Ballet Stars

Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra's New Company Quickly Gains Ground in Miami

Guerra and Kronenberg rehearsing "Transparente." Photo by Patricia J. Reagan Photography, Courtesy DDTM

Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra are used to being the center of the action from their years as leading dancers at Miami City Ballet. But managing the whirl of activity at a rehearsal of their fledgling troupe, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami, is a whole other dizzying dimension—coaching ballets, fielding questions from a photographer and a dancer managing company logistics, squeezing in a quick self-coached rehearsal for themselves. Kronenberg perches on a bench as a costume designer hems her skirt, talking through schedules with Guerra before they hurl themselves into Ronald Savkovic's fraught Transparente, releasing real life tensions in choreographic drama.

After they get home and put daughter Eva, 4, to bed, they'll be emailing, making phone calls, and managing social media until after midnight.

"I didn't imagine it would be easy but wow," says Kronenberg. "It really is a test of how invested we are. Every day one of us goes 'why are we doing this?' "

But every day also reminds them why. "The reward is you watch the dancers and they grow and things come together," she adds. "It's amazing."

The couple, who retired from MCB in April 2016, have scrambled to keep up since they launched DDTM last November with an enthusiastically received Miami show. Since then they've performed at the BIG ARTS theater in Sanibel and collaborated with the Florida Grand Opera on the Cuban-themed Before Night Falls. Studio performances this spring at the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center, a leading Miami venue, have led to a main stage show with five ballets on July 8. Later this month DDTM will be featured at the Island Moving Company's Great Friends Dance Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. In September they're slated to appear at Danzar Para La Paz (Dancing for Peace), a UNICEF benefit, in Buenos Aires.

Mayrel Martinez and Maikel Hernandez in Vincente Nebrada's "Fiebre." Photo Courtesy DDTM.

"Things are moving very quickly," says Guerra. "We were so worried when we left Miami City Ballet. We didn't think so many things would happen in a year."

They've been aided by an enthusiastic network of friends, dance world contacts, and generations of MCB talent. Yanis Pikieris and Marielena Mencia, two of MCB's founding principal dancers, have provided free rehearsal space at Miami Youth Ballet, their school and studio. DDTM dancers pitch in offstage: Yanis Eric Pikieris (Pikieris and Mencia's son) has re-designed the website; Trisha Carter acts as company manger; and Chloe Freytag shoots rehearsal photos for MCB dancer Rebecca King, who's taken over social media duties while on a leave of absence from MCB. Little Eva has become a budding diva and adored mascot.

Former Miami City Ballet dancer Chloe Freytag reutrned to Miami to dance with DDTM. Photo by Patricia Reagan, Courtesy DDTM.

"We're like a big family," Guerra says. "Every morning we're like 'let's do it for the kids'."

The pair has also gotten a boost from their popularity in Miami, where they were beloved as a bi-cultural couple whose affection enriched their interpretation of ballets like Giselle and Romeo and Juliet.

Still, few thought of them as more than dancers. Among those who recognized their leadership abilities was MCB founding artistic director Edward Villella, who nominated Kronenberg to succeed him before he left in 2012. (The board of directors instead chose Lourdes Lopez.) When Kronenberg and Guerra asked their mentor's advice on starting a company, Villella told them "if anybody can do this, you two can."

The troupe's artistic identity thus far blends contemporary ballets, often from rising choreographers like former Atlanta Ballet dancer Tara Lee or MCB talent Ariel Rose, with Latino character. Guerra, and many of the dancers, are Cuban - you'll hear as much Spanish as English in rehearsal. A highlight of their upcoming South Dade show is Fiebre, by deceased Venezuelan choreographer Vicente Nebrada, set to the songs of legendary Cuban fireball La Lupe, and staged with the help of Pikieris, who is co-director of the Vicente Nebrada Foundation. Kronenberg and Guerra hope Fiebre will appeal to Miami's many Venezuelan emigres. Also on the bill is a pas de deux from Sinergia, by Luis Serrano, another Cuban MCB alum and former artistic director of Mexico's Ballet of Monterrey—featuring his ex-wife, Katia Carranza, a former MCB principal rejoining the company this season.

Stephan Fons and Sarah McCahill in "Fiebre." Photo Courtesy DDTM.

All that plays well in heavily Hispanic Miami. Spanish language network Telemundo will feature DDTM this week, and they've been invited to appear on Univision's morning show Despierta America—rare exposure for a small classical company.

Ahead of them are exciting opportunities and daunting challenges. Island Moving Company has invited DDTM to be company in residence at their festival; they're set to collaborate again with Florida Grand Opera; and they're talking with a major Florida performing arts center about a show next season. Confirmation of their non-profit status arrived this week, which will make it easier to raise money for what they hope will eventually be a 20-week season.

Meanwhile, they're scraping for sponsors, supplemented with fees from their own teaching and guest performances. South Florida has seen several independent ballet troupes start with fanfare only to fail.

But Kronenberg and Guerra are determined to continue.

"There isn't a choice," Kronenberg says. "It's like when people asked me 'why do you want to dance?' It was just something inside me I knew I had to do, despite the sacrifices – something bigger than yourself. I have the same feeling about this."

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