By Josie Gulliksen
The Miami Dances blog features insight into traditional and nontraditional dance programs, performers and choreographers that make Miami’s dance scene special. In this post we feature, Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra, founders and artistic directors of Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami. They are former principal dancers with Miami City Ballet and founded this company in 2016 to offer audiences a fresh and diverse view of ballet, exploring collaborative avenues that are distinct in their reflection of South Florida.
Drawing on more than 50 years of cumulative experience and working with many of today’s most celebrated international choreographers and directors, the pair provide a unique and promising perspective to the procurement of new and existing balletic repertoire.
Kronenberg was a regular faculty member of the Miami City Ballet Summer Intensive Program, and has been an invited guest teacher with numerous schools throughout the United States and abroad.. Currently, she is part of the Miami Youth Ballet Faculty, and teaches regularly in between freelance dancing engagements and directing DDTM. She has also been featured in various major dance magazines and on PBS’s Great Performances. She is also a published author and serves on the Advisory Board for Florida’s own World of Dance Magazine.
Carlos Miguel Guerra is a native of Cuba who began his training at age 10 at the Professional School of Ballet and Plastic Arts in Camaguey, Cuba. He has participated in various international dance festivals. He also received honorable mention in 1996 at the International Ballet Competition in Havana. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in Florida by Florida International Magazine in 2005. In 2010, he was named one of the top ten creatively influential people in South Florida by Miami New Times and most recently he received the 2015 Miami Life award in the category of “Best Male Ballet Dancer” for his portrayal of the title role of Romeo in John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet.
ABC: Tell us about your journey as artists and performers?
DDTM: We have both been on quite a journey, and have had incredible experiences. We are slowly beginning the transition away from our performing careers into the next phase of our professional lives, but our artistic adventures are far from over. We naturally gravitated toward this new path of artistic evolution, and it really just feels like a new chapter of the same story.
As far as our performing careers go, South Florida has been our base for over two decades and Miami City Ballet was home. Our experiences with MCB molded us. Carlos joined MCB at 21 but I on the other hand, am essentially a pure product of Miami City Ballet, at least professionally speaking. I joined the company as an apprentice at 17, and worked my way up through the ranks to Principal Dancer. We have both danced an incredible wealth of repertoire and have worked with some of the greatest geniuses and icons in the industry. Upon our departure from MCB in 2016 I had been with the company for 23 years & Carlos had been for 15. We learned some tremendous lessons in that time – about ourselves, about the art form, about our community. Our personal and artistic selves are rooted here in Miami. We feel deeply connected to this city and very grateful for the support we’ve always been shown. The respect and appreciation we have for the community compelled us to continue contributing artistically to it beyond performing, or at least to try, by creating Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami.
ABC: Who were your biggest influences in your journey to becoming founders of Dimensions Dance Theatre Miami?
DDTM: We actually influenced each other quite a bit. Our journey started out as an idea for a one-time project; an experiment really. We had a “let’s put on a show and see what happens” kind of mentality. Before we knew it we had a network of people behind us, a support system – and all of a sudden it became something much more significant. We realized we had the beginnings of a company.
Without a doubt, working with Edward Villella for so many years had a tremendous influence on us. We experienced the magnitude of his personal investment in Miami City Ballet, as he built the company artistically from zero. By nurturing it, he nurtured us. We experienced the great satisfaction and pride he seemed to feel in that process, and sensed the ownership he took over every step the company made, both the forward steps and the backward. His
constant faith in the company, in the community, in the art form, and in his dancers – even in the toughest of times, was incredibly inspiring for us. It made us courageous. When we shared our first ideas of starting a small company with him he encouraged us. He reiterated his faith in us, told us to trust our instincts and our intelligence, and assured us that we could reach out to him at any time. That promise has been like a security blanket
in the back of our minds.
