Q&A with Adam Hougland


What is The Firebird about?

It’s about the power of the earth and nature and all things, and about co-existing. It’s a grown-up, slightly scary Zen fairytale.


Are you discovering new ideas or lines of inquiry in the music?

After doing (Stravinsky’s) Rite of Spring in 2009, I find I love Stravinsky for what he forces out of me. The music is intricate, detailed and bizarre in some places, and beautiful but kind of shrill and atonal in others. It pushes you as a choreographer. It’s not the kind of music I would just play at home. It’s hard work, but the more you work with it, the more you fall in love.


Tell us about the process of choreographing with Cincinnati Ballet dancers.

It’s like a science project. You give yourself some rules and parameters and then you experiment until something reacts. That’s what’s exciting about creating the movement on the dancers, rather than coming in with something that’s already made and super-imposing it onto them. You don’t get that sort of spontaneous, by-chance, exciting thing when you hand someone a list of steps and say, “you’re going to do this now.” But when you’re creating on-the-spot, that’s when the most interesting, fortunate, serendipitous, wonderful moments occur.


I don’t think any of us were prepared for how much people loved last season’s Mozart’s Requiem. People loved it – they really connected on an emotional level.

I was shocked. I really wasn’t expecting people to get so excited by it. All I’m trying to do is take ballet, this wonderful, beautiful art form that we have, and I’m trying to make ballets that I would want to watch. If there’s something an artist is trying to convey, I want to “get it.” I wanted people to understand and connect with the work. With the beautiful scenery and props, and Trad’s great lighting, it was just the right mix of obvious and not-so-obvious. It was never my intention to place any judgment on the characters or state, “this is what I believe, this is what you all should believe.” The whole thing was about not knowing. People from different backgrounds could identify with it, because it didn’t exclude anyone.

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