Oh, My Lourdes!

By Linda Lee

Miami City Ballet’s dancers in white tutus performing in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®

Miami City Ballet’s dancers in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Alexander Izilieav.

Portrait of Miami City Ballet’s artistic director, Lourdes Lopez wearing a red midi dress and black leather pumps

Miami City Ballet Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez. Portrait by George Kamper.

Eleven years after taking the help of the Miami City Ballet, Lourdes Lopez is glorying in her job. She is running one of the largest arts organizations in Florida, with an annual budget of $25 million. It employs 150 people, including dancers, musicians, choreographers, designers, costumers, technicians, stagehands, physical therapists, teachers, students, and office staff. In addition to being the artistic director, choosing programs that often honor George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet (she danced with the company for 23 years), Lopez is also a fundraiser, teacher, and business manager.

“And lucky I can still laugh,” she adds.

Born in Cuba and raised in Miami, Lopez began dancing at age 8. She moved to New York at 14 with her older sister to begin lessons at the American School of Ballet and remained there for 40 years. When she was promoted to a soloist at the New York City Ballet, she ran to George Balanchine to thank him, and he demurred. “Why are you thanking me? You did the work.”

“His point was, you cannot blame anyone other than yourself,” she says, modestly turning the compliment around. “I give the same correction to everyone. It’s up to the individual to choose it or not to choose it. It’s the same in every field.”

Here, Lopez reflects on her routine, her family, and why she loves working in Miami.

Dawn Atkins and Stanislav Olshanskyi performing a duet in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®

Dawn Atkins and Stanislav Olshanskyi in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Alexander Izilieav.

Most dancers carry a gigantic shoulder bag. Do you still carry one?
My god, yes. Dancers are like camels. You just load us up. Whenever you see me enter or leave the building I have at least three bags on me. A Tumi backpack with my laptop. And a purse with my wallet, phone, and keys. And one more bag with everything leftover: reading material, my crochet project, my water. I love to crochet. I picked up the habit again during Covid. Right now, I’m crocheting Ryan the Reindeer, a stuffed reindeer.

Are you married to your cell phone?
I’m not married to my cell phone. I charge it at night. I love to read, and my daughter gave me a Kindle, so much easier than lugging books. So, I have several books I’m reading. “The Daughters of Yalta: The Churchills, Roosevelts, and Harrimans,” and another nonfiction book, “The Art Thief,” by Michael Finkel. Before that I read a murder mystery that takes place up the Hudson River, “The Cloisters,” by Katy Hays. Next, I’ll be reading “Americanah,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Nathalia Arja and Chase Swatosh performing in Firebird

Nathalia Arja and Chase Swatosh in Firebird. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.

Do you have a favorite movie about dance?
The Red Shoes, by Michael Powell, with some choreography and dancing by Massine. It’s literally art on film, with a ballet within the film based on the Hans Christiam Anderson tale. It’s what a dancer is; the art form forces you to give up everything. It’s so dark—not too many people get to that extreme. Also Cooped, a short film by Jamar Roberts that he did of himself during Covid. There’s a beautiful short called The Rain, of dancers in the rain, by Pontus Lidberg, who also did Labyrinth Within.

How many hours do you sleep?
I try to be in bed by 10:15, and then I read. When the season starts, there is this adrenaline. I hear the music we did that evening. I get up at 6:30 or 7. It’s quiet—Just my husband and myself and my little doggie, Evie, a rescue. A friend of ours found her in the Everglades, 8 months old, part poodle and part Schnauzer—a Schnoodle—smart and obedient. I bring her to the ballet every day. They love her. She’s 10 years old now.

Miami City Ballet’s dancers performing their production of Firebird

Miami City Ballet’s production of Firebird. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.

What’s on your playlist?
In the morning, when I do yoga or Pilates, I play songs I love, 1970s and ‘80s, soft rock or rhythm and blues. When I drive home at night, I listen to Spanish love songs, love duets. And then I have a playlist with artists my daughters suggest, like Taylor Swift and Pitbull. I also listen to classical on Spotify: Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Bach.

Dancers need to take care of their feet. Your shoes?
When I’m teaching, I wear Fuegos, which I love. Very light but supportive. And they have a heel, which really helps. You don’t get as tired. My evening shoes are the classic Christian Louboutin three-inch pumps. My feet are so bad. When I put those on, I’m comfortable. I can walk and function.

Dawn Atkins performing in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®

Dawn Atkins in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Alexander Izilieav

Do you have a designer whose dresses you wear for events?
Usually, Theory or Elie Tahari. I like classic, chic dresses. Mothing too frilly. I guess you’d say a Grace Kelly look. I gravitate towards red, all shades of red. There is red everywhere around me, I don’t know why. Yellow doesn’t look great on my skin, but royal blue does. My color palette changed when I moved back to Miami. In New York I wore all black.

How do you feel about Miami versus New York?
I lived and worked hard for 40 years in New York and came home exhausted. Here I finish work and there’s light left. I see water, animals, I see nature. It’s detoxing. I come home relaxed. It’s a great place to work hard.


All performance photos © George Balanchine Trust; by Alexander Izilieav.


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