Iconic Pictures, Bold Premieres
James Gilmer; Photo by Aaron M. Conway
Photography provided by Cincinnati Ballet
The 2016-17 Cincinnati Ballet season featured a yearlong, thrilling 20th anniversary celebration of artistic director Victoria Morgan. For those who think the following season might call for a bit of a rest, think again. In classic Morgan fashion, she “can’t wait to dig into” the exciting 2017-18 season.
“We have such a rich season coming up,” Morgan says. “We often say there’s something for everyone, but truly, this season will offer so many eclectic, strong, intriguing moments. There is so much to love here.”
This season presents two broad categories of performances: full-length ballets, which tell a complete story centered on an evolving narrative, and mixed repertoire performances, which are more of a smorgasbord featuring different kinds of movements and choreography. Morgan is equally motivated by both.
“With something like ‘New Works,’ where we showcase new ideas, new energy, new concepts, audiences connect with the way the dancers really are inside and a part of the conversation,” she says. “This is in contrast to the traditional full-length ballets where dancers are told very specifically how to move, where their arms should be, and so on. With original works, you get to create the vocabulary as a dancer and perform movements that make sense to your body. It’s an exciting, different kind of energy.”
When it comes to a piece like “Romeo & Juliet,” a quintessential, traditional audience favorite, however, Morgan says there is still plenty of opportunity to improve on past performances to keep up with the expectations of an ever-evolving audience. “Tastes are deeper now. Audiences are seeking other kinds of movements, and dancers need to be engaged and intrigued, as well.”
Morgan says her goal for this year’s “Romeo & Juliet” is to “bring force” to a poignant story that focuses on the phenomenal intrigue of discovering the sensation of attraction and first love. “We tend to get more practical about relationships as we get older,” she says, “but those early years are so intense and hopeful – there’s a different kind of light on the emotions of attraction at that stage. That’s what I’m trying to capture.”
“Frisch’s Big Boy Presents The Nutcracker” will mark the first time in 11 years that the perennial favorite will return to the Music Hall stage, following the historic venue’s major rehabilitation. Morgan says that while the larger elements stay the same, she changes many small things each year. “I’m always pushing further and deeper, and making it more challenging for the dancers and more dynamic for the audience,” she says. This year, Cincinnati Ballet will travel to the Detroit Opera House for a special “Nutcracker” engagement, the latest example of the ballet company’s growing national acclaim. Cincinnati Ballet received a great deal of critical praise when it took the show to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in 2016.
In February, the Ballet will offer a world premiere “Carmina Burana” coupled with George Balanchine’s iconic “Serenade,” accompanied by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the May Festival. Morgan says this show will be a major highlight of the season for several reasons. Internationally renowned choreographer Nicolo Fonte will bring his characteristically daring, original approach to choreography to the production, Morgan says, “driving and pushing our dancers to exceed even their own expectations. This work is intense, dynamic and full of familiarity, but to be there – to hear it and see it live – will be an experience to remember and one of the highlights of the season.”
In March, the Ballet will present “Director’s Cut: Musical Masters,” a program featuring three pieces carefully selected by Morgan. “Since we will have the CSO with us, we picked works with big composers,” she says. “Fancy Free” features a ballet choreographed by the legendary Jerome Robbins with music by Leonard Bernstein, whose 100th birthday will be observed in 2018. Other highlights include Balanchine’s “Rubies,” danced to the music of Igor Stravinsky, and the Cincinnati premiere of Garret Smith’s “Facades,” featuring selections from Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel and Philip Glass.
Cincinnati Ballet will round out its season in April with “Bold Moves,” which features groundbreaking, contemporary choreography and live music by the Chicago-based ensemble Eighth Blackbird. “Murder Ballades” will feature choreography by New York City Ballet dancer/choreographer Justin Peck in collaboration with Cincinnati native Bryce Dessner of The National. The series will also showcase world premieres by Kate Weare and newly named Cincinnati Ballet Resident Choreographer Jennifer Archibald.
Morgan says the season will feature more female choreographers than ever, with eight of 15 ballets choreographed by women. “Many of my favorite – and our best received – ballets have been choreographed by women. It’s a matter of stepping forward and developing your craft, and having the confidence as well as the chance. It’s been a big theme for me.”
For more information about Cincinnati Ballet, visit cballet.org.