top of page

Miami City Ballet Presents 38th Anniversary Gala Honoring Ford Foundation PresidentDarren Walker & More

Gala Chairs Charmaine and J. Randall Waterfield, Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez, Executive Director Juan José Escalante, and the Miami City Ballet Board of Trustees announced today the evening’s festivities celebrating Miami City Ballet’s 38th anniversary with the organization's annual gala.

The social event of the season for South Florida’s dance community and enthusiasts alike will feature a performance of Durante Verzola’s recent world premiere work PAGANINI, In Play, along with Emmy® and Tony® Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth.

This year’s celebration of all things MCB will be held on Thursday, March 14 at 6pm Faena Forum in Miami Beach (3300-3398 Collins Avenue). Tax deductible tickets, starting at $2,000 per individual, are available online at or by contacting Heather Rush in the Miami City Ballet Development department.

The artists and staff of Miami City Ballet, along with ardent supporters of world-class ballet and the company’s groundbreaking training ground for the future of dance, celebrate 38 remarkable years of movement with its annual gala. The evening centers around a pair of performances: first, the unparalleled athleticism and artistry of MCB dancers takes center stage with a performance of PAGANINI, In Play.

Choreographed by MCB School alumnus and resident choreographer Durante Verzola, the work recently has its world premiere as part of the company’s Winter Mix program, marking Verzola’s third world premiere work set on the company of dancers. The fanciful footwork on tap meets its artistic match in the vocal prowess of Kristin Chenoweth. Known for her performances on Broadway in You’re a Good Man, Charlie BrownOn the Twentieth Century, and Wicked, as well as numerous film and television roles, Ms. Chenoweth will delight patrons with entertainment that showcases her soaring soprano voice and unmatched artistic interpretation.

Prior to the evening’s performances, Miami City Ballet will honor Ford Foundation President Darren Walker for his immense contributions to the company. The recipient of MCB’s Leadership in the Arts Award, Mr. Walker is the tenth person to lead the private foundation, which invests in transformative ideas, individuals and institutions, reimagining philanthropy to catalyze leaders and organizations driving social justice and building movements around the globe. Under Mr. Walker’s guidance, Miami City Ballet received its first grant from the Ford Foundation—a $1.5 million, three-year grant for general support as well as enhanced education and outreach.


The evening’s events kick off with a cocktail reception hour, followed by dinner and the awards presentation. Leading up to the evening’s highly anticipated performances, a live auction of hot ticket items generously donated to the company will take place. The evening concludes with a sweet ending of dessert and dancing. With the best in food and entertainment that South Florida has to offer, Miami City Ballet’s 38th Anniversary Gala will be the buzz of the spring season amongst artists and audiences alike.


Following the gala, Miami City Ballet continues its spectacular spring season of dance with the remainder of its home performances. Audiences will have three final chances to catch the company’s Spring Mix, featuring the tour de force of George Balahcine’s Agon; the company premiere of Alonzo King’s Following the Subtle Current Upstream; and MCB’s final world premiere of the season from Brazilian-born, Miami-based Ricardo Amarante, entitled Delight. The 2023/24 season concludes with the highly-anticipated return of Alexei Ratmansky’s Swan Lake.

This dazzling reconstruction combines the more than fifty dancers’ athleticism with their innate acting prowess to reinterpret the timeless tale for a modern audience. With Tchaikovsky’s splendid score brought to life by MCB’s glorious live orchestra, audiences will be swept away by this sophisticated interpretation that is quickly becoming a contemporary classic in its own right.

Below is the full schedule for the 38th Anniversary Gala:


6:00 PM - Cocktails

7:00 PM - Dinner, Awards, Live Auction and Performances

9:00 PM - DJ Dance and Dessert Party


Attire for the evening is black tie optional.


Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, a $16 billion international social justice philanthropy with offices in the United States and ten regions around the globe. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy. Under his leadership, the Ford Foundation became the first non-profit in US history to issue a $1 billion designated social bond in US capital markets for proceeds to strengthen and stabilize non-profit organizations in the wake of COVID-19.


Before joining Ford, Darren was vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation, overseeing global and domestic programs including the Rebuild New Orleans initiative after Hurricane Katrina. In the 1990s, as COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation—Harlem’s largest community development organization—he led a comprehensive revitalization strategy, including building over 1,000 units of affordable housing and the first major commercial development in Harlem since the 1960s. Earlier, he had a decade-long career in international law and finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS.


Darren co-chairs New York City’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers, and serves on The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform and the UN International Labour Organization Global Commission on the Future of Work. He co-founded both the US Impact Investing Alliance and the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy.  He supported his friend Agnes Gund in creating the pioneering Art for Justice Fund and serves on many boards, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the National Gallery of Art, Carnegie Hall, the High Line, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. In the private sector he is on the boards of Ralph Lauren, PepsiCo and Bloomberg Inc. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and is the recipient of 16 honorary degrees and university awards, including Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal. In 2022, he was awarded France’s highest cultural honor, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres for his leadership in the arts. In 2023 he was also appointed by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II to the Order of the British Empire for services to UK/US relations.


Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren was a member of the first class of Head Start in 1965 and received his bachelor’s and law degrees from The University of Texas at Austin, which in 2009 recognized him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award—its highest alumni honor. He has been included on numerous leadership lists, including TIME’s annual 100 Most Influential People, Rolling Stone’s 25 People Shaping the Future, Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, Ebony’s Power 100, and Out magazine’s Power 50. In 2020 Darren was named Wall Street Journal’s 2020 Philanthropy Innovator of the Year and 2023 Foundation Leader of the Year by Inside Philanthropy.


Kristin Chenoweth's career spans film, television, voice-over, and stage. She will soon be seen in the romantic comedy Our Little Secret for Netflix opposite Lindsay Lohan. Her next major project is the development of the newly announced musical based on the award-winning 2012 documentary The Queen of Versailles and the life of beauty queen, socialite, and TV personality Jacqueline “Jackie” Siegel. Chenoweth will star and produce through her production banner Diva Worldwide Entertainment. Notable theater credits include You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, (Tony Award), originating the role of Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked (Tony nomination), and Roundabout Theatre Company's On the Twentieth Century (Drama Desk Award, OCC Award, Tony nomination). In 2009, Ms. Chenoweth received an Emmy Award for her role in "Pushing Daisies." Additional select television credits include “Glee” (Emmy nominations) "American Gods," “GCB,” "Trial & Error," "The West Wing," Disney's "Descendants," "The Muppets," and Apple TV+'s "Schmigadoon!" Select film work includes RVFour ChristmasesHolidateDeck the Halls, and A Christmas Love Story, which Ms. Chenoweth produced. She has performed to sold-out audiences across the world and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Ms. Chenoweth recently released her hilarious and insightful gift book, "I'm No Philosopher, But I Have Thoughts: For Saints, Sinners, and the Rest of Us."  Chenoweth formed a charity partnership with the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center (BAPAC) Foundation in her home state of Oklahoma. Chenoweth’s accomplishments were honored by her hometown with BAPAC naming “The Kristin Chenoweth Theatre” in 2012. Partnering with the BAPAC in a labor of love, and her lifelong mission to cultivate arts education across the globe, Kristin launched an annual Broadway Bootcamp in 2015, providing young Broadway hopefuls with the opportunity to take classes, hold performances and learn from top mentors in the entertainment industry.  

Durante Verzola is a Filipino American choreographer. Verzola's first choreographic work, A Light Exists in Spring, was chosen by Lourdes Lopez to be performed in Miami City Ballet School's 2014 Workshop. Since then, he has choreographed several works for Miami City Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet II, Ballet Dallas, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Ballet Chicago, Columbia Ballet Collaborative (Columbia University), Goucher College, School of Pennsylvania Ballet, Kansas School of Classical Ballet, Peabody Dance, Princeton University Ballet, Ballet Conservatory of South Texas, and MANNA's Shut Up & Dance. Mr. Verzola was selected as the inaugural choreographer to lead Miami City Ballet School's Choreographic Intensive during the Summer of 2017, as well as invited to participate in CPYB's ChoreoPlan 2017. He is a winner of Joffrey's Winning Works, which recognizes talented and emerging ALAANA choreographers. He was invited to the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University for an Artistic Partnership Initiative Fellowship with Miami City Ballet in the Summer of 2021. Verzola participated in the Fall 2021 Session at New York Choreographic Institute where he worked with the dancers of New York City Ballet. He has served as a guest faculty member at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Joffrey Academy of Dance, Peabody Dance, Philadelphia Dance Academy, Ballet Conservatory of South Texas, and Kansas School of Classical Ballet. He has served on the full time faculty of Miami City Ballet since July of 2022.


Miami City Ballet has a diverse roster of 53 dancers and a repertoire of more than 130 works. As one of the most renowned ballet companies in the country, Miami City Ballet performs for nearly 125,000 patrons annually during its South Florida home season in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and tours to major cities domestically and internationally, including recent visits to New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and Paris.


Miami City Ballet School, the official school of Miami City Ballet, is one of the most respected ballet training academies in America. The School trains students, ages 3-18 year-round, and grants more than $650,000 in scholarships annually.


Miami City Ballet’s Community Engagement programs, serving more than 12,000 people annually in schools and communities; our free programs use the power of dance to uplift, teach and bring joy.


Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez leads the company. Lopez was recently awarded the prestigious Dance Magazine Award in 2018 and was named one of “The Most Influential People in Dance Today.” She is on the Ford Foundation Board of Trustees, the first artist to ever serve on its Board.


Miami City Ballet was founded in 1985 by Miami philanthropist Toby Lerner Ansin and Founding Artistic Director Edward Villella. It is headquartered in Miami Beach, FL, at the Ophelia & Juan Js. Roca Center, a facility designed by renowned architectural firm, Arquitectonica. 

By ML Staff. Images courtesy of Miami City Ballet


bottom of page