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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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Cincinnati Ballet’s ‘Director’s Cut’ Amused, Charmed and Enthralled


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Maizyalet Velázquez, Sirui Liu and Christina LaForgia Morse in Ma Cong’s “Near Light.” Photo by Peter Mueller.

Cincinnati Ballet
Director’s Cut
Procter & Gamble Hall at Aronoff Center
Cincinnati, Ohio
September 16, 2016

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

To kick off her 20th anniversary season as artistic director of Cincinnati Ballet, Victoria Morgan culled together seven diverse ballets for the program Director’s Cut, performed by Cincinnati Ballet, September 16-17, 2016 at the Aronoff Center’s Procter & Gamble Hall in downtown Cincinnati.

Performed in part to live music by the Cincinnati Ballet Orchestra conducted by Carmon Deleone, Director’s Cut amused, charmed and enthralled opening night, September 16 beginning with New York City Ballet resident choreographer Justin Peck’s “Capricious Maneuvers” (2013).

Presently, one of ballet’s “it” choreographers, Peck’s neoclassical ballet was a satisfying blend of classic NYCB style infused with contemporary ballet sensibilities. Danced to Lukas Foss’ “Capriccio for Cello and Piano” performed live by cellist Nathaniel Chaitkin and pianist Michael Chertock, the ballet for five had a relaxed feel to it.  Dancers paired off in partnered movement phrases, while others nonchalantly stood by watching. Peck’s breezy choreography was playful and sophisticated a la a Mark Morris work. And like a Morris work, its ease look belied its technical difficulty. Up to the challenge, newly promoted senior soloist Sirui Liu shined in the ballet with a combination of textbook form and silky-smooth port de bras.

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Cincinnati Ballet dancers in Justin Peck’s “Capricious Maneuvers.” Photo by Peter Mueller.

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James Cunningham and Sirui Liu in Justin Peck’s “Capricious Maneuvers.” Photo by Peter Mueller.

Next, petite powerhouse Chisako Oga teamed up with José Losada for “Black Swan Pas de Deux,” from Swan Lake choreographed by Morgan after Marius Petipa. In it, Oga was slow to immerse herself in the devilishly seductive Odile character. When she finally did her performance moved from decent to delicious. As “Black Swan” pairings go, Oga and Losada were overall technically solid but lacked chemistry which diminished the famous pas de deux’s emotional impact.

One of the program’s pleasant surprises was company soloist James Cunningham’s whimsical “Prohibition Condition.” Set to music by Dmitri Shostakovich, the solo for CB principal dancer Rodrigo Almarales proved an audience favorite. From the moment Almarales stumbled on to the stage in a comically drunken stupor, he endeared himself to the audience. His mugging and making fun of orchestra conductor Deleone’s movements in the pit elicited audience chuckles. For his part, Cunningham’s well-crafted choreography balanced clever, inebriation-inspired movement with bravura ballet fireworks in which Almarales tossed off series of jumps, pirouettes and attitude turns with relative ease.

Created for San Francisco Ballet in 2008, Yuri Possokhov’s “Fusion” (Excerpts), with music by Graham Fitkin, had a dreamlike atmosphere about it. It opened with dancer Sarah Van Patten performing a contemporary ballet solo on one end of the stage while behind her on the opposite side, a quartet of male dancers, backs to the audience in long skirts, stood with arms around each other’s waists in shadow. Van Patten was soon joined by Luke Ingham and the choreography took on a melancholy mood with bendy movements and those suggesting falling. Moving out from the shadows, the quartet of men then began to softly twirl like ghostly whirling dervishes. Perhaps seeing the ballet in its entirety would give one a better sense of it, nonetheless, the imagery and performances by the dancers in these excerpts related a sense of beauty that stirred internal emotions.

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Sarah Hairston and Zack Grubbs (center) with CBII and Otto M. Budig Academy Students in Marius Petipa’s “Raymonda Grand Pas Hongrois.” Photo by Peter Mueller.

Rounding out the program’s first half, the “Grand Pas Hongrois” from the ballet Raymonda was bittersweet for Cincinnati Ballet fans. On the one hand it was a spectacle of classical ballet pomp and circumstance. On the other however, it was one of principal dancer Sarah Hairston and senior soloist Zach Grubbs last performances. The two audience favorites retired from the company with this production. They will remain with the organization however, taking on leaderships roles at Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Academy.

Danced to music by Alexander Glazunov, Hairston and Grubbs led a corps of eight male-female couples from CB’s academy in Raymonda’s celebratory wedding scene which alternated between sweeping group dances and showy solo variations for Hairston and Grubbs.

A 15-year company veteran, Hairston brought elegance, energy and sass to the role of Raymonda and her dancing, typifying her performing career. As Jean de Brienne, Grubbs was regal and a steady partner to Hairston.

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Melissa Gelfin and Cervilio Miguel Amador in Victoria Morgan’s “Patriotic Pas.” Photo by Peter Mueller.

After the world-premiere of Morgan’s “Patriotic Pas,” a jaunty duet danced by Melissa Gelfin and Cervilio Miguel Amador to familiar tunes contained in Morton Gould’s American Suite such as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” Director’s Cut concluded with the gem of the evening, the world-premiere of Ma Cong’s “Near Light.”

Amidst a blanket of stage fog and in spotlight, a red rose fell from a woman’s hand into those of a male kneeling before her. Was this a memory or a premonition? The rose was then then passed from one dancer to another who came onstage until finally it disappeared from our sight along with the stage fog.

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Patric Palkens in Ma Cong’s “Near Light.” Photo by Peter Mueller.

Set to a haunting collection of works by composer Ólafur Arnalds, Cong’s contemporary ballet spoke to the viewer on multiple levels. Visually, the combination of Trad A. Burns’ atmospheric lighting and Cong’s velvety movement for the dancers imprinted images of bodies in beautiful motion intertwining, cascading and melting into each other. Emotionally, Arnalds’ aching music and the dancers’ passionate response to it, left one breathtakingly silent. As in “Capricious Maneuvers,” Liu mesmerized. So too did Abigail Morwood whose stellar performance overflowed with intensity, drama and grace.

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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