By Roberto Santiago
Did Miami City Ballet take Paris by storm when it made its three-week debut this summer in the City of Light at the famed Théâtre du Châtelet?
The international press says it all:
· “Miami City Ballet is pulling off some of the most refreshing performances ever seen in Paris. An unprecedented undertaking for the company’s founder and director, former Balanchine star Edward Villella. The audience’s reaction has been rapturous.”
§ The Financial Times (of London)
July 15, 2011
· [Miami City Ballet has] wowed discerning Parisian audiences and critics during the company’s first tour at the venerable Théâtre du Châtelet.”
§ The New York Daily News
July 27, 2011
· “The toast of Paris! Regular standing (even screaming) ovations from sold-out audiences filling the 2,500 seat theatre.
§ The Miami Herald
July 17, 2011
· “Miami City Ballet gives goosebumps to fans of dance.”
§ Le Monde
July 14, 2011
Miami City Ballet was the only company appearing in the Théâtre du Châtelet’s seventh annual Les Étés de la Danse festival July 6-23, 2011 which, in years past, has hosted The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The National Ballet of Cuba, The San Francisco Ballet and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Miami City Ballet’s debut in Paris was a top grosser for the Théâtre du Châtelet. Ticket sales exceeded more than 95 percent, with most shows completely sold out, for each of Miami City Ballet’s 17 performances.
This enormous success has earned the company an invitation to perform in Paris again in July 2014.
But most satisfying is that Miami City Ballet won over the very critical Paris dance audiences and critics — who rewarded the company with nightly standing ovations up to 10 minutes long!
“Miami City Ballet is dancing like the New York City Ballet was dancing under [George] Balanchine. They are dancing a living Balanchine,’’ Valéry Colin, Director of the annual Les Étés de la Danse festival told the New York Daily News.
Elisabeth Platel, Director of the Paris Opera Ballet school, told The Miami Herald: “ [Paris] audiences are very demanding because they have a lot of choices and they know a lot of different companies. [MCB has] a different way of dancing from what we are doing in Paris … and the energy given by the dancers is great.”
The Paris Visitors and Convention Bureau described Miami City Ballet as “one of the rare troupes to be able to rival the NYCB and the American Ballet Theatre.”
It was an exhausting, but satisfying schedule for the 50 dancers from Miami who danced 14 different works by Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp and Christopher Wheeldon in those three weeks.
Corps member Rebecca King was one of the many dancers who were blogging about the “Miami City Ballet in Paris” experience for websites such as www.miamicityballet.org, www.miami.com, www.artburstmiami.com, www.miamiartzine.com, and www.consulfrance-miami.org.
In www.artburstmiami.com, King described the July 6 opening night as follows:
“Opening night in Paris was everything I thought it would be… and more. As the curtain rose on the first ballet, you could feel the excitement in the air; the night we had been waiting for had finally arrived. As always, despite nerves and anticipation, you could tell that everyone was having a wonderful time on the stage. The evening ended with spectacularly beautiful piece known as Ballet Imperial. The finale is especially exciting, as the entire cast of dancers move together in perfect unison.
Our last curtain call of the evening was the longest any of us could remember. It was such an amazing moment; I will never forget it.
When the curtain fell for the final time, a rush of emotion hit us all. We had just done it! We had just debuted in France; we were now international dancers. Everyone was embracing, crying tears of joy, and congratulating each other on a successful opening night performance in Paris. I felt so proud to be a part of this exceptional group of dancers.
Parisians and tourists who had never seen Miami City Ballet before – including an artist from Fort Lauderdale – left highly impressed.
“Attending performances of Miami City Ballet was one of the highlights of my trip to Paris this summer,” said famed pop up book artist, Chuck Fischer, a Fort Lauderdale resident. “Who knew I’d have to fly across the pond to first experience this world-class ballet company. I’m looking forward to their upcoming season at the Broward Center!”
