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Lourdes Lopez
Women in Dance

Lourdes Lopez

After a nearly 40-year career in dance, television, teaching, and arts management, the Havana-born Lopez took on the directorship of the Miami City Ballet in 2012.


By Maura Keefe
Photo by Angel Valentin

Experimentation in Dance

In an interview with Martha’s Vineyard’s Vineyard Gazette, dancer turned artistic director Lourdes Lopez talked about the importance of experimentation for 21st century dancers.

Any situation that makes you slightly insecure and break into a sweat and get out of your comfort zone is a challenge and challenges are incredibly important. For this generation, it is really the cultural change. This generation presses a button and gets a reaction, whatever it is. They’re loving it, because they understand this is information that is being given to them and they are relaxed enough to absorb it. Remy Tumin, Vineyard Gazette, September 2, 2010

While she may have been referring directly to the dancers of Morphoses, this sense of risk-taking is an apt metaphor for Lopez’s career in dance.

Career as a Dancer and Arts Administrator

A former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, Lopez is the artistic director of Miami City Ballet. She was born in Havana, Cuba, emigrating to Miami in 1959. She attended the School of American Ballet on a scholarship, joining New York City Ballet at fifteen and a half where she danced a variety of roles in ballets by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

In an interview, when asked about her favorite roles as a dancer, Lopez said,

All the roles had their challenges. Some challenges were big in respect to character, style or technique and others were smaller challenges due to other circumstances, regarding when, where, at what age and with whom I was dancing it. I think that every role always has a moment somewhere that frightens a dancer for whatever reason. If that is not the case then the dancer has become too comfortable in the role and that is not always good. There needs to be a little of the tension involved to make it different every time. Interview with Puntismos, retrieved 20 November 2016

After retiring from dancing, she spent time as an on-air cultural reporter and arts administrator, including a stint as the Executive Director of The George Balanchine Foundation. In 2007, she founded the ballet company Morphoses with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon; she served as executive director, he served as artistic director. From the beginning, Morphoses was structured more like a modern dance company than a ballet company. Some of their goals included bringing together a variety of choreographic voices, de-mystifying ballet for the audience, and presenting extraordinary dancing. A sense of experimentation permeated the company, which including collaboration among dancers, choreographers, and composers.

Lopez talked about the importance of collaboration in that same Vineyard Gazette interview, remarking: “I wanted this because choreographers now are not as straightforward as they used to be. Dance has really spread and it’s almost like the boundaries and the limits of specific styles have radiated into other [areas] as well.” Remy Tumin, Vineyard Gazette, September 2, 2010

After Wheeldon stepped down from his position as artistic director in 2010, rather than seek a new, permanent artistic director, Lopez announced the plan for Morphoses to employ a series of resident artistic directors, creating new works specifically for the repertory. For the typically freelance choreographers receiving the yearlong positions, the gift of time with both dancers and other collaborators was an exciting opportunity.

Morphoses appeared at the Pillow in 2012, performing WITHIN (Labyrinth Within) with choreography by Pontus Lidberg.

WITHIN (Labyrinth Within), 2012 (Photo: Liza Voll)

The contemporary ballet WITHIN incorporated Lidberg’s dance film Labyrinth Within, which included performer Wendy Whelan.

WITHIN (Labyrinth Within)

Interview with Lopez

While Morphoses was in residence at the Pillow, Lopez participated in a PillowTalk titled Lourdes Lopez On the Move, as it had just been announced that she would became the artistic director of Miami City Ballet, succeeding company founder and fellow New York City Ballet alumni Edward Villella.

Square Dance

In that talk, Lopez discussed her career as a dancer and artistic director, as well sharing some thoughts on the changing nature of ballet.

PillowTalk with Lourdes Lopez moderated by Maura Keefe
View Archival Record

In response to a 2016 New York performance—its first in the city since Lopez had taken over the Miami company four years earlier—New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay wrote, “Bold, light, immediate, intensely musical, the dancing of Miami City Ballet flies straight to the heart.” Alastair Macaulay, “Review: Miami City Ballet, a Troupe at Home Outside Its Turf” New York Times, April 14, 2016 In his review, Macaulay noted that Lopez had staged Balanchine’s Serenade (1934), calling attention to its success. “There were many moments when the simultaneity of movement and music — flickering beats of the legs matching rapid passagework in the strings — was so judicious, so felicitous, as to seem heart-stopping.”

Miami City Ballet opened the 85th Anniversary Season in 2017, dancing works of George Balanchine, Peter Martins, and Christopher Wheeldon.

Post-Show Talk with Lourdes Lopez moderated by Maura Keefe
View Archival Record

From Havana, to Miami, to New York, to Miami, Lopez knows how to move and how to lead.

Maura Keefe is a contemporary dance historian. She is a scholar in residence at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, where she writes about, lectures on, and interviews artists from around the world.Read Bio

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