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The 11 Greatest Moments in Arsht Center History

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Ten years ago, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County opened its doors for the first time. This weekend, the venue will host a massive party to celebrate. To commemorate its tenth anniversary, the Arsht plans to show off why its has become a major home for the performing arts in the community by inviting locals to an all-day birthday party this Saturday, October 8.

The bash will include performances, activities, and family-friendly programming beginning at 11 a.m. and continuing into the late evening. The highlight of the day will be a concert starring local favorites Spam Allstars and Tiempo Libre, along with CeeLo Green as the main headliner. 

To celebrate what has been a tremendous ten years for the Arsht Center, New Times asked its staff to offer their memories since opening in 2006. Here is what they recalled as their fondest. 
1. Grand Opening – Oct 5 through 8, 2006

The Arsht's grand opening took place over four days and included performances by José Carreras, Gloria Estefan, Andy Garcia, Harvey Fierstein, Bernadette Peters, and the center’s resident companies, among others. Basically, the place wasn't messing around. The celebration weekend culminated with a free all-day festival, running from noon to midnight, with musical performances in styles such as gospel, calypso, samba, and hip-hop — a tribute to the diverse cultures from around the world that make Miami a unique city for the performing arts.

2. Fuerza Bruta – Summer 2009

With this "Burning Man meets Cirque du Soleil"-style show, the Arsht brought a truly outside-the-box event to Miami — a unique, immersive experience that appealed to audiences young and old. Due to critical acclaim and popular demand, the show was extended twice and broke the house record for the longest-running show at the venue, an Arsht spokesperson says.

3. Disney’s The Lion King – May 15 through June 10, 2012

The story of Simba's rise to royalty, one of Broadway’s biggest blockbusters, made its Miami premiere at the Arsht in 2012. Based on the classic Disney movie, the show ran for almost an entire month with multiple sold-out performances. Giving special local relevance to the show, the cast included a leading role by Miami native and Palmetto Senior High School graduate Syndee Winters, who played the lioness Nala.
4. Presidential Inauguration Celebration and Community Event – January 2009

As part of its mission to serve as Miami’s town square, the Arsht Center has often hosted community events throughout the past decade. Perhaps the biggest of them was a watch party for President Barack Obama's historic inauguration in 2009. The venue invited the Miami community for a live simulcast of the inauguration celebrations in Washington, D.C., accented by performances by local high-school choirs and marching bands, as well as poetry readings. The center's Knight Concert Hall was packed to capacity.

5. Morrissey – May 31, 2014

The king of mope gave a rare performance inside the Knight Concert Hall — which sold out in almost one day, the Arsht reports. Fans got to see the iconic and influential singer-songwriter perform songs ranging from his hits with the Smiths to his most recent releases. 

6. Inaugural Rock Odyssey – Spring 2010

Designed for fifth-grade students and produced by the Arsht Center, Rock Odyssey is an innovative spin on the Homer classic that chronicles Odysseus’ epic journey in an accessible and theatrical rock opera style. It's part of Arsht's Learning Through the Arts program, which uses live theatrical performances as the primary path for learning traditional subjects. Each year, 25,000 students — every fifth-grader in the county — shares this experience for free. To date, approximately 175,000 Miami-Dade County Public Schools students have enjoyed this show, according to the Arsht.

7. Miami City Ballet premieres Nightspot – April 2008

Nightspot put a Miami spin on ballet, transforming the Ziff Ballet Opera House stage into a nightclub starring dancers from one of the world’s finest dance companies, our very own Miami City Ballet. The piece was choreographed by Twyla Tharp to a commissioned score by Elvis Costello – and both attended the opening, to massive appreciation from the crowd.

8. Awakening, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – February 18, 2016

Robert Battle, the Miami-born choreographer who became the director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2011, premiered his first new work since taking the helm of the prestigious troupe. The piece was ritualistic and powerful and resonated with Miami audiences, Arsht staffers recall — which is why the Arsht included it as one of ten pieces commissioned for its tenth-anniversary season.

9. Florida Grand Opera’s The Passenger – April 2016

The Passenger, based in part on a Polish radio play by a concentration camp survivor, has been acclaimed as one of opera's greatest masterpieces of the 20th Century. Thanks to the Arhst, Miami was one of just a few cities that was able to witness the show. One of the most impressive aspects was the set design, constructed in two tiers depicting both a giant ocean liner and an Auschwitz camp in only a few feet of space.

10. New World Symphony, Pinchas Zukerman, and Michael Tilson Thomas – October 25, 2015

New World Symphony artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas welcomed legendary violinist/violist Pinchas Zukerman as a featured soloist, accompanied by America’s Orchestral Academy, for this performance of Copland and Beethoven works — highlighting the Knight Concert Hall’s ability to magnify the most spectacularly played orchestral music, staffers say.

11. 10th Anniversary Gala Concert – April 21, 2016

This weekend won't be the first time the Arsht has celebrated its decade in operation. The venue's 10th Anniversary Season Gala this past April paid tribute to its name benefactor, Adrienne Arsht. Bravo’s Andy Cohen hosted a live concert with performances by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Arturo Sandoval, Michael Feinstein, Estelle, Darren Criss, Jon Secada, Nova Payton, Stephanie J. Block, Florida Grand Opera, Miami Mass Choir, and the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra with Shelly Berg. 

Arsht's 10th Birthday Party
Saturday, October 8, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Most events are free; tickets to the final concert headlined by CeeLo Green cost $10. Visit www.arshtcenter.org. 

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