In a Level III class for 15- to 16-year-old girls, Pardina delivers a stream of instructions laced with flamboyant French expressions and jokes, drawing laughs even from Callaghan and Lopez, who stop in to observe. “You broke my heart!” he tells one girl. He urges them to breathe, to open up, to be more expressive. “Dancers don’t know how to tell a story anymore — that’s why people don’t go to the ballet,” he says. “It’s not ‘Yes sir, I do whatever you like.’ ”
“The job of a teacher is not to say ‘this is wrong’ but ‘here is a different way,’” Pardina says later. “All these kids have different styles and backgrounds. We don’t want to discourage them.
“It’s very exciting for me to be part of this new chapter here. It is magical to see a kid you had in school performing on stage with the company.”
Alexander, working with the most advanced girls in their upper teens, has a different style, breaking down the rhythm, separating soft and sharp qualities within a rond de jambe, a circling leg movement, that takes a fraction of a second. “For a double pirouette the rhythm is one and two,” he says, and “Plie arabesque needs to be like an elevator,” his leg raised high behind him as he sinks and rises with a seemingly effortless smoothness.
Callaghan watches the potential talent pool closely. “At this level, we look for that special joy, the passion and sparkle in their eye, students we’d like to have stay for the fall,” she says as Alexander mimics a student drifting off. “We look for attention, how quickly they pick things up.”
Alexander, who has been head of the MCB school’s faculty, and his wife and two daughters are is leaving for Plano, Texas, near where he grew up and his elderly parents; he’ll teach at a performing arts school. He is a student of Truman Finney, a renowned and influential teacher, mentor and ballet master, and his departure could mark a shift in the school’s teaching philosophy.
But Alexander said the school’s new leadership seemed ready.
“I think between Lourdes and Darleen they have a real idea of where they want to go,” he said. “It’s a process; just like building the school and the company is a process. Lourdes will expand the repertory, and I would think the school would … make dancers to fit into that.”
While Villella’s reputation and that of the company he built was a big draw for students, the current crop of aspiring young dancers seems just as eager and excited about the school. Sarah Anne Perel, 18, an advanced student from SAB, said her experience at MCB last summer brought her back this year. “I improved so much,” she said. “And I like the idea of change. And we’re all going to be looking for jobs soon, so I think change here is good.”
Her friend, fellow SAB student Dain Son, 16, admires MCB dancers like Jeanette Delgado and is excited about the company’s future. “I feel like the company is going to grow,” she says.
For the South American students, particularly the Brazilians, MCB’s growing history of dancers from their home countries remains a particular inspiration.
“It’s been my dream since I started dancing to come here,” says Gustavo Pacheco, 17, of Brazil. “The school and teachers are amazing, and all the dancers are so beautiful.”
Victoria Barros, 12, studies at the same Rio de Janeiro studio that produced the Brazilian dancers now in the company. “They became brilliant dancers here,” Barros says. “Maybe one day I can come to Miami and be a principal dancer with this company.”
Her friend Isadora Manata, 14, also from Brazil, came here in 2011 and has similar hopes. “I liked Edward a lot, and I think it’s important the company continues like that,” she says. “But I think the company continues to work really well.”