Ballet’s New Queen: Lourdes Lopez

The former dancer takes Miami City Ballet under her wing.

Last spring, Miami City Ballet announced that its beloved longtime director, Edward Villella, would be replaced by former New York City Ballet ballerina Lourdes Lopez (shown above, in dress). It was shocking news to balletomanes—Villella had turned Miami into a world-class troupe, after all. But the Cuban-born, Miami-raised Lopez has thus far proved a promising successor. She’s bringing in new repertory (highlight this season: Jerome Robbins’s West Side Story Suite, in which the dancers sing) and connecting further with Miami’s diverse community.

Q: Do you feel pressure carrying on the legacy of Balanchine interpretation at MCB?

A: The one thing that made me breathe a sigh of relief coming here was the programming. The repertoire was everything I had danced with Mr. B. I was in the last generation to work with him, so I saw him rehearse and critique these roles; it feels like very familiar territory.

Q: MCB recently did a great photo campaign with the Miami Heat. Where did that idea come from?

A: The Heat approached me. Basketball and ballet are so similar—there’s a lot of grace, a lot of timing. And both our organizations, 25 years or so ago, chose Miami to start from scratch. I thought, Let’s do this.

Q: Was it funny to see the huge basketball guys next to your tiny ballerinas?

A: At one point I asked LeBron James to kneel and do an Apollo-type pose with the girls, and he goes, “These are my knees!” It hit me: The guys are worth a bazillion dollars! But he did it and said, “You know, I kind of like this!”

For a complete Miami City Ballet performance schedule, go to miamicityballet.org.