Cincinnati Ballet Shows Even More Love for Women Choreographers This Season
At Cincinnati Ballet, the 2017–18 season boasts that 8 out of the 15 company productions are from female choreographers. For the past five seasons, Cincinnati Ballet had devoted one program a year to works by women, which allowed for a directed conversation about the need for female voices. "People always responded strongly to that series, so I thought, Why am I sequestering them?" says artistic director Victoria Morgan. "We have enough feistiness to respond to the conversations that are happening, not only in our community but across the country, about the lack of women in leadership."
To that end, the fall kicks off with the Kaplan New Works Series, featuring premieres by Heather Britt, Penny Saunders, Travis Wall, associate artistic director Johanna Bernstein Wilt and Morgan herself. (Two of Morgan's full-length ballets are also programmed this season.) The Saunders commission, set to the music of female composers from various eras, will explore the life of musician Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus' little-known sister. Later on in the season, two more premieres, from Kate Weare and Jennifer Archibald, will share the stage with Justin Peck's Murder Ballades. Archibald's new ballet will feature a collaboration with contemporary chamber ensemble Eight Blackbird, performing live; Weare will choreographer for pointe shoes for the first time.
Making all of these collaborations and firsts even more exciting is the appointment of Archibald as the first female resident choreographer in the company's history. "Jennifer is powerful, smart and very demanding, and the dancers are highly responsive to her," says Morgan. The Ailey-trained choreographer, whose resumé ranges from the world of ballet to commercial dance, is slated to create an annual premiere during her open-ended tenure.
Archibald is looking forward to this opportunity to create work on a larger scale and see the dancers evolve within her aesthetic, which blends hip hop and ballet. "Of course powerful female choreographers exist, but doors are not always open to these voices," says Archibald. "When young female choreographers approach me and say, 'It's so nice to see a woman on the bill,' that's when it hits me. I am quickly reminded that this is not the norm, and female choreographers still struggle to be represented on ballet-produced platforms." However, with Morgan paving the way, a season like this could soon become the new normal. "My goal is always to have the best, most adventurous work, to be relevant to younger generations," says Morgan. "I put all those various hopes and dreams together and this is what I came up with."
What happens during a performance is the product of the painstaking process of realizing an artistic vision. Whether held beforehand, afterward, offsite or online, audience discussions tend not to be so preordained, easily thrown off track without a skilled moderator at the helm.
"I'm someone who dreaded talkbacks and Q&As," admits Bill Bragin, former director of public programming at Lincoln Center. "While I was in New York, a lot of the time it was just audience members trying to show off how smart they were."
These events present a pile of difficult questions: How much do you reveal about a piece before it's shown? How can a conversation designed to hit key points feel casual and spontaneous? How do you cater to the needs of diverse attendees, from novice dancegoers to lifelong fans to scholars and critics? And how do you avoid smothering dance with language, flattening all its complexity?
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
I dance to encourage others. The longer I dance, the more I see that much of my real work is to speak life-giving words to my fellow artists. This is a multidimensionally grueling profession. I count it a privilege to remind my colleagues of how they are bringing beauty into the world through their craft. I recently noticed significant artistic growth in a fellow dancer, and when I verbalized what I saw, he beamed. The impact of positive feedback is deeper than we realize.