Cincinnati Ballet Bets on Women Choreographers

March 12, 2017

Cincinnati Ballet has announced their 2017-18 season, and it looks like artistic director Victoria Morgan is making a statement about gender equality with her programming choices: Of the 15 works being presented this season, 8 are choreographed by women. Kate Weare, Penny Saunders, Jennifer Archibald, Johanna Bernstein Wilt and Heather Britt are creating world premieres for the company. And Morgan brings back her Romeo & Juliet and (of course) her 2011 version of The Nutcracker, as well as a solo piece performed to a K.D. Lang song.

If it seems a little ridiculous that we’re celebrating a ballet company programming works by just over 50% female choreographers, consider what we term the “Ballet’s Boys Club” of choreographers, or how in 2015 New York City Ballet handed all of its fall commissions to young, white men (they seem to have learned their lesson there, and commissioned works by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and principal Lauren Lovette this past fall). It’s still rare for a company to have more than one or two female choreographers lined up for a season (though smaller companies are generally better about this than the behemoths)—and this is despite the fact that we’re seeing more women in leadership positions at ballet companies these days.

Not only is Cincinnati Ballet’s ratio of men to women choreographers balanced, but the season is artistically balanced, too. Look at the rest of the programming: master works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, company premieres from Justin Peck and former Houston Ballet dancer Garrett Smith and a world premiere from SYTYCD favorite Travis Wall.

By our count, that’s adds up to a couple of box-office friendly full-lengths, a handful of challenging repertory pieces and an even bigger handful of new works sure to push to dancers technically and stylistically. That’s how you plan a season. Bravo.