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Miami City Ballet School alum returns with his 'love letter to Miami'

Choreographer Durante Verzola (right) rehearsing with dancers from Miami City Ballet
Alexander Iziliaev
Choreographer Durante Verzola (right) rehearsing with dancers from Miami City Ballet

When Durante Verzola was 16, he left his home in Kansas and traveled to South Florida, where he studied with Miami City Ballet on full scholarship.

That was 11 years ago. Since then, he's choreographed for major ballet companies nationwide.

And now, at age 27, he returns to Miami City Ballet with his piece titled Sentimiento -- which has its world premiere this week.

Verzola describes the piece as his "love letter to Miami." From the start, he knew that he wanted to set it to the music of Ernesto Lecuona, known as "The Cuban Gershwin."

"His music is very sweeping, it's romantic, it's dynamic," Verzola says. "It takes you to many different places. But for me, I really heard Miami."

Deepening the local connection is the fact that the costumes are the creations of Colombian-American fashion designer Esteban Cortázar, who grew up in South Beach.

Sentimiento — with nine women dancers and seven men — is Verzola's first major ballet for Miami City Ballet's main stage. He has choreographed shorter pieces for MCB in the past; at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he created A Dance for Heroes, a salute to essential workers on the frontlines of the health crisis. The rehearsals were done entirely via Zoom, the performance was streamed on Facebook.

Verzola says months of theater shutdowns, COVID isolation and virtual rehearsals made him a stronger communicator.

"I learned how to verbalize what I wanted to achieve with the movement and the choreography a lot better," he says.

"And so I think I came back to in-person rehearsals with a newfound excitement and eagerness to create new, beautiful classical ballet works that make sense in our 21st Century world."


Fresh & Fierce
April 14- April 30

West Side Story Suite

Choreography: Jerome Robbins
Music: Leonard Bernstein

World Premiere - Sentimiento

Choreography: Durante Verzola
Music: Ernesto Lecuona
Design: Esteban Cortázar

Divertimento No 15:

Choreography: George Balanchine
Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Miami, Arsht Center
Fri, Apr 14 at 7:30pm
Sat, Apr 15 at 7:30pm
Sun, Apr 16 at 2pm

West Palm Beach, Kravis Center
Fri, Apr 21 at 7:30pm
Sat, Apr 22 at 2pm
Sat, Apr 22 at 7:30pm
Sun, Apr 23 at 1pm

Ft. Lauderdale, Broward Center
Sat, Apr 29 at 7:30pm
Sun, Apr 30 at 2pm

For more information, visit Miami City Ballet.

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