Tag Archives: Cincinnati Ballet

4th Annual ‘The Benefit’ Worth Every Cent and More


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Dancers in Christian Broomhall’s “Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 2.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

The Benefit
The Vern Riffe Center’s Jo Ann Davidson Theatre
Columbus, Ohio
May 21, 2017

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

When it comes to all-star dance benefits, few outside the nation’s major metropolises pack in as much talent and great dancing as Columbus, Ohio’s The Benefit. Curated by former BalletMet stars Jimmy Orrante and Attila Bongar, the annual event, now in its fourth year, benefits The Central Ohio Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation. It’s a charity close to Orrante’s heart as his son Isaac lives with the disease.

The expanded event on Sunday, May 21, 2017 was held for the first time at downtown Columbus’ newly renamed Jo Ann Davidson Theatre (formerly the Capitol Theatre) at the Vern Riffe Center and featured dancers and choreographers from Miami City Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Rochester Ballet, BalletMet and Columbus Dance Theatre. In addition, Camarata, a multi-piece orchestra made up of musicians from the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and led by CSO principal cellist Luis Biava, played live accompanying many of the dance and music works on the program.

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Milwaukee Ballet’s Nicole Teague Howell and Patrick Howell in the second act pas de deux from Michael Pink’s “Swan Lake.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

Milwaukee Ballet stars and husband and wife Nicole Teague Howell and Patrick Howell in the second act pas de deux from Michael Pink’s Swan Lake opened the program. Dancing to Tchaikovsky’s music for the ballet, the pair as Odette and Prince Siegfried moved crisply and with lovely command in Pink’s neo-classical choreography that was more akin to a pas de deux from Romeo & Juliet than Swan Lake.

Baritone singer Robert Kerr then performed an animated rendition of the aria “Non più andrai” from Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro. It was followed by “Regard,” the first of two ballets on the program by Orrante. Set to the second movement of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, which was famously used by singer Eric Carmen for his 1975 hit “All by Myself,” Orrante’s pas de deux featured Miami City Ballet principal soloist Lauren Fadeley and BalletMet’s Jarrett Reimers in back and forth choreography full of elegance and grace.  Fadeley and Reimers moved with the ease of spirits floating weightlessly about the stage and in and out of marvelously-crafted lifts, turns, and carries.

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Miami City Ballet principal soloist Lauren Fadeley and BalletMet’s Jarrett Reimers in Jimmy Orrante’s “Regard.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

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Marcus Jarrell Willis in “A Caretakers Vow.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

Of the evening’s many magical moments, one of its most striking came courtesy of former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer Marcus Jarrell Willis’ solo “A Caretakers Vow” (Excerpt). Performed to recorded music by British soul singer-songwriter Laura Mvula, the solo, according to Willis, explores the uncertainty he felt about his future after leaving Ailey and how his friends encouraged and lifted him up. It began with Willis in spotlight on his knees and using a myriad of face, hand, arm, and body gestures in concert with Mvula’s song “Show Me Love” to convey his feelings and emotions. A tour-de-force of tightly contained brilliance, Willis’ dancing was fluid, dramatic and poignant.

Concluding the program’s first half was the 3-part “Voyager.”  The largest and most stylistically diverse of the on the program, it was inspired by music selections contained in NASA’s Golden Records included on the Voyager 1 and 2’s interstellar missions.  It began with Columbus’ COSI Science Center chief scientist Paul Sutter giving a brief overview of the Voyager missions and the Golden Records that led into the work’s first section; Orrante’s “Dark Was the Night Cold was the Ground” set to Blind Willie Johnson’s blues song of the same name performed live by North Carolina bluesman th’ Bullfrog Willard McGhee. In it, McGhee sat center stage on a stool as six female dancers surrounded him crisscrossing the stage in small waves of jumping, twisting and whirling movements.

More narration by Sutter then gave way to a thoughtful solo by kathak dancer/choreographer Mansee Singhi performed to “Jaat Kahan Ho” a traditional Indian song sung by Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar, and “Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 2,” a new ballet by former Columbus Dance Theatre dancer Christian Broomhall.

