Cincinnati Ballet History

Since 1963, Cincinnati Ballet has been the cornerstone professional ballet company of the region, presenting a bold and adventurous array of classical, full-length ballets and contemporary works, regularly with live orchestral accompaniment. Under the artistic direction of Victoria Morgan, Cincinnati Ballet has become a creative force within the larger dance community, commissioning world premiere works and exploring unique collaborations with artists as diverse as Grammy winning guitarist Peter Frampton and popular, Ohio-based band Over the Rhine. With a mission to enrich, expand, and excel in the art of dance through performance, a high-caliber academy, and impactful education and outreach in local to global communities, Cincinnati Ballet reaches beyond the stage in programs that allow every person in the region to be part of the continued evolution of dance. To that end, Cincinnati Ballet presents exhilarating performances, extensive education outreach programs and offers top level professional ballet training at Cincinnati Ballet Otto M. Budig Academy.

1963 – 1968

The founding of Cincinnati Ballet

The first official auditions were in 1963 at the YMCA, where 41 dancers were chosen from the 200 hopefuls. Debut performances took place at the University of Cincinnati’s Wilson Auditorium in 1964 and 1965. In 1966, the directorship passed on to a young visionary named David McLain, who at the time also headed the Dance Division of CCM. CCM gave the new company great advantages; studio space for classes and rehearsals, access to talented students, and the use of Wilson Auditorium for performances. As the organization matured, McLain’s vision grew more ambitious. The company was re-named “Cincinnati Ballet Company” in 1968 and gained the talented Carmon DeLeone as Music Director.

1970 – 1989

Building Professional Status

In 1970 true professional status was achieved when ten salaried dancers were hired. James Truitte began to train the dancers in the contemporary technique created by the American choreographer Lester Horton. Cincinnati Ballet Company earned national recognition for keeping this respected Horton technique alive. However, CBC was still first and foremost a ballet company with classical works in the repertoire. Performances of the classics like Sleeping Beauty and the Balanchine repertoire now took place at the Taft Theatre. In 1975, tours were added in Ohio, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and at New York City’s Dance Festival. The Nutcracker, which premiered in 1974 at Music Hall, was sponsored by Frisch’s Restaurants. To the everlasting gratitude of ballet audiences, Frisch’s has continued to do so for the past 40 years.

Beginning in 1978, performances were also held at Music Hall. The schedule expanded from three series to five by 1980. The company’s name was shortened to “Cincinnati Ballet,” and in 1983 a sister-city arrangement had begun with New Orleans to further increase performing opportunities.

With David McLain’s sad passing in 1984, the Board of Trustees turned to the legendary Frederic Franklin as interim Artistic Director. In 1986 Ivan Nagy, was appointed and under his leadership the company moved out of CCM, although it was still designated the official school. It was Nagy’s intention to have Cincinnati Ballet stand alone as a professional company. The company performed full time at Music Hall and rehearsals were in the Emery Building. A Hungarian native who had danced all over the world, Nagy knew many foreign dancers, and brought a number of them to Cincinnati. The arrival of highly experienced dancers began to raise the company to a new standard of performance. It joined the American Guild of Musical Artists and added the SCPA Dance Department, along with the CCM Children’s Dance Division, as “feeder” institutions to provide apprentices and child performers.

A new Nutcracker, choreographed by Ben Stevenson of the Houston Ballet, was added and Cincinnati Ballet performed every year in Knoxville as part of another sister-city arrangement. The repertoire included a full-length La Sylphideand Balanchine’s Four Temperaments as well as pieces by contemporary choreographers such as Andre Prokovsky, Mauricio Wainrot and Ronald Hynd.

Nagy left in 1989 and three artistic directors came and went in quick succession. Richard Collins, a British-trained dancer, and a director of great promise, was tragically killed in a car accident. Nigel Burgoine succeeded him in 1992 and Peter Anastos in 1994. During his two years in Cincinnati, Anastos created the very successful ballet Peter Pan with an original score by Carmon DeLeone.