Paul Livant and his wife, Eileen, of Brooklyn, New York, were especially moved: “It was one of the cultural highlights of our three weeks in France. It was extraordinarily moving for me to see an American dance company - that had perfected one of France’s highest arts - performing in one of its most beautiful and historic theatres.”
The entire experience was a perfect cap to Miami City Ballet’s 25th Anniversary Season in South Florida. Those who were fortunate enough to spend three amazing weeks in Paris, courtesy of Les Étés de la Danse festival, consisted of 50 dancers, 18 members of the artistic and production staff, its musical conductor and pianist, three physical therapists, and myself - its public relations manager.
We stayed at the Marriott Rive Gauche, got to the theatre using our bus and Metro passes, dined at local brasseries and cafes, and enjoyed the huge cultural offerings of Paris, from its world-class museums to late night group outings at clubs like the Moulin Rouge.
In addition to the overwhelming international television, radio, magazine and newspaper coverage, we also drew attention from the French government.
Miami City Ballet was the guest of honor at a private reception hosted by French Minister of Culture Frédéric Mitterand who addressed a group of VIPS hours before opening night:
“It is you, Edward Villella, the most unforgettable interpreter of Balanchine, a star of New York City Ballet, who proved that perfection in American dancers is not just a New York City affair. Your company, Miami City Ballet, is one of the best in the United States and Miami City Ballet School adds to the company’s international reputation. Your presence here honors us. ”
But nothing equaled closing night on July 23. As dancer Rebecca King wrote in Artburstmiami:
“Miami City Ballet’s Paris tour is over. It seems as if it went by in the blink of an eye.
Three weeks, 14 ballets, 17 shows, amazing audiences and packed houses every night. There were lines out the door and around the corner for last minute tickets for our final shows. Miami City Ballet really was the talk of Paris.
Saturday night brought our final Parisian show, stirring up a mass of emotions, beginning in the morning as our Artistic Director, Edward Villella, spoke to the dancers. He reiterated the pride he felt as he watched us dance from the audience every night. He was chocked up as he said, “I love you guys. I am the proudest guy in this whole place.”
The tour ended as it began, with George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial. Even after the way Paris reacted to this piece on opening night, we never could have imagined the reception that it would receive on the last. The sold out audience rose for a standing ovation that lasted over 10 minutes.
After we finished bowing, the staff and the rest of the company joined the cast on stage for a final bow. As we looked into the audience, confetti fell from the ceiling and the festival unfurled a banner above the stage that read, “See you soon in Paris.”
Tears were shed and hugs were shared as the lights were brought up in the audience. There we stood, staring our new Parisian fans in the face. We clapped for them, as they clapped for us. It was such a surreal moment.
Inevitably, the final curtain had to fall. As we were separated from our audience for the last time, the audience waved at us, and we waved back.”
Edward Villella said: “I will be 75 on October 1st. “This is the most incredible night of my entire 75 years!”
Enjoy videos of the “Miami City Ballet in Paris” experience:
Miami City Ballet’s Zoe Zien: The Paris Video Blogs on miamicityballet.org
Pointe Magazine “Miami City Ballet in Paris” by Rebecca King : http://dancemedia.com/v/5674
And the show goes on….
Miami City Ballet’s 2011-2012 season opens October 21-23, 2011 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. The opening weekend features four ballets that were performed this summer at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris - including Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, which earned screaming, 10 minute standing ovations every time it was performed.
Full information on the ballets can be found by going on our Miami City Ballet’s website: www.miamicityballet.org/performances.php.
Tickets can be ordered online or by calling 305-929-7010
The 2011-2012 season also features world premiere ballets by two of the world’s best ballet choreographers -The Royal Ballet’s Liam Scarlett (on January 6, 2012) and American Ballet Theatre’s Alexei Ratmansky (on March 1, 2012).
And this October 2011, PBS Thirteen’s Great Performances Dance In America: "Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine & Tharp" - a 90 minute TV special - airs nation-wide on all PBS stations on Friday, October 28, 2011 at 9 pm. (in South Florida on WPBT Channel 2). For a sneak preview click on this link: