When former Miami City Ballet prima ballerina, Mary Carmen Catoya, debuts as Arts Ballet Theatre (ABT) of Florida’s principal dancer, it will be a double reunion of sorts. Years ago, she danced with ABT’s guest choreographer, Alberto Méndez, in his work Tarde en la Siesta. “I did many ballets with him,” she says, including dancing the part of the youngest sister in Tarde en la Siesta. Catoya was 14 years old then and dancing in her native Venezuela with Ballet Nacional de Caracas.
Although the piece will be performed when ABT opens its season on Saturday with “Ballets With Latin Flavor,” Catoya will not be part of Tarde this time around. But there are plenty of other opportunities to see her.
She has also reunited with ABT’s artistic director and ballet master, Vladimir Issaev, whom she considers a mentor. While a young ballerina at the Ballet Nacional de Caracas, she was coached by Issaev. “My passion and my love is dance, and it’s wonderful to continue this chapter of my career with my former teacher,” says Catoya, who adds that working with Issaev is different now because she has “maturity and patience. Now I want to take everything that life has given me and apply it.”
No show featuring Catoya is complete without seeing her dance Kitri in Don Quixote — a role that has become her signature. She danced the part to great acclaim when Miami City Ballet became the first resident company during the inaugural year of the then Carnival Center for the Performing Arts (now the Arsht Center) in 2006 and in other MCB seasons, and has performed the work many times throughout her career.
In the ABT opener, however, audiences will not see her dance a full-length Don Quixote. No matter how many times she’s danced the role, though, she says that she “always finds a new detail. There’s always a challenge, working with different dancers, and when you have that opportunity, it’s amazing.”
There also will be a first for Catoya in the Grand Pas of Laurencia, a classical repertoire piece that ABT claims is rarely seen in the United States. The ballet, by Vakhtang Chabukiani to music by Alexander Crain, is based on Spanish playwright’s Lope de Vega's Fuente Ovenjuna, an early 17th-century play about a village uprising in 1476. “When I was very little, I would hear always that ‘one day you could dance the part of Laurencia.’ And this is the first time I am.”
The mood switches to modern for Alberto Méndez’s piece Eros’ Game, formerly titled Suite Generis. “I decided to change it a bit and I changed the choreography, too, so I gave it a new name,” says the choreographer. The Pas de Trois features Catoya with two male dancers, Ramil Bagmanov and Alexei Minkin, in what Méndez says is a ballet with “no story, just suggestions.” The ballet — named after the god of love in Greek mythology — is danced to the music of George Frideric Handel and Franz Joseph Haydn.
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Catoya explains that what’s most integral to the piece is the connection of the three dancers and the connection they create with the audience. “It has a different quality to it. You have to use every part of your body — your eyes, your eyelashes, there’s no part of your body that you don’t use. I have discovered different muscles. When you are doing classical you have to remember, ‘I have this muscle,’ but for this piece you have to use every muscle in your body.”
– Michelle F. Solomon, artburstmiami.com
“Ballets With Latin Flavor"
Saturday, October 10, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 11, at 3 p.m. at Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St., Aventura. Tickets $30; 305-466-8002; aventuracenter.org. Additional performances on Saturday, October 17, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, October 18, at 3 p.m. at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Amaturo Theater, 201 SW Fifth Avenue, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets $30; 954-462-0222; browardcenter.org. More information at 305-935-3232 or artsballettheatre.org.