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(l-r) BalletMet’s Jessica Brown, Columbus Dance Theatre’s Kerri Riccardi and BalletMet’s Karen Wing in Christian Broomhall’s “Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 2.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

Full of whimsy, Broomhall’s work was an ear-to-ear grin-inducing delight. Its eight dancers (5 men, 3 women) pranced and cavorted about in what felt like a contemporary dance jig. At times bird-like, the dancers flapped their arms and fluttered their hands as if to take flight and mimicked pecking at each other.  Broomhall, who impressed at 2016’s The Benefit with his ballet “She is,” once again showed why he is a choreographer to watch and one whose ballets need to be in the repertory of more professional dance troupes.

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Miami City Ballet principal soloist Lauren Fadeley and BalletMet’s Michael Sayre in Attila Bongar’s “63.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

The program’s second half opened with a stirring interpretation of Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite” by Camarata. It was followed by Bongar’s mini-story ballet “63,” set to music by composer Alexander Scriabin. In it, Bongar sought to capture the emotions he perceived from seeing a photo of Jacqueline Kennedy and her daughter standing in front slain President John F. Kennedy coffin in 1963. The ballet showed mother, father and daughter figures facing a similar type of emotional distress. It was danced by. And while Scriabin’s dark music and dancers Fadeley, BalletMet’s Michael Sayre and BalletMet Dance Academy student Isabelle LaPierre’s emotional outpourings of tumult captured Bongar’s intent, the choreography lacked originality and the ballet on the whole came off as overly melodramatic.

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Dancers in Cincinnati Ballet soloist James Cunningham’s “Mordent.” Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

Next, Cincinnati Ballet soloist James Cunningham’s trio “Mordent” lifted the mood with a ballet that was chock-full of thrilling choreography and adroit dancing. Set to Beethoven’s Piano Trio in C minor, Op.1 No.3 and titled after the musical term meaning a melodic embellishment, the ballet’s trio of dancers from Cincinnati Ballet each sported an unusual costume embellishment. Corps de ballet dancer Taylor Carrasco wore one black glove and a blood red handprint on his shirt, apprentice dancer Michael Mengden wore one red glove and face paint, and senior soloist Melissa Gelfin was outfitted with two different colored pointe shoes and wore one white sock. Whatever the intended meaning of those embellishments, they further added to a ballet dense with visual marvels.

Following in quick succession were McGhee performing his gravely-great vaudeville tune “Bullfrog,” Rochester Ballet’s Ben Rabe showing of his leaping ability in the Cossack dance “Gopak,” choreographed by R. Zakharov and pianist Tyrone Boyle dazzling in his composition “Carousel in C Major”.

The first of two ballets to close out the 2-hour program was Kristopher Estes-Brown’s group ballet “The Sum of,” danced to music performed live by Columbus indie rock band The Wind and the Sea.  Estes-Brown’s choreography for it, while not particularly inventive, matched the drive of music and gave the ballet a rock-show feel.  Capping The Benefit in style was Bongar’s powerfully beautiful version of the pas de deux from the ballet Spartacus. Performed with passion by BalletMet’s Jessica Brown and Romel Frometa, the pas de deux epitomized the program’s high level of artistry on all counts.

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‘The Benefit’ organizers Jimmy Orrante and Attila Bongar. Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

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Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s Luis Biava conducts Camarata. Photo by Bullfrog Willard McGhee.

With its diversity in dance and music styles, types of choreographic works, entertaining and skilled performers as well as post-performance reception with the performers, The Benefit was a steal at $30 a ticket. Add to that the money raised going to worthy cause and you have a program that no dance lover in their right heart and mind should miss.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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Cincinnati Ballet Announces Exciting Promotions and New Dancers for 2017-2018 Company Roster


Liu_Photo by Peter Mueller

Sirui Liu

By Ashley Kruger

CINCINNATI. (August 16, 2017)–Cincinnati Ballet Artistic Director, Victoria Morgan, is proud to announce the 2017-2018 dancer roster, complete with eight new hires and five promotions, including Sirui Liu, who moves from Senior Soloist to Principal, and Chisako Oga, who moves from Soloist to Principal.

Coming to the U.S from Shanghai, China, Sirui Liu joined Cincinnati Ballet in 2011 as a member of the Corps de Ballet, and has consistently risen through the ranks. “Sirui has an unusual work ethic – she dances to the fullest of her capacity every time,” noted Victoria Morgan. “Her stamina and attention to detail has inspired our artistic staff and her peers. Sirui is always on! I started seeing her as a Principal, watching her in The Nutcracker, in both the Grand Pas (Sugar Plum Fairy) and Snow Queen roles, and working closely with her in Cinderella as the Fairy Godmother. She has improved immensely over the years, and her sky-rocketing ability, matched with her generous on-stage spirit, has earned her Principal status.”

Along with the Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen and Fairy Godmother, Liu has danced feature roles with Cincinnati Ballet including Swanilda in Coppélia, Rose in The Nutcracker’s Waltz of the Flowers, Guinevere’s friend in King Arthur’s Camelot, and she recently danced in several contemporary works, such as Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, Adam Hougland’s Cut to the Chase, Jennifer Archibald’s Never.Nest, Heather Britt’s Karass, and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Eros Redux. In 2016, Liu was named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch.”

Oga_Photography by Peter Mueller

Chisako Oga

Originally from Carlsbad, California, Chisako Oga joined Cincinnati Ballet’s Corps de Ballet in 2016, and was promoted mid-season to Soloist. Oga had previously been an apprentice at San Francisco Ballet. She has enjoyed several leading roles throughout the 2016-2017 season, including the Black Swan Pas, Swanilda in Coppélia, Guinevere in King Arthur’s Camelot, Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, and several contemporary works including Justin Peck’s Capricious Maneuvers, Ma Cong’s Near Light, Adam Hougland’s Cut to the Chase, Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, Heather Britt’s Karass, Jennifer Archibald’s Never.Nest, and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Eros Redux.

“Chisako is well-trained, having attended San Francisco Ballet School on full scholarship. She then danced in SFB’s Second Company for two years before joining the SFB Company. When she arrived in Cincinnati, she was primed and ready for advancement. Her mind is always thinking about what you are going to say, and she is already presenting that thought in a physical expression – smart, fast, inventive and willing! She came to the call of Cincinnati Ballet, seeking a brilliant petit dancer to partner with two of our Principal men. Her technique is impressive, and I learned through my work with her as Guinevere in King Arthur’s Camelot that she has emotional depth to match her ballet technique. She moved up quickly in her first year, and proved she was worthy of Principal status for her second year,” stated Victoria Morgan.

Additional promotions announced include Melissa Gelfin, who has been promoted from Corps de Ballet to the rank of Senior Soloist, and Maizyalet Velázquez who has been promoted from Soloist to Senior Soloist. David Morse has been elevated from Corps de Ballet to Soloist.

Several new dancers join Cincinnati Ballet from across the U.S. and abroad, including two individuals promoted through Cincinnati Ballet’s Second Company: Michael Mengden and Naomi Tanioka, joining as Apprentices.

New hires also include former Sarasota Ballet Principal Dancer, Edward Gonzalez, from Havana, Cuba, joining Cincinnati Ballet as a Senior Soloist; Grace Choi, of Evans City, Pennsylvania, and previously at San Francisco Ballet, joining as a Corps de Ballet Dancer; Marcus Romeo of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and previously at Boston Ballet, joining as a Corps de Ballet Dancer; Bella Ureta of Seattle, and previously at Boston Ballet, joining as a Corps de Ballet Dancer; Kathleen Dahlhoff of San Francisco, joining as a New Dancer after receiving a BFA from the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University program; Christian Griggs-Drane of Richmond, Virginia, and previously at Grand Rapids Ballet, joining as a New Dancer; Abbey Kay of Ft. Lauderdale, previously at Sarasota Ballet, joining as an Apprentice; and Matthew Griffin of Minneapolis, joining as an Apprentice after receiving a BS in Dance/Arts Administration from Butler University.

Six new dancers join Cincinnati Ballet’s Second Company this season, including Daniel Baldwin, Jonathan Carter, Zoe Donnenfield, Yu Ting Huang, Ethan Kimbrell, and Megumi Nishimori.

