You'd think that giving the job of the Miami City Ballet director to a Cuban-born, Miami-raised, seasoned dance pro would be just about the least controversial move a South Florida arts organization could make. But you'd be wrong.
Miami City Ballet named Lourdes Lopez as the successor to Edward Villella, company founder and director who will leave the company at the end of this season amid rumors that he'd been forced out by board members and donors. Villella is also on record in support of Jennifer Kronenberg, an MCB-bred dancer who's spent her entire career in Miami, as his successor.
That means Lopez already has a lot of work to do -- both in preparing herself for her new position, and for the inevitable pushback from Villella loyalists at the company.
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Lopez, 53, was raised in Miami, but made a name for herself as a dancer in New York City, where she danced with the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine. (Balanchine's style has also historically been heavily influential at Miami City Ballet.) Later, she founded her own dance company, Morphoses, in New York, and has served as its director up until now.
That Lopez has chops is undeniable. Though her official start date at MCB isn't until May 1, 2013, more than a year away, she told the New York Times that she already has choreographers in mind for her inaugural season with the company. She's stated that she wants to focus on involving new choreographers, and possibly also establish a partnership between MCB and Morphoses. And her plans also include more touring in Europe and Latin America -- a savvy move, after the enthusiastic reception MCB received during a Paris tour this July.
Still, some are likely to see her as an outsider, which is a bizarre twist on the typical career trajectory of the Miami artist: Grow up here, leave for New York or L.A. to establish your success, then (if you're one of the loyal ones) bring it home to the applause of the 305 community. After months of drama and hand-wringing over the MCB directorship and the fate of the MCB itself, we're hoping the opposition to Lopez doesn't last too long so we can get back to focusing on how great Miami City Ballet is to begin with.