Under water with Miami City Ballet
Behind the scenes of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Video courtesy Miami City Ballet
For Miami City Ballet’s 30th Anniversary, artistic director Lourdes Lopez reimagined George Balanchine’s ballet classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream into an undersea fantasy with costumes and sets designed by artist Michele Oka Doner and dramatic direction by playwright Tarrell Alvin McCraney. To promote the new direction of the production, Miami City Ballet shot and filmed a stunning underwater campaign with the principals of the company. Jennifer Lauren, who plays the role of Hermia and Emily Bromberg as Helena, talk with Lone Palm of their experience.
What were your initial thoughts when you heard that the performance was going to be reset to an undersea setting?
Emily Bromberg: How exciting and different!
Jennifer Lauren: I was glad to hear we would be taking on something new that no other company had done before.
What were you thinking about when you were swimming / dancing underwater for the video?
JL: I was thinking how my character, Hermia, loves Lysander (staying in character), and then at some times searching for him, just as Hermia does in the ballet.
What was the most challenging part of shooting underwater?
EB: I’d have to say the most challenging part was the bit of video work we did after capturing some images. They had us swim a short distance while being filmed--the challenge here was swimming across the pool, with pointed toes, in my pointe shoes, and with somewhat graceful arms. I popped my head out of the water and realized what felt like 20 feet of “ballet swimming” got me only about 10 feet!
JL: It definitely was holding my breath, as well as getting deep enough to take the picture. I learned how to breathe with scuba gear that morning. I would wear a nose clip, breathing with the oxygen mask on the way down to the bottom of the 12-foot pool. Then Chase Swatosh–as Lysander–would dive down to meet me and I would rip off the nose clip and the oxygen mask and pose until we floated to the top. It was very exhausting, but fun!
Can you describe the feelings and setting that day, filming the campaign?
JL: We had the photo shoot in a large Olympic-size pool. It rained a little, but for the most part it was a beautiful day to be in the water. Everyone involved in the shoot was very encouraging and patient with my underwater dancing/modeling abilities. I spent most of my summers as a young girl at the pool but never imagined I would be posing underwater for a photo shoot in my pointe shoes. My only regret was that I wish I had put more sunscreen on!
What has been your favorite part of this reimagined vision of a ballet classic?
EB: I’d say the costumes and the sets are my favorite part. I was excitedly able to sneak out for small sections of our stage rehearsals to see it all from the front of the house. The time, thought, emotion and detail that are poured into these elaborate sets and costumes are almost palpable. They really do create a beautiful underwater world that everyone worked so hard and so long for. It’s so impressive.
How do you feel the change of setting has affected the meaning of production for the audience?
EB: I feel the South Florida audiences very much appreciate the change of scenery and setting. Whether the audience members have seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream or not, they can certainly appreciate all that went into our new production. Any of us who have lived here long enough know how much the ocean and beaches become an important and beautiful part of the lifestyle of South Florida. Many of us visit the beach daily as it is an important place of peace and grounding. The ocean is a strong reminder of how small we are and how large our world is and those who live here know how lucky we are to have that reminder at our fingertips! I think this production, with all of its sea creatures and beautiful underwater ocean-like projections, really hits home for a lot of Floridians.
This production has been coined as "The Dream" - what piece or performance would be your dream to perform?
JL: I am living my dream now performing Hermia and the Principal Divertissment Couple. The Pas de Deux–in Act II–is so unique in the breadth of the choreography and music. It is long, intimate — a dance that you never want to end.
This year MCB celebrates its 30th anniversary with several premiere performances - do you have any personal highlights?
EB: At the beginning of our 30th season, I was so excited for Justin Peck’s Year of The Rabbit and for our new production of Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I have not been disappointed, both performances have been amazing experiences that I would not trade!
JL: Beyond Hermia and the Principal Divertissment couple, performing the principal woman in Balanchine's La Source and working with Merrill Ashley, who staged the ballet for MCB, were certainly exciting. The Swan Queen in Balachine's Swan Lake was a highlight, as well as Justin Peck's Year of the Rabbit, Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free, and Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room. I am looking forward to premiering Heatscape, Symphonic Dances andViscera at Lincoln Center in NYC in April!
On your day off, where are you?
JL: Spending time with my husband and dog, whether resting at home, the beach, pool, brunch, or the most fun — doing laundry.
What are your must-have items to survive in Miami?
EB: Sunscreen and an open mind! You never know what characters you will come across in South Beach and some can be quite entertaining!