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Archive for Sunday, September 20, 1998

BALLET DANCERS TO SWING TO BIG BAND SOUND

September 20, 1998

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The Miami City Ballet will spice up its classic program with a touch of swing and tango.

Sally Ann Isaacks knows she only has a few years left as a principal dancer with Miami City Ballet. After all, she's 30.

``I came to the company when I was 17,'' she said during a phone interview last week from the company's headquarters in Miami Beach, Fla. ``In 1986, there were 19 dancers. Everybody danced everything. It wasn't like a real business, and we were so gung-ho.

``Now there's 50 dancers. It's amazing to see how it's become a major company, and it's nice to hear other dancers of big companies speaking of us as if we're on the same level with them.''

Isaacks and the rest of the touring Miami City Ballet will perform Thursday night at the Lied Center. The show kicks off the first season of the Lied Center's Cultural Countdown project, which will focus on Latino influences in contemporary performing arts.

The program will include George Balanchine's ``The Four Temperaments''; ``Transtangos,'' a piece created by the company's resident choreographer, Jimmy Gamonet De Los Heros, and set to the music of Astor Piazzolla; and ``Supermegatroid,'' a ballet by Gamonet De Los Heros to big band classics.

Isaacks is one of the principal dancers for ``Supermegatroid,'' which was commissioned by Wolf Trap Farm Park in Vienna, Va., for its 25th anniversary season.

``It's so much fun, especially now that the swing thing is in,'' she said. ``No one knew how to swing. For ballet dancers it's hard to let go and shake your hips. Everyone had so much fun doing it. It has five parts and is about 20 minutes, and it has four principals.''

``Transtangos,'' she said, is Gamonet De Los Heros' signature piece.

``It was on the first program of our first year,'' she said. ``It's an elegant tango with a principal couple, and with a large cast. It's an art deco tango.''

Gamonet De Los Heros, who was born in Peru and became a U.S. citizen in 1990, has created 27 ballets for the company since its inception. He works in a neo-classical style with a wide range of inspirations and techniques and also has helped to develop computer technology for choreography.

``He has a special place in my heart,'' Isaacks said of Gamonet De Los Heros. ``It's nice to have (a choreographer) set things on you and then be around for every performance and see how it evolves.''

Miami City Ballet has been Isaacks' training ground, even though she began lessons when she was 5, studied with Thomas Amour at the Miami Conservatory and danced with Boston Ballet II. She credits Edward Villella, winner of a 1997 Medal of Arts and founding artistic director of Miami City Ballet, with teaching her how to be a professional dancer.

``The first day I heard of Balanchine was the first day in the (Miami) company,'' she said. ``I didn't know about his style.

`` ... Edward has taught me everything about being a performer. ... He's very energetic and positive, and everyone here gets a chance to grow and develop as a dancer.''

A female ballet dancer can expect to perform until she's about 35 or 40. So Isaacks is beginning to look toward another career, possibly in physical therapy or interior design.

``Some time, I'd like to have children. I just got married,'' she said, adding that her husband is a firefighter-paramedic.

But until her legs give out, Isaacks said she'll stay with Miami City Ballet, considered to be the fastest-growing ballet company in the country.

``The company will move into new studios next summer,'' she said. ``We have one large and two smaller studios now. The new building will have eight studios and will be closer to our theater on Miami Beach.''

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is jbiles@ljworld.com.

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