We’ve all been warned about the complexities of office romances. When love is in the air, Monday mornings may seem a little brighter, long days can pass just a little more quickly. But the pressure to perform can also stress relationships — literally.
For these Miami City Ballet dancers, the office romance developed over long hours in the rehearsal hall and plays out under the bright lights of performance halls around the world. Their work is to interpret timeless stories of love and passion, not to mention jealousy and rage. To say the world of professional ballet is competitive is an understatement and the careers of top dancers can be relatively short due to injuries and the enormous stress to their bodies.
And, at the end of a long day, they go home….
Brazilians Jovani Furlan, 23, and Renan Cerdeiro, 24, are just in their early twenties and both are rising stars in the company. They joined as teens and are practically inseparable. They’ve lived together for more than three years and frequently vie for the same roles as dashing cavaliers.
“It doesn’t feel like a challenge,” said Furlan. “If anything, (working together) is an advantage. We get to be together, travel, share.”
“We share a lot of the same parts, so we give each other tips. It’s never been competitive,” said Cerdeiro.
“I feel like our work environment at Miami City Ballet—even between couples—it’s not competitive and the ballet world is competitive. Everyone wants the best parts and attention for the best parts, but we are inspired by each other,” Furlan added.
“We’re just happy for each other that we get the opportunities that we do,” Cerdeiro added, finishing his partner’s thought.
Dancers agree that dating can be tough when days are spent rehearsing and weekends find them traveling to performances or even jet setting around the world, as is the case for these top dancers.
“We have different schedules from other jobs. We’re always working late and we miss weekends,” Cerdeiro said.
“A lot of people in the company date people who aren’t dancers, but it’s very hard,” Furlan said, completing the thought.
Cerdeiro arrived three years earlier and Furlan, then a new apprentice in 2011, was immediately attracted to his countryman. They hung out with the other Brazilians in the company. Within a year, they were a couple.
Both consider themselves lucky and their relationship has been accepted by both sets of parents back in Brazil. They frequently return home together during the break in the company’s season and Cerdeiro’s parents enjoy trips to see them in Miami, too.
“It’s always hard when you first come out and try to explain the situation, but from the beginning, they were very accepting and warm,” Cerdeiro recalled.
Luckily, Portuguese is both men’s native language and communication is not the issue it might be if one could not speak with the other’s family.
“I think, for sure, the language barrier would be a difficulty,” Cerdeiro said.
Michael Sean Breeden, 29, and Neil Marshall, 33, both members of the Corps de ballet, tied the knot last year after nearly a decade together.
“We never really got engaged... we’d talked about marriage for a long time and, when it became legal, we were like ‘we should do this,’ it was a conversation we had,” said Marshall.
Being together nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week hasn’t put any unusual pressures on the couple, emphasized Breeden.
“I think some people might worry that you get sick of someone, but I find it helpful that your significant other is there with you and understands everything you’re going through and can support you in a very real way,” he said.
“We moved in together a month after we started dating, so we’ve never really known our relationship any other way,” explained Marshall. “It’s very comfortable, we’re not competing for roles because of the ways we dance. We’re different dancers. We can be there and be supportive and talk about our days from a very understanding place and be each other’s cheerleader.”
They are not “one of those couples with a ‘no dance talk’ rule at home,” added Breeden, who said professional dancers are passionate about their work and their careers. Their friends are dancers and it’s almost impossible to leave “work” at the “office.”
“For better or worse—I don’t know—it would be unrealistic for us,” Marshall said.
For this couple, the biggest frustration is that they rarely get to dance with each other. They may share the stage with other dancers and be coupled with one of the ballerinas. Even the straight couples in the company may find themselves partnered with a different dancer.
“Obviously, we have a comfort and familiarity with each other unlike our other peers,” Breeden said.
Still, Miami City Ballet is a family (50 dancers and more than a few couples), and when this couple finally got married, nearly the entire party was comprised of colleagues. They studied in New York and Marshall’s family was there, so when the company arrived on tour, it seemed appropriate to hold the wedding the day after the tour ended.
Acknowledging the challenging life of a dancer, they know their lives will change eventually.
“It’s certainly something one has to think about,” pondered Breeden. “I definitely want to stay in the ballet world. I’ve always felt that I would teach or stage ballet or even give pre-talks with the audience and public outreach. I love that.”
Marshall is not so certain and would consider going to school and changing careers when that time came.
“It’s funny because we’ll become just like every other couple once that happens. We’ll have these separate lives…it’s normal for relationships to change. The dynamic will be different. We won’t have these lives where we’re together 24-7,” he considered.