Director’s Cut, Cincinnati Ballet’s first series of the 2016-2017 Season, takes the stage Friday, September 16 at 8 pm and Saturday, September 17 at 2 pm and 8 pm at the Aronoff Center. The star-studded program, curated by Artistic Director & CEO Victoria Morgan, includes six short and diverse works ranging from classical to contemporary, including the world premiere of Morgan’s latest ballet, Patriotic Pas, world famous New York City Ballet dancer/choreographer Justin Peck’s Capricious Maneuvers, a farewell performance of Raymonda from retiring dancers Sarah Hairston and Zack Grubbs, with students from the Otto M. Budig Academy, and a world premiere from esteemed choreographer Ma Cong. Special guests from San Francisco Ballet Sarah Van Patten and Luke Ingham dance excerpts from Yuri Possokhov’s Fusion and Soloist James Cunningham presents his first work choreographed for the main stage entitled Prohibition Condition.
Director’s Cut is the first performance of Victoria Morgan’s 20th Season with Cincinnati Ballet. Morgan first came to the company in 1997 as Artistic Director. Today, she is one of only five female Artistic Directors of U.S. ballet companies with an annual operating budget of $5 million or more. In 2008, she was named Artistic Director & CEO, taking on executive leadership responsibilities as well. Under Morgan’s leadership, Cincinnati Ballet has expanded artistic, education and community outreach programs, and fundraising and ticket sales revenue have grown exponentially. The company has recently grown from an operating budget of $5.9 million in 2009 to $8.5 million today, with an $11 million endowment fund.
“When I was pondering an appropriate way to begin my 20th Season with Cincinnati Ballet, I first thought of the artists who have been an integral part of the company’s evolution,” commented Artistic Director & CEO Victoria Morgan. “I am so proud of how our Principals and Soloists have been developed and coached, many of them starting as Apprentices and Corps de Ballet. I wanted to send a thank you by dedicating the first part of the program to them, with special pas de deux’s and solos, and an opportunity to dance in a major choreographer’s work: Justin Peck’s Capricious Maneuvers. Our Otto M. Budig Academy is a major part of our community, and I am so thrilled that two longtime beloved dancers of Cincinnati Ballet, upon their retirement, will lead the next generation of young dancers to discover the grace and beauty of this art form. It was essential to include the Academy in this special series highlighting my tenure. Director’s Cut will be a spectacular and celebratory occasion, and I hope the entire Greater Cincinnati community will come out to see this fantastic evening, and to support and witness our ever-evolving Cincinnati Ballet!”
In addition to Director’s Cut, Cincinnati Ballet and supporters will celebrate at additional special events including the Academy Kickoff on August 27, highlighting the beginning of the Otto M. Budig Academy year and Morgan’s 20th Season. A sold-out Intimate Evening with Victoria Morgan takes place the evening of September 15, and the Homecoming Brunch, an open-to- the public celebration of Cincinnati Ballet staff, dancers and supporters from past and present will be hosted on September 18, 11 am to 1 pm at the Transept.
Victoria Morgan kicks off Director’s Cut with the world premiere of her lively duet, inspired by the dancers, entitled Patriotic Pas, danced to the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra performing composer Morton Gould’s “American Salute.” “When I was first setting King Arthur’s Camelot, dancers would pick up the faux rehearsal swords during breaks and twirl, throw and catch them in the most clever ways,” says Morgan. “I loved watching, and their play inspired this ballet. The music is a celebratory, energetic piece; I knew I wanted to create dance-fireworks to match it! It is a tough, little knock-your-socks-off classical piece, unlike anything else on the program!” Morgan’s choreography can be found throughout her 20th Season, including Frisch’s Presents The Nutcracker, King Arthur’s Camelot and a world premiere for The Kaplan New Work Series.
Justin Peck is a world-famous New York City Ballet Resident Choreographer and Soloist. Peck was recently the subject of the documentary Ballet 422, chronicling the creation of NYCB’s 422nd original work. According to Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times, “Peck has quickly become the most eminent choreographer of ballet in the United States – and two particular characteristics have propelled him to the top: the exciting formal architecture of his dances and the kinesthetic thrill of his movement.” Peck has worked with ballet companies all over the world including Miami City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, L.A. Dance Project, Paris Opera Ballet and more. Capricious Maneuvers first premiered with his resident company New York City Ballet in 2013, described as “athletic, humorous and full of youthful verve.” The ballet is danced to “Capriccio” by composer Lukas Foss, played live onstage alongside the dancers.
