Miami City Ballet presents its Christmas miracle: ‘The Nutcracker in the Park’
By Orlando Taquechel
First, the great news: Miami City Ballet is offering 14 performances of “The Nutcracker” in downtown Doral Park, starting Dec. 18 until New Year’s Eve.
And now for the story behind the news: It’s a beautiful Christmas tale, with a dance company planning its return amid a devastating pandemic and a public desparate to see in-person ballet once again. Two friends support the company’s director’s vision, and an even larger group sets out to make it come true. As a happy ending, we have the miracle of an unprecedented outdoor season.
It all started with a conversation between Lourdes López, artistic director of Miami City Ballet, and Ana-Marie Codina Barlick, CEO of Codina Partners, a real estate investment and development firm.
“This endeavor is the prime example of a public-private partnership at its best,” Codina says. “Seeing everybody working seamlessly together to bring this gift to the community has been inspiring: the private sector represented by Codina Partners, the Codina Family and Knight Foundation; the arts community by Miami City Ballet; the health-care sector by Baptist Health; and the government by the City of Doral.”
López adds: “Never in my 46 years of being involved in dance, have I seen this happen. All these separate sectors, coming together to answer a call for their community.”
Q: Whose idea was creating “The Nutcracker in the Park”?
“It came from me, initially,” López says. “But in May, I had a conversation with Ana, who asked me how the company was doing and what plans I had. I told her I was trying to put together an outdoor ‘Nutcracker.’ She immediately exclaimed, ‘If you do an outdoor [version], I want it for Doral.’ In conversation with another great friend, Wendall Harrington, we were commiserating on the state of the world and the arts. I told her about my ‘Nutcracker’ idea and about Doral. She said, ‘With an LED back wall, we can project the original … set designs by Ruben Toledo onto the wall for the outdoors.’ If I hadn’t shared my idea with both of them, this might not have happened.”
Harrington, a leading theatrical projection designer, has collaborated successfully with MCB on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (2016), “The Fairy’s Kiss” (2017), “The Nutcracker” (also in 2017), and “Firebird” in February of this year.
“This will be a slightly different version than the one you see at the Arsht,” López says. “First, it’s a multimedia performance, meaning the production will have video, animation, projections, and live dancing. All of Act II will be danced live, and some sections of Act I will be live as well.
“While I don’t want to reveal too much about where the production will take place, I promise it will still be a winter holiday performance, but winter down south!”
Q: Could it be considered a concert version?
“No!! This is the full ballet, all two acts. Nothing has been taken out of the ballet. In fact, the George Balanchine Trust, which licenses his works, would never allow us to take anything out or put anything in. It’s the same music, the same choreography, the same artistic sequencing of scenes. One way to look at it is that the scenes with many participants, specifically in Act 1, won’t be live but video,” López says. “And the special effects are even more spectacular because of the LED back wall. The set designs will be projected onto the LED back wall, and they will be visible from far away because they will be larger and brighter. Those living in apartment buildings across Doral Park will be able to sit on their terrace or stick their heads out a window and will still see a wonderful, magical and live performance right from their homes! And because of animation, we can now tell more of the story of ‘Nutcracker.’ For example, we can show you how Marie and the Prince got to the Land of Sweets in Act II. And, since I know everyone wants to know, the Tree still grows!”
Q: What have you learned from this project?
“I’ve learned so, so much,” López says. “First, it’s taught me that when a work is great, it remains timeless. Concerning our dancers, school and company, I’ve learned that all of us understand the responsibility we have as artists to regularly and consistently deliver beauty and hope. We are here for no other reason than to lift the human spirit. But the most important thing I’ve learned has to do with the community, with family. This ‘Nutcracker’ is happening because a Miami community came together to provide beauty and hope to its citizens.”
Addressing the safety measures implemented, Codina describes enhanced, comprehensive health and safety protocols that “will be followed and strictly enforced to safeguard all. Daily COVID testing to our dancers, artistic staff and production crew will be provided by our health sponsor, Baptist Health South Florida. Required masks, social distancing standards, minimal to no-contact entry, and other health and safety measures in coordination with Baptist Health South Florida and local authorities will be strictly enforced for the safety of all.”
Additionally, guests will be seated in socially distanced pods, or separate sections of lawn that can accommodate a maximum of four people. Guests can select a chair module or a blanket module. In the chair sections, chairs will be provided. In the blanket sections, guests must bring their own blankets for seating.
WHAT: “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker in the Park”
WHEN: Dec. 18-31, with an opening night dedicated to and exclusively for first-responders and essential workers fighting COVID-19.
WHERE: Downtown Doral Park, 8395 NW 53rd St.
COST: All tickets are sold as pods and cost from $120-$285, depending on the section and the date. All tickets include free parking. Tickets for the opening performance on Friday, 12/18, are sold out.
INFORMATION: 305-929 – 7010; miamicityballet.org
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(Photo courtesy of Alexander Izilieav)