Lourdes Lopez was already a serious dance student at the prestigious School of American Ballet before she realized she could pursue a career in the art form she loved. It was while preparing a school report on what she wanted to be when she grew up that she found an article on famed New York City Ballet dancer Jacques d’Amboise.
“Until I read that article, I never believed that I could actually do what I do for a living,” remembers Lopez. “I don’t think we deliver the message as a nation that you can support yourself as an artist.”
Not only would she become a principal for the New York City Ballet, where she worked with legendary choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, it also led to a varied post-ballet career. Lopez was still with the company when she was offered a job as a cultural reporter for WNBC-TV in New York. She took a leave of absence which became permanent in 1997. “No one dances forever,” says Lourdes.
Lopez went on to serve on the faculties of New York’s Ballet Academy East and Barnard College, became the executive director of the George Balanchine Foundation, and co-founded Morphoses, a contemporary dance company, with Christopher Wheeldon.
Now Lopez is the artistic director of the acclaimed Miami City Ballet since taking over for its founding director in 2012. She’s made it one of her missions to ensure that all south Florida school children can see a future for themselves in the arts.
Lopez understands what they’re up against. Born in Cuba, Lourdes emigrated with her family to the United States in 1959 and started dancing at the age of five. A Ford Foundation scholarship made it possible to study dance in New York City full time.
“I never thought I could do what I was doing, there was always something that I had to be better at when I was dancing,” admits Lopez. “One of the things that I love about dancing is that it’s never perfect and you’re constantly trying to achieve this goal.”
The rigorous world of ballet prepared her well to lead a company as dynamic and diverse as the Miami City Ballet. Though she’s one of the few women to hold the top position in a national ballet company, she keeps this singular achievement in context.
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