This new roster is being announced as Cincinnati Ballet unveils plans to implement a number of exciting initiatives in the 2017-2018 Season as part of a long-term strategy for sustained growth and advancement. Along with a talented company roster, the “new” Cincinnati Ballet also encompasses an eye-catching, refreshed logo and brand identity for the Company, the launch of the Otto M. Budig Academy’s Professional Training Division, the Company’s return to Music Hall for three productions, the introduction of a brand new Family Series, and a groundbreaking partnership with Ballet West to co-present a World Premiere production.

About Cincinnati Ballet

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 inspire hope and joy in our community and beyond through the power and passion of dance, 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.

CONNECT: READ / WATCH / LISTEN / LEARN / ENJOY at cballet.org

Cincinnati Ballet 2017-2018 Season Sponsors: Artswave, Mercy Health, PNC Bank, Ohio Arts Council, Louise Dieterle Nippert Musical Arts Fund, Frisch’s Big Boy, Rhonda & Larry Sheakley, The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

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Cincinnati Ballet holds Young Performer Auditions for ‘The Nutcracker’


Nutcracker-130-e1488488502191

By Ashley Kruger

Young performer auditions for Frisch’s Big Boy Presents The Nutcracker will take place throughout the day Saturday, August 19 and call back auditions Sunday, August 20 at The Cincinnati Ballet Center, located at 1555 Central Parkway. Now in its 43rd annual production, the timeless holiday tradition runs December 14 through 24 at the newly renovated and historic Music Hall.

Cincinnati Ballet’s The Nutcracker will include approximately 70 young dancers this season. Eligible dancers between the ages of eight and 18 are invited to audition for various roles. Children will be auditioned for roles within their size range. Parts available include Clara, Poodle, Fritz, Party Kids, Baby Mice, Snowballs, Soldiers, Cupcakes, and Chicks.

Auditions begin at 10 am for students currently enrolled in Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Academy, followed by open audition for gymnasts at 2:30 pm and open audition for all roles beginning at 4 pm. Young ladies are asked to wear a leotard, tights and ballet slippers. Young men should wear a t-shirt, tights and ballet slippers. Any young person auditioning for The Nutcracker must be available for all of the rehearsals and performances to be eligible to audition.  Visit https://www.cballet.org/nutcracker-young-performers-auditions-2017/ for additional details, height requirements, audition fees, and registration times.

The Nutcracker features the beloved holiday story of Clara, a little girl who embarks on a fantastical journey with her Nutcracker Prince through the Land of Sweets, meeting colorful and exciting characters along the way. The Cincinnati holiday favorite was re-envisioned in 2011, with new sets by John Ezell, costumes by Carrie Robbins, lighting by Trad A Burns and choreography by Artistic Director Victoria Morgan.

PERFORMANCE DATES AND INFORMATION

WHO:
Cincinnati Ballet
Choreography: Victoria Morgan
Music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Carmon DeLeone

WHAT:  Frisch’s Big Boy Presents The Nutcracker

WHEN:
Thursday, December 14 – 7:30 pm
Friday, December 15 – 7:30 pm
Saturday, December 16 – 2:00 pm
Saturday, December 16 – 7:30 pm
Sunday, December 17 – 1:00 pm
Sunday, December 17 – 6:30 pm
Tuesday, December 19 – 7:30 pm
Wednesday, December 20 – 7:30 pm
Thursday, December 21 – 7:30 pm
Friday, December 22 – 2:00 pm
Friday, December 22 – 7:30 pm
Saturday, December 23 – 2:00 pm
Saturday, December 23 – 7:30 pm
Sunday, December 24 – 1:00 pm

WHERE:
Music Hall
1241 Elm St.
Cincinnati, Ohio  45202
(513) 621-5219
cballet.org

About Cincinnati Ballet

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 inspire hope and joy in our community and beyond through the power and passion of dance, 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

CONNECT: READ / WATCH / LISTEN / LEARN / ENJOY at cballet.org

Cincinnati Ballet 2017-2018 Season Sponsors: ArtsWave, Rhonda & Larry Sheakley, PNC Bank, Louise Dieterle Nippert Musical Arts Fund, Ohio Arts Council, Mercy Health, Frisch’s Big Boy, Austin E. Knowlton Foundation, The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

 

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