Dance

Mainly Mozart Festival ends season with help from Miami City Ballet dancers at Arsht Center

Posted By Guillermo Perez
June 24, 2019 at 2:37 PM

Celebrating the capital of France as a bastion for the creative spirit, the 26th edition of the Mainly Mozart Festival will close with a special collaboration across the arts. “Rehearsal in Paris” brings together music, dance and film to pay tribute to a city that has enriched our cultural heritage by sparking the imagination of artists — natives and foreigners alike — throughout generations. The show will take place Saturday, June 29, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.

For festival director Marina Radiushina, the final show of a weeks-long series of presentations has the right range of vision to fire up a large and diverse audience. “It seems to me we’ve put our finger on something really worthwhile,” she says. “There’s interest in combining different genres, and in the past this has been very well received by critics and the public.”

While aiming to draw more spectators and support interaction in the arts — always a dire need, according to the director — Radiushina also feels a personal connection to this year’s theme and the continuing inclusion of dance at the festival. As a child in the Ukraine, following an early call to music, she took private piano lessons in an old building in Odessa, climbing up creaky stairs to her teacher’s floor. Twin doors greeted her there: From one, flourishes on the keyboard streamed out. Into the other, a parade of girls kept entering, sprightly with their turned-out gait.

“I was fascinated to see them wearing their ballet outfits and walking in such a particular way,” recalls Radiushina, who was inspired enough to explore that other art form. And although music still won her heart as a professional pursuit, her fondness for ballet has never left her. 

Years have gone by, with Radiushina touring the world as a concert pianist. That’s how she found herself one day playing in a Paris theater where Stravinsky premiered many of his works in the early 20th century, a heady time of artistic exchange and innovation. Reliving that experience onstage still thrills the director, who hopes to share the enchantment of place with festivalgoers. 

In fact, Radiushina points out that the music for the closing show, a selection from Alexander Borodin’s opera “Prince Igor,” came to Paris via Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, which highlights the cultural connection. This will be performed by the director on piano, Thomas Mesa on cello, Cassia Drake on viola and Mei Mei Luo on violin along with soprano Alisa Jordheim. Other music, mostly by French composers, completes the program. Award-winning filmmaker Ali Habashi will heighten the impression of Paris as a dream with his footage as a virtual setting.

It’s up to a trio of closely committed friends, dancers from Miami City Ballet, to put breath and brawn into the proceedings. According to choreographer Eric Trope, a corps member in the company, working with principal dancer Alexander Peters and soloist Ashley Knox, has been a blessing. 

“Of course, they have incredible technical skills and are amazingly fast learners,” says Trope, recognizing those essentials for success in their home company. “But it’s also very inspiring to know Alex and Ashley on a personal level. Everything works better because the three of us always feel OK to speak up, and we want to see each other succeed.”

The intimacy of colleagues who might go on to have dinner together doesn’t just make communication in the studio easier, but allows creative ideas to ripple beyond. And, Trope discloses, this relationship also came to inform his choreographic concept. 

“In part, I want to show who Alex and Ashley are today,” he says, suggesting that every day in the studio, from ballet barre exercises to rehearsals, dancers have to bring authenticity both to an old tradition and to their current selves. 

Aware of the historical weight of the theme and music that came with his assignment, the 29-year old choreographer aims to honor this with a contemporary sensibility. Relying on his familiarity with the dancers, he will start off portraying them in the process of creation, casual in practice clothes while exploring movement and accommodating to each other. 

Later, they return to dance a classical pas de deux in full costume — the design also a product of the buddy system, having been sketched by Knox and executed by Miami City Ballet principal soloist Emily Bromberg’s mother, Freda. In this section, Trope plays with balances and displays mutual support beyond rigid ballet conventions, the better to meet our more liberated gender expectations. 

In a way, the choreographer’s look at dance from a questioning perspective can be traced back to Trope as the kid who wanted to do his own thing even back in beginners’ class. In time, he would absorb the discipline of his art form at the School of American Ballet and other training institutions, but his impulse as a creator endured, two years ago opening the door of the prestigious New York Choreographic Institute.

“Previously, I’ve been given a blank slate to work with,” Trope says. “But here, it’s been interesting to create within the strictures of a prescribed vision.” 

He has welcomed the opportunity to bounce ideas off Radiushina and Habashi, with the long hours of preparation intensifying as the premiere approaches.

“What a great opportunity this has been,” says Knox, who appreciates what she calls a truly collaborative process. 

Since the Miami City Ballet connection has been long-standing, thanks to festival president Mike Eidson, both Knox and Trope have danced in Mainly Mozart before. But interpreting her friend’s choreography this time out has given the ballerina a new appreciation of his talent. 

“The sense of responsibility is different in having to tie everything together,” Knox says. “Eric comes in perfectly prepared and shows he understands us, making all sorts of decisions. Putting our name on this project, we want to be sure it’ll mean something to people.”

“Rehearsal in Paris” will begin 4 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., in Miami. Tickets cost $30. Call 305-949-6722 or go to ArshtCenter.org.

Photo: Ashley Knox and Alexander Peters will perform June 29 in “Rehearsal in Paris” at the Miami City Ballet Studios. Photo courtesy Ali Habashi.

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