1990 – 1996

Making a Home

The 1990’s were memorable for a number of special events. Through the great generosity of the Kaplan and Budig foundations, a permanent home was built for the company on Central Parkway at Liberty Street in 1994. Cincinnati Ballet Otto M. Budig Academy was launched in 1996. At last, offices, dance studios, a training school, wardrobe/costume storage, and rehearsal space were all in the same complex. The intimate Mickey Jarson Kaplan Performance Studio was added in 2005.

Changes continued. The Aronoff Center for the Arts became the permanent home for the repertoire series of performances and a number of spectacular ballets were acquired. “Americana” ballets such as Agnes DeMille’s Rodeo, and modern dance pieces by Paul Taylor challenged the dancers and intrigued audiences. In 1996, in an exciting premiere, Balanchine’s full-length Jewels, was performed by the company.

1997 – Today

Set to Soar

Victoria Morgan was appointed Artistic Director in 1997 and CEO in 2008. Also in 2008, Devon Carney, a former principal dancer with Boston Ballet, was appointed Associate Artistic Director. Morgan has honored the Cincinnati Ballet tradition of performing not only new works, but also keeping the historic repertoire alive and vibrant. A tribute to Frederic Franklin and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 2002 inspired The New York Times to call the production one of the top ten dance events in the country that season.

To date there have been four groundbreaking collaborations between Cincinnati Ballet and BalletMet Columbus. Together, to great acclaim, the combined companies presented Jewels (2003), Stars and Stripes (2006), Swan Lake (2009 and 2013) and Symphony in C (2014). Cincinnati Ballet has attracted top dancers from all over the United States and world. The innovation and originality of the new repertoire has molded this exciting group of versatile performers, who approach both traditional and contemporary roles with individual fair and sensational technique. They have performed at The Aronoff Center for over a decade to enthusiastic audiences and continue to tour in American cities, including Anchorage, Detroit, Indianapolis and Cleveland and in Europe as well. In the 2007-2008 Season, a collaboration with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in the production of Chaconne, resulted in the presentation of a joint program, both at The Aronoff Center and Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center in 2008. Cincinnati Ballet has continued to push the boundaries of what ballet can be and draw new and wider audiences with successful live band performances including Over the Rhine (2011 and 2014) and the legendary Peter Frampton (2013), who even wrote brand new music for the ballet.

During the 2013-2014 Season, Cincinnati Ballet celebrated 50th Anniversary. This milestone year was marked by not only memorable and record-breaking performances, but also by four major initiatives. The original world premiere of King Arthur’s Camelot, choreographed by Victoria Morgan, took audiences to another land in 2014. The first every history book was published – a commemorative published history with never-before-seen photography and intimate interviews, Cincinnati Ballet Celebrates 50. The company toured to New York’s prominent Joyce Theater with seven performances. And the Set to Soar Endowment Campaign, the largest endowment effort in Cincinnati Ballet’s history was developed to secure the continued artistic excellence of the company for future generations.

Scott Altman joined Cincinnati Ballet as President & CEO in September 2016. Under his visionary leadership, the Cincinnati Ballet reached its first $10 million operating budget, rolled out a dynamic new logo and brand identity, experienced record-breaking ticket sales, launched the new Family Series, expanded education and outreach programs, and offered audiences more performances than ever before. Altman brings with him nearly three decades of experience in nonprofit administration and performing arts. Prior to his roles in administration, Altman enjoyed a 20-year career as a professional opera singer and performed 40 opera roles internationally. He has held leadership positions at Arizona Opera and Opera New Jersey, and just prior to coming to Cincinnati Ballet he was Executive Director of Ballet West. During his tenure, Ballet West experienced phenomenal expansion, including growth in ticket sales, a vastly expanded touring schedule, robust growth in donor development, and the construction of a new building. He is an alumnus of the Manhattan School of Music and the State University College at Purchase. Altman attended Stanford University’s Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders, was a Utah Business 2016 CEO of the Year Honoree, and is a three-time recipient of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Citation of Excellence Award.

Cincinnati Ballet is Set to Soar!