s commitment to the company’s established repertory and a desire to introduce new pieces to the dancers and the community. When it comes down to it, however, it’s not about Lopez, her dancers or the community—it’s about the discipline.
“Balanchine very much believed you left your ego at the door when you went into the theater,” she says. “You were not there for yourself. It wasn’t about you, and it wasn’t about him; it was about the art form.”
On February 26 at 8 p.m., Miami City Ballet will perform an all-Balachine program. The program will include:
Ballo Della Regina by Balanchine set to the music of Giuseppe Verdi's opera Don Carlos.
Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux by Balanchine set to an excerpt of Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Symphony, Op. 21
Five Pieces, Op. 10
Concerto, Op. 24
Variations, Op. 30
Fuga (Ricercata) in Six Voices from Bach’s Musical Offering