Miami City Ballet Brings Dance to the Masses in a Series of Pop-Up Performances

Miami City Ballet dancer Itzkan Barbosa.
Miami City Ballet dancer Itzkan Barbosa. Photo by Gary James
Following the success of The Nutcracker in the Park, Miami City Ballet (MCB) will present To Miami, With Love for its 2021 spring season, a series of outdoor pop-up performances inspired by the vibrancy and culture of the Magic City.

Each site-specific, one-time-only performance will feature some of Miami’s most iconic spots as backdrops and a new piece choreographed and performed by MCB dancers. From January 30 through February 21, shows will take place on Lincoln Road and at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Wynwood Walls, Palm Court in the Miami Design District, and the Underline’s Sound Stage at Brickell Backyard. (The Design District performance will feature all seven new works.)

Since the indefinite closures of the venues where the company normally performs, MCB has successfully created new opportunities for getting in front of new audiences both virtually and in person.

Last spring, in A Dance for Heroes, four dancers were filmed dancing their parts in a studio individually and then seamlessly brought together in post-production for a digital performance. In July, a Lincoln Road pop-up studio gave the dancers training space and passers-by a peek into their world. Places was an original work created for Give Miami Day in November and featured six dancers filmed performing on the Arsht Center stage to an eerily empty theater. MCB was the only ballet company in the nation that could stage live Nutcracker performances in an outdoor theater.

Although MCB has been around for 35 years, many residents may never have made the trip to see the company at the Arsht Center, let alone know it exists. Yet MCB has truly become part of the cultural fabric of the city. To Miami, With Love is an effort to reach out to Miami’s diverse and far-reaching corners to “attract new attention and new faces in the community,” says Ariel Rose, a dancer in the corps de ballet and one of the dancer-choreographers leading the project. “It reminds people that we’re here; we’re still present in the community doing what we can in an artistic way.”

These pop-ups are an enriching activity for the company, the community, and the participating dancers. For Bradley Dunlap, who's co-leading the project with Rose, this was finally his chance to try his hand at choreographing.

“I’ve wanted to [choreograph] for a while, but I found every excuse not to do it,” Dunlap explains. “But when I put my name in the hat, I knew I’d be accountable to make something. I’m so happy I did it. I’ve already gained so much out of the experience.”

He was inspired by the bustle and noise of the Underline — a project he has been eagerly anticipating — to create three short pieces set to jazz music.

Jordan-Elizabeth Long, a soloist with the company and a dancer in Dunlap’s piece, also describes it as a unique experience in her career.

“This project has allowed [the dancers] to do things they wouldn’t have done outside of this pandemic situation,” Long tells New Times. “As dancers in a company, you get into this hamster wheel. So, this was really special for me to be a part of the choreographic process.”

In all, about 25 dancers — or half the company — will be involved. There is an excitement about bringing the art form to people in their own neighborhoods and showing them different movements and various dances — some in sneakers, some in ballroom shoes, set to jazz, Latin, and other types of music. Rose, for example, wanted to incorporate Spanish culture and Latin dance styles, as well as a nod to his Peruvian heritage, into his piece.

Just as the diversity and warmth of the Magic City have left a lasting impression on each artist, they hope they reflect that back to the neighborhoods and the spectators through choreography, music, and dancing.

Even Itzkan Barbosa, who's in her second season with the company, can feel the city's spirit.

“Moving from New York, I think the moment I came off the plane, I felt like I was meant to be here," she says. "There’s a positive energy around the whole city.”

To Miami, With Love. Saturday, January 30, through Sunday, February 21, at various locations; Performances can be streamed free of charge via MCB’s social-media channels starting March 8.
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