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Via Facebook, Miami City Ballet Salutes America's Frontline COVID-19 Workers

Choreographer Durante Verzola (top right) rehearses via Zoom conferencing from his home in Kansas City, with Miami City Ballet dancers from their homes in South Florida.

The rehearsals were a true illustration of the COVID-19-inspired motto "Alone Together."

Through Zoom videoconferencing, two Miami City Ballet dancers and two MCB student dancers — from their respective living rooms in South Florida — could follow the movements of choreographer Durante Verzola, who is sheltering in place at his Kansas City home.

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With the coronavirus pandemic having banished them temporarily from the barres and mirrors of conventional studios, this mode of rehearsal took some getting used to.

"There were some funny moments with me and the dancers," says Verzola. "Because we would realize that, 'Oh, you're actually on the opposite leg than I'm on right now!'  So then we would have to flip the whole thing."

Miami City Ballet's Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez tapped 24-year-old Verzola to create a new ballet paying tribute to all the essential workers on the frontlines of the health crisis.

"We have watched in awe, as our first responders, nurses, doctors, fire rescue departments, mail carriers, grocery store clerks, janitors and countless essential workers perform incredible acts of courage," says Lopez. "They have shown us what grace, bravery and dedication truly look like. We want to honor them and to thank them for all they are doing."

MCB will present the world premiere of "A Dance for Heroes" on the company’s Facebook page Friday, May 8 at 8:00pm EST.

After the rehearsals were done, the next step was to videotape the performers individually at Miami City Ballet's Studios, all the time observing social-distancing rules. The finished product was crafted to make it look like the performers — MCB principal dancers Jennifer Lauren and Renan Cerdeiro and MCB school pre-professional students Taylor Naturkas and Erick Rojas — are dancing together in the same space. 

So how can a ballet capture what it's like to be an essential worker during the coronavirus pandemic?

Verzola says he wanted the work to reflect the sacrifice and tireless energy of the frontline workers -- so he urged the dancers to take risks with their movements.  "I wanted the dancers to move as big as they possibly could to really demonstrate generosity," he says.


Miami City Ballet
will present the world premiere of
"A Dance for Heroes" on the company’s Facebookpage.
Friday, May 8, 2020 at 8:00pm EST

This interview is part of WLRN’s new series called “Intermission,” a look at how South Florida’s arts community is using social media to connect with audiences during social distancing. 

If you're an artist or arts organization finding new ways to do this, we would love to hear from you. Please email us at talktous@wlrnnews.org with the  word "Intermission" in the subject line. Or call 305-376-3777.

Christine DiMattei is WLRN's Morning Edition anchor and also reports on Arts & Culture.
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