Dancers are used to being watched, moving with grace and agility on a stage, normally. But these are not normal times. These days, Miami City Ballet dancers are being watched by passers-by from a studio on Lincoln Road.
The Miami City Ballet x Lincoln Road pop-up studio at 744 Lincoln Road at Meridian Avenue, provides arts-starved culture lovers as well as tourists in Miami Beach a literal window into the world of MCB dancers at work.
This unique concept is the collaboration of MCB’s Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez, the City of Miami Beach, Timothy Schmand, Executive Director of the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District, and Michael Comras, President and CEO of The Comras Company, who owns the former BCBG retail space and generously donated it for the project.
It is fitting that as MCB begins its 35th anniversary season celebration, it goes back to where it all started – on Lincoln Road. Where Edward Villella and Toby Lerner Ansin opened the first studio space for their new ballet company in what is now the Victoria’s Secret store.
Tricia Albertson was one of the dancers who started her career there. Today, she is a Principal dancer entering her 24th season with the company and she is thrilled to have the space to move, turn, jump and leap again.
“Being visible to the community is important in general but especially right now,” says Tricia. “We want to give people a little hope that there’s still some art happening even if we’re not performing.”
Spectators strolling by can watch the dancers take a ballet class – a daily, necessary part their training. They sign up to come in six at a time, take a spot at the barre, and wear masks and headphones as they go through the traditional exercises. Occasionally, a dancer will bring an iPad and a few of them will follow an online class.
Although no rehearsals are taking place, it is a behind-the-scenes look at the work that happens long before a dancer even steps onto the stage. Without this daily ritual of class, the performance would not look so effortless.
“It is a little intimidating since I feel I’m not at my best,” says Tricia of the “fish-bowl” experience. “There’s an added expectation and excitement when people are watching. It makes me pull myself together a little more.”
For extra eye candy, ballet costumes – themselves works of art for their beauty and craftsmanship – are on display in the windows. Currently exhibited are stunning costumes from MCB’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream designed by Miami-raised artist Michele Oka Doner.
Until the dancers can get back on stage, they are happy they can still share their art form with an audience. “It has made me yearn for the stage again,” says Tricia. “Being in that space is one step closer to normal, to having that connection with an audience. We are coming up with ways to recreate our season, to bring hope and show resiliency and a commitment to dance as a way to relate in a human way.”
The pop-up will initially run Monday through Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. through Sept. 10. In following health guidelines, no more than six dancers will occupy the space at any given time, and they will be wearing masks. Outside, pre-marked social-distancing circles will be placed on the ground where masked viewers can safely enjoy the experience. Visit miamicityballet.org for updates.
Estefania Garcia is a freelance writer living in Miami. She is a self-described wordsmith and AP style enthusiast who prefers to use the Oxford comma. She works in marketing & communications to pay the bills.
Cover photo Courtesy the city of Miami Beach Historical Digital Archives by Alexander Iziliaev.