When she arrived in 1996, Capps had no expectation of sticking around very long. She'd been hired to substitute for an injured dancer. It was just a short-term thing. But then-artistic director Peter Anastos offered her a one-year contract for the following season.
"I didn't have another job offer," says Capps. "So . . . well, I thought I'd stay another year."
And, if you've followed the Cincinnati Ballet, you know the rest. Capps rapidly moved her way up from corps de ballets to soloist and, in 2002, was named a principal dancer.
But now, after 14 seasons on the stage, Capps is retiring. The company's season-closing performances at the Aronoff Center next weekend will be her grand finale.
It has been a memorable journey. The kid who started her career at Fran Sullivan School of Dance in Charlotte, N.C., 25 years ago managed to dance her way through a who's who of ballet's most notable roles; Odette/Odile ("Swan Lake"), Giselle ("Giselle"), Juliet ("Romeo & Juliet") and, of course, Marie in "The Nutcracker."
It wasn't Anastos who saw Capps' enormous potential, though. A year later, in July of 1997, a rookie artistic director named Victoria Morgan took over the company from Anastos, and from that moment, Capps' and Morgan's careers were inextricably linked.
"We've both grown together," says Capps. "When I got here, I was a kid. And she was completely green. But she gave me my life here."
Morgan is equally appreciative of what Capps brought to the relationship.
"As an artistic director, I was completely inexperienced," says Morgan, who is completing her 13th season in the position. "But when I saw Kristi dance, it was obvious to me that she was someone who had a future in this company. Here was this beautiful physical creature. And then, when I started to work more with her, I discovered how smart and determined she was."
In role after role, Capps produced the sort of performances that Morgan was looking for; incisive, clean, sometimes even playful.
But inevitably, the time comes when a dancer needs to leave the stage. Often, the decision is forced by a serious injury. But for Capps, it was tougher. There was no career-ending injury. The decision was hers alone.
"This last month, people have kept asking me if I'm sad," she says. "I know there will be some tears. But really, I'm just grateful. I'm grateful for my time here, for all the help and energy that people have shared with me. I'm grateful because I know I could stay for two more years if I wanted to. But I've come to such a wonderful point where . . .," she pauses, trying to find words that could possibly describe the enormity of her decision. "This is it," she continues. "I know this is the time. It's time to leave."
The offstage Capps is much like her onstage persona; strong, direct, resolute. So she will miss her colleagues. A lot. The dancers, staff and crew of the Cincinnati Ballet are, after all, the people she's spent most of her adult life with.
But she is pragmatic about the coming change in her life. She is too excited about the future to mourn the past.
"When you're a ballet dancer, it's like you're married to your job. For the first time in ... I don't know, more than 20 years, I guess, I won't have to answer to this marriage. It doesn't have to be the first thing I've got to go do. And I'm really excited about it."
That said, she's not so sure what comes next.
She knows she will probably move to Denver, where her husband, Dmitry Trubchanov, a former Cincinnati Ballet principal dancer, is a member of the Colorado Ballet. And she's eager to finish college, which she has been working on, one course at a time, for several years.
"I'm not really sure," says Capps. A career having something to do with the environment, perhaps. Or with animals.
"But just because I don't know exactly what I'll be doing doesn't mean that I'm not excited. In some ways, not knowing is exciting for me. Ever since I became a ballet dancer, I've known exactly what was ahead. Now I don't. And for me, that is incredibly exciting."