Cincinnati Ballet Principal Dancer Sarah Hairston and Senior Soloist Zack Grubbs, take the stage for a farewell performance before they retire, going on to serve as the new Academy Dean and Academy Principal, for Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Academy. In celebration of their new roles as the Academy’s leadership, their performance of excerpts from the legendary ballet Raymonda will be accompanied by Otto M. Budig Academy students, with the music of Alexander Glazunov performed by the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra. Hairston and Grubbs have been essential elements of Cincinnati Ballet’s artistic identity since they first joined the company in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Hairston, throughout her extensive career at Cincinnati Ballet, has had new works created on her by some of the most sought-after choreographers in the industry and has danced lead roles in several full length productions including The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, Swan Lake and Symphony in C. She has become known not only for her tremendous talent but the depth of character she brings to the stage. “Performing is something I will truly miss,” says Hairston. “I love being on stage. I love being a character and giving all my emotions to the audience. This is a feeling you can’t describe.”
As one of Cincinnati Ballet’s favorite dancers for the past 14 years, Zack Grubbs has encountered many professional and personal milestones during his time at Cincinnati Ballet. He worked his way up to Senior Soloist dancing lead roles in classical and contemporary works alike such as Mozart’s Requiem, Romeo and Juliet, The Firebird and Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room. Known for his versatility onstage, audiences have enjoyed his many on-stage incarnations as beloved lead characters, such as the Mad Hatter in ALICE (in wonderland), Von Rothbart in Swan Lake and Captain Hook in Peter Pan. “Although a dancer’s career is fleeting,” says Grubbs, “I am truly grateful to have spent the majority of mine with such a bold, receptive and dynamic company as Cincinnati Ballet, and with all of the remarkable people I’ve met along the way.”
After starting his dance career at the Beijing Dance Academy, Ma Cong is not only the resident choreographer at Tulsa Ballet, he’s also one of the most sought-after international choreographers today, working with companies like Joffrey Ballet and Australia’s Queensland Ballet. “Ma has a facility for moving individuals in inventive ways,” says David Lyman of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Set to the music of Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds, his second world premiere for Cincinnati Ballet is met with anticipation after his breathtaking Cincinnati debut last year with Mind on the (Re)Wind as part of The Kaplan New Works Series.
Soloist and emerging choreographer James Cunningham’s solo choreography is dynamic, challenging and filled with humorous moments. His witty, virtuosic contribution to Director’s Cut, titled Prohibition Condition is danced to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich performed by the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra. Cincinnati audiences may be familiar with Cunningham’s contributions to the Cincinnati Ballet Choreography Workshops in recent years as well as the Constella Festival, at which his work has been featured since 2011.
Join us Thursday, September 8, from 5:15–7 pm at the Cincinnati Ballet Center in Over-the-Rhine for a casual behind-the-scenes experience. Learn about what goes in to creating a world premiere. Experience a sneak preview of new ballets by Cincinnati Ballet Artistic Director & CEO Victoria Morgan and international choreographer Ma Cong, and get a special look at the Cincinnati Ballet Second Company. Ballet & Beer: Meet the Artists events are free, and pre-registration is required! RSVP via phone 513-621-5282 or online at cballet.org/ballet-beer. At the event, Cincinnati young professionals under 40 will get an exclusive opportunity to purchase specially-priced tickets for the next Cincinnati Ballet performance (pending availability).
Homecoming Brunch, chaired by Ronna Willis, closes out the Director’s Cut series Sunday, September 18 at 11 am at the Transept. Join us for this celebration of Victoria Morgan’s 20th Season honoring longtime subscribers, patrons, past and current dancers, and the passion and talent of the many people who make Cincinnati Ballet great! Tickets are $35, and include a buffet brunch and complimentary cocktail, and can be purchased at cballet.org or by calling 513-621-5282.