When Lourdes Lopez arrived at Miami City Ballet last fall to become its new artistic director, she barely had time to sleep, much less think about what was next.
It was a terrifying September, Lopez says. Its a gulp moment can I do this?
But she and the company plunged ahead, and have come more than halfway through the season in good shape. Now MCB has announced its 2013-14 season, the first concrete indication of Lopezs artistic vision.
New to the company and Miami are works by famed contemporary ballet choreographers Christopher Wheeldon and Nacho Duato; West Side Story Suite, a distillation of the classic Jerome Robbins musical; and Episodes, one of George Balanchines most adventurous ballets.
Executive director Daniel Hagerty, who also came aboard last fall, says the new season is key to a broader plan for bolstering Miami City Ballets profile and financial stability and leaving behind last years controversy over the departure of founder Edward Villella.
The troupe received a $5 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for its endowment, ticket sales are up modestly, the dancers are performing well, and marketing efforts like a splashy photo campaign showing MCB ballerinas with Miami Heat stars are drawing attention. On Friday, Darleen Callaghan takes over as director for the troupes school, relieving Lopez of that responsibility.
At just under $14.1 million, next years budget is only 2.5 percent higher than this years, but Hagerty hopes new fundraising campaigns like one that lets people become members for just $50 or $100 a year, a larger and more involved board and more collaborations with other arts groups will boost MCBs community standing and bottom line.
Lourdes has talked about wanting and needing to embrace and reflect the community, and I want that to be reflected in our giving program, Hagerty says.
For Lopez, her first time planning a season for a major ballet troupe was like a Rubiks cube. Its not like you have a bunch of ballets in a jar and you pull them out. You think I would love to do this, but then you think what dancers do I have, and then you put the pieces together and theyre all sad, or they all have blue lighting. Then you realize this doesnt go with that, or youve got the orchestra for the first half of the evening but not the rest it was really an unbelievable lesson for me.
While Lopez and other company leaders are eager for her to make her stamp on MCB, the 2013-14 program is not a major departure from the past. Balanchine, who was mentor to Lopez as well as Villella at New York City Ballet, remains a staple. And neither Wheeldon (whose pas de deux Liturgy is already in the troupes repertory) nor Duato should be difficult for MCB dancers and audiences.
My intent has never been to turn this company upside down, Lopez says. I do want to keep the lineage.
One reason she chose Polyphonia, a 2001 ballet that was a breakthrough hit for Wheeldon, was the connection she saw with Balanchines modernist masterwork Agon.
For a company that dances so much Balanchine I thought it was important to ask whats the next step, whats the evolution of that? Lopez says. Theyre both very abstract, but architectural.