The MMIAM Journey

A blog about the Master of Management
in International Arts Management program

Returning Home, But Not to Business As Usual

An Interview with Tania Castroverde Moskalenko

Tania Castroverde Moskalenko joined Miami City Ballet (MCB) as Executive Director in August 2018, bringing more than 20 years of experience to the organization. Prior to MCB, Castroverde Moskalenko served as the CEO of Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre. In 2017, she was named ‘Chicagoan of the Year for Dance’ by the Chicago Tribune. Prior, she was President /CEO of the Center for the Performing Arts and the Great American Songbook Foundation in Indiana and was Executive Director of the Germantown Performing Arts Centre in Tennessee. She is currently a member of MMIAM’s International Advisory Committee.

Castroverde Moskalenko holds a BFA from the University of Memphis, an MA in Philanthropy from Indiana University, and a Certification in Non-Profit Financial Management from Harvard University’s Kennedy School. She serves on the Board of Directors of Philanthropy Miami.

Tell me about Miami City Ballet? What are your priorities?

As Executive Director, I oversee the business side of MCB: finance and administration, marketing and communications, fundraising and development, community engagement, and the business side of the ballet school. I have seven direct reports, with whom I’m always in dialogue; we work very closely together.

You’ve been in your current role for three years now, can you share something that you’re proud of?

One of my first priorities was to secure MCB’s long-term financial sustainability. Sixty days after my arrival, I introduced a four-year $55 million campaign, called the Transforming Lives Campaign, to do just that. Thus far, the campaign has raised over $50 million with nine months to go before its completion in April 2022. I’ve been humbled by the support of our donor base, board members, and subscribers. When the pandemic hit, we discussed suspending or postponing the campaign, but we ultimately decided to carry on. I’m very confident that we will meet our goal.

We’re also working with the City of Miami Beach to secure dormitory space for our students. We’ve never had dormitories of our own; always leasing space. We’ll break ground on those this fall and they’ll be right across the street from our studios. We expect to move in in 2023.

Finally, we’ve initiated a formal, DEI strategy for the organization, the company, and the school. This is work that has touched my heart and influenced my thinking; I’ve done a lot of research and learned so much about our nation, Florida, and even south Florida. We have a steering committee of eleven people, who will make sure the goals and the learnings move forward. But it’s been a process; we had to step back, even just to figure out a shared definition of diversity, it’s taken a lot longer than expected. It’s been really humbling.

Would you mind sharing what made you interested in the arts? Is there a key experience or moment in your life?

As a child, my family immigrated to Miami from Cuba. Growing up there were few opportunities to attend performing arts events/activities. I remember about two years after we arrived, my parents bought a home. When the furniture truck arrived, the first thing they unloaded was a white spinet piano. When my mom finally sat down to play, I realized that I never knew my mother even played the piano. The music was so impactful and she became very emotional.

About two years later, around the age of 10, I was introduced to ballet by a friend who was taking ballet lessons; she’d invited me to her recital. I instantly fell in love with the art form, but did not have access to lessons. I bugged my parents long enough that they finally put me in ballet classes. I went on to dance through high school and college.

Those two experiences, especially at such a young age, were transformational for me. When I took on roles as an administrator, it was important to me to be able to break down barriers to arts access. I’ve tried to champion opportunities for under-resourced communities throughout my career. It’s funny because as a child you see yourself more as the artist, not the administrator but I really found my calling as the connector between artists and communities.

So, let’s talk about COVID, you’d only been in your role a short time when COVID hit…

In March 2020, I stood before the organization to let them know we were going to take a 30-day hiatus. I remember saying, don’t go anywhere, because we might be back in two weeks. However, only seven days later, I reached out to two colleagues to create a COVID-19 task force. It took just one week for me to realize that we were not coming back anytime soon.

Thanks to the task force, we became proactive very quickly. We hired an industrial hygienist—I had never even heard of this as a career—to assess our HVAC and filtrations, engineering controls and occupancy, among other systems! As a result, we were able to continue operating, but safely.

In the summer of 2020, we held an in-person summer program for 100 students and not one student got sick. This summer, we hosted over 200 students for our summer programs. Our staff has been remarkable in their vigilance of protocols and guidelines; they have been the succcess of Miami City Ballet.

This experience has been almost like stages of grief: first, accepting the problem, then moving onto ‘how will we adapt?’ Then, ‘how will we survive and then thrive?’

In December, we were able to do a three-week run of The Nutcracker outdoors. We partnered with community spaces in the City of Doral in Miami-Dade County, rented a stage, and presented fourteen performances. The Nutcracker typically requires a lot of children, so we couldn’t do that. But we got creative, incorporating technology and live dancing. In the run up to the performance, we partnered with Baptist Health local hospital to test all of our dancers. Every person involved behind the scenes daily for three weeks: 1800 tests all in all. There’s a story about it in the New York Times.

Dancers from the Miami City Ballet. From left, Petra Love, Ms. Carranza, Madison McDonough and Ms. Knox (photo credit: Rose Marie Cromwell for The New York Times)

I think all arts leaders have had to pivot. My colleagues around the country and I have been meeting every single week since March 2020. It’s been such a lifeline, to have other leaders who are going through the same thing, to lean on and be inspired by. I owe my sanity in large part to the Executive Directors from Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Philadelphia Ballet, Boston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

What is something you learned early in your career that you can share with the MMIAM Journey?

One of the things that was transformational for me was the realization that I didn’t have to carry the weight by myself.

When you’re in a leadership position, you feel the weight of the organization on your shoulders. I realized that if you rely on your team—and really believe in teamwork and trust that—the carrying of the responsibility becomes lighter. This realization didn’t come early on in my career, however, I’ve always felt so responsible for everyone and everything. But in my roles, I’ve grown to really trust the board and the team and so you don’t feel like you’re all by yourself.

*Headshot picture credit: Ailiaziliev.