Lopez in Circus Polka. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB.

When Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, she missed her opportunity to honor Jerome Robbins onstage. "Every time there was a celebration for Jerry, I was either injured or had just retired," says Lopez. "I was never able to publicly thank him onstage for all that he taught us and the beauty he left us."

But when Lopez was planning MCB's Jerome Robbins Celebration for the 100th anniversary of the legend's birth, she saw an opportunity. She asked the Robbins Trust to allow her to perform the Ringmaster in Robbins' Circus Polka, a role the choreographer originated himself.

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Artwork by Ruben Toledo, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

After nearly three decades at Miami City Ballet, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker demanded a makeover. Costumes and scenery, as artistic director Lourdes Lopez admits, were faded and frayed. To do justice to such a beloved ballet, she has partnered with The Music Center for a new production to debut in Los Angeles this December before brightening South Florida theaters.

Lopez entrusted husband-and-wife artistic team Isabel and Ruben Toledo with bringing The Nutcracker into high definition, drawn by both their sense of classicism and innovative creativity. The Cuban-American couple may work in different media—Isabel is a fashion designer, Ruben as a visual artist—yet as collaborators they flourish in stage work.

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It's International Women's Day! To celebrate, we combed our archives for career advice and wisdom from some of the women currently directing ballet companies. Let their words empower and inspire you, today and always.

Julie Kent working with students at ABT, photo by Rosalie O’Connor

"You don’t become a ballerina in one show or one season or one week. It’s a journey. You work towards the goal and the harder you work, the bar raises. And then over a period of time, you’re able to look back to see where you came from."

–The Washington Ballet's Julie Kent on the importance of patience

Lourdes Lopez teaching at the MCB School, photo by Daniel Azoulay

"You have to embrace new technology. It’s a no-brainer, but you have to figure out how to use it. People think of ballet as fragile. I completely disagree. I think it’s actually very powerful in terms of a transformational art form. Look how long it’s survived with all the issues and agendas—political, scientific, social and economic. I’m a believer that you can live-stream dance into a bar or restaurant or stadium or a parking lot. It’s not going to diminish the art form.

-Miami City Ballet's Lourdes Lopez on the future of ballet

“The ideal is something you use as your compass, but it’s not actually possible to attain...Polish your strengths so they’re the center of attention, and know what can and can’t be done to change your weaknesses.”

–Dance Theatre of Harlem's Virginia Johnson on fighting perfectionism and gaining confidence

Virginia Johnson at DTH, photo by Quinn Wharton

"It’s not just about being too big. I don’t want rail-thin people, either. Trying to keep women like little girls is a power move, albeit sometimes not a conscious one. I don’t want a company where everyone is the same height or has the same instep. I don’t think that’s very American."

–Ballet Memphis' Dorothy Gunther Pugh on body type in the ballet world

“I look for commitment and openness. You can keep learning through your entire career, and there are always new ways of looking at things...The spirit of a dancer and their versatility is more important to me than whether they have perfect legs and feet.”

–National Ballet of Canada's Karen Kain on what she looks for in dancers

 

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