Septime Webre (The Washington Ballet & Halycon Stage), Yanis Pikieris (Maximum Dance & Miami Youth Ballet), George Mattox (Hispanic American Lyric Theatre), and Maria Teresa del Real (former Prima Ballerina English National Ballet, Owner Barrebox Studios) were also hugely influential on our journey. They each gave us great advice and tremendous support, stressing the intelligence of taking on this new venture now, while we were still “fresh” and relevant in the eyes of the community. They all stood behind the multi-faceted importance of what we envisioned, and have been continually on hand to offer help and wisdom based on their invaluable collective experiences. We would have never been able to get DDTM off to such a successful start so quickly if not for these wonderful people.
ABC: What excites you about Miami?
DDTM: What doesn’t excite us about Miami!?! Beside its cultural diversity and the wealth of artistic talent here, the fast pace at which this city is growing and evolving is astonishing. In our years here, it has transformed into an artistic mecca – a hub for culturally based national and international artistic expression. Its growth has been incredible to watch and to be a part of, and keeping up with its pace is such a fantastic challenge.
ABC: Tell us about the mission, vision of Dimensions Dance Theatre?
DDTM: Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami’s main purpose is to truly connect with residents of South Florida. We want to emphasize the relevance of ballet as an evolving art form, and significantly enrich people’s lives; building widespread community interest in ballet by making it more accessible for the public (not just interms of price, but also in terms of location, collaborative ventures, and programming).
As far as vision, our goal is to continue showcasing local artists. We’d like the build the company in terms of stability and security, but keep its size intimate enough that each of our artists feels free to “breathe” and grow as individuals. We feel very strongly about providing South Florida’s ballet dancers, choreographers, musicians, and visual artists regular, financially compensated collaborative performance opportunity. We’d like to create a platform for these artists to stay (or return) here and keep contributing to the city. We are also determined to continue programming choreographic works uniquely reflective of the cultural diversity of Miami and South Florida, while expanding our reach to other areas of the state. We’ve already had a successful venture over to Sanibel, and have plans to bring the company to Gainesville in the near future. Naturally, we’d eventually love to reach Broward and Palm Beach as well.
ABC: What is something awesome you are currently working on?
DDTM: We recently completed a great weekend of intimate salon performances at the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center, where three local choreographers of different generations and levels of experience created ballets for our company, and shared insights about their works & process in conversation with the audience before those pieces were performed.
We also just finished up with another incredible collaborative engagement. DDTM performed with the Florida Grand Opera in their production of the politically charged “Before Night Falls” at the Adrienne Arsht Center, which was a fabulous experience!
Our next scheduled project will be presented on July 8th at SMDCAC, and will mark our second main stage program since the company’s inception. The program highlight will be Vicente Nebrada’s “Fiebre”, a ballet created by the famous choreographer for the “United in Dance” Festival in San Fansciso, 1995. The ballet is danced to the music of La Lupe (which we hope will be performed live on stage by local musicians for our production).
ABC: From your perspective, how can we leverage the arts to build a more connected community?
DDTM: For us, it all comes down to that idea of “accessibility”, collaboration, and inclusion. The more arts organizations can collaboratively infuse the arts into regular community activities, the more we believe people will respond. People tend to gravitate toward things that they feel a part of and connected to, but we as the organizations have to make the effort to reach out to them on a consistent basis first. It would be wonderful to have more cultural arts festivals, even small ones, inclusive of dance, music, and theater scattered throughout the city. It would be great to see mini dance and music concerts presented with regularity perhaps on the courtyard of the PAMM, or at the Fairchild Botanical Gardens – even included as part of their membership packages. There seem to be infinite ideas and ways to leverage the arts, what’s really needed is the funding.
Miami Dances Blog Miami Dances is a program of the Arts & Business Council and Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs to build new audiences and outreach for our community’s amazing dance community. The blog features insight into traditional and nontraditional dance programs, performers and choreographers that make Miami’s dance scene unique and shine a light on some of our dance community stars.