As Miami’s cultural renaissance reaches new heights, one of the city’s most cherished arts organizations is joining in the transformation. On Friday, October 18, Miami City Ballet (MCB) will host the highly anticipated opening night of its 2013–14 season, which also marks the inaugural season for new Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez.

For the Cuban-born, Miami-raised Lopez, whose ballet career took her to New York, it’s a homecoming of sorts, and she understands the community landscape that she’s stepping into. “Miami is a very exciting place, and I think it’s one of the cities that’s reinventing itself,” she observes. Her program is fittingly dynamic, taking audiences on a journey of both the familiar and the thrillingly conceptual, and hinting at the direction she’s taken with the entire season.

Lopez opens the season with First Ventures, which includes the company premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, “an abstract piece [that’s] really challenging for the dancers musically and choreographically. It’s powerful and should be seen,” she says. She bookends Wheeldon’s work with two ballets from the legendary George Balanchine, Ballo della Regina and Serenade.

For Lopez, who studied under Balanchine (or Mr. B, as she affectionately calls him) at New York City Ballet, the pieces she included honor MCB’s substantial repertoire of Balanchine works while showcasing the versatility and talent of our city’s dancers.

“I wanted to highlight everybody,” Lopez says. “There’s a lot in [some dancers] that hasn’t been brought out, and that’s what I love to do with dancers.” This was one of the many considerations that went into Lopez’s programming. “You want to engage and challenge your dancers, and you want to engage and challenge your audience. I created some excitement. I put four new works in each of the programs. Every program—even the Don Quixote—is different this year.”

Throughout Lopez’s inaugural season, there is a similar sequence. In January, Program II: See the Music includes the MCB premiere of Jardí Tancat from choreographer Nacho Duato, one of Lopez’s favorite Spanish contemporaries, set to Catalan folk music.

Program III: Triple Threat, which opens on Valentine’s Day, features the company premiere of both Jerome Robbins’s West Side Story Suite (a musical theater number in which the dancers will sing) and Balanchine’s Episodes, an abstract piece chosen by Lopez for its cerebral and architectural arcs. For spring, MCB’s Program IV: Don Quixote is set against stage backdrops from award-winning designer Santo Loquasto.

Modernizing an arts organization is a challenge for which Lopez is ready. “The arts have to be relevant to society today,” she explains. “You want to react to something on the stage, so it has to relate to what’s happening. I feel right now that I’m in the right place at the right time in terms of what’s happening out there.” As for the season, she says, “[I’m] most excited to show this community how much fun ballet can be.” With her vision, Lopez is contributing to a real turning point in the cultural composition of Miami. Miami City Ballet opens at 8 pm Friday, October 18, at the Adrienne Arsht Center Ziff Ballet Opera House, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-949-6722

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