Meet Cincinnati Ballet’s Katherine Ochoa

June 22, 2023

While rehearsing a section of William Forsythe’s In the middle, somewhat elevated, Katherine Ochoa experiments with the fast, dynamic choreography and breezes casually through a quadruple pirouette. The Cincinnati Ballet soloist exudes a quiet confidence and curiosity, coupled with striking technique. It’s no surprise that just into her second season, the Cuban dancer had nabbed a promotion and already danced her first full-length title role, in Septime Webre’s Alice (in Wonderland).

Company: Cincinnati Ballet

Age: 23

Hometown: Havana, Cuba

Training: Cuban National Ballet School with Ramona de Saá, Ana Julia Bermúdez, and Yaima Fuentes

Accolades: Gold and silver medals, Havana International Ballet competition; winner, Youth America Grand Prix Chicago; Top 12, YAGP New York Finals

Budding bunhead: Ochoa began ballet lessons at age 5 and quickly developed a passion for the art. She went on to study at Cuba’s national school for eight years before joining the National Ballet of Cuba in 2017, where she danced for three years, launching her professional career at 17.

Broader horizons: As a member of Cuba’s corps de ballet, Ochoa shined in staples of the classical canon like Giselle, Swan Lake, and Cinderella, swiftly rising to the rank of first soloist. But, says Ochoa, “I’d always dreamt of dancing in the U.S.,” so she connected with Cervilio Miguel Amador, a former dancer with the National Ballet of Cuba who is now a rehearsal director at Cincinnati Ballet. She joined the company in February 2022 as a corps member.

Branching out: Cincinnati Ballet’s wide-ranging repertoire offers a good challenge, as Cuba was largely focused on the classics. “Here, you do everything, and I am excited every time a choreographer comes to start working on a different type of ballet,” she says.

What Cincinnati Ballet’s artistic director is saying: Jodie Gates promoted Ochoa to soloist in January after her “exquisite” performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. “The backbone of her work is a very strong technical base, but it’s the richness of her artistry that makes her shine,” says Gates. “She has this intuitive way of approaching roles and really understands what it means to command the stage.”

The reel deal: If you haven’t watched Ochoa perform live, you’ve likely seen her trending on social media. Reels of her fouettés (sometimes reaching eight pirouettes) have been shared on numerous­ ballet fan pages. “I love turns!” says Ochoa, adding that it was common to engage in friendly competition with her colleagues during breaks in Cuba.

Downtime: On her days off, Ochoa likes going for walks with her boyfriend, Cincinnati Ballet principal Rafael Quenedit, and their Weimaraner, Kratos. Ochoa has befriended many of her colleagues, including first soloist Maizyalet Velázquez, a fellow Spanish-speaking dancer.

High hopes: Ochoa is excited to dive into contemporary work, while also performing in her “dream ballets” like Don Quixote and George Balanchine’s Jewels during the 2023–24 season.