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Cincinnati Ballet’s New Works Series Focuses on Women

Morgan works with Sirui Liu and Daniel Wagner. Photo by Jennifer Denham, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet.

Cincinnati Ballet's Kaplan New Works series, which runs April 20–29, is an institution at the midwestern company. Now in its 12th year, and sixth season presenting an all-female lineup, it has positioned itself at the forefront of a global conversation around gender imbalances in ballet. Namely, why do so few women create and lead in an art form dominated by female performers?

During the beginning of her tenure at CB, artistic director and CEO Victoria Morgan didn't prioritize the lack of female voices. “Then I started to realize that the representation is really skewed," she says. “I thought, as a leader, I should do something."


This year, Morgan will continue the Kaplan New Works Series' tradition of supporting female choreographers. She reached out to Jennifer Archibald, a choreographer who mixes hip-hop influences with a ballet background. “Jennifer has a more aggressive style, but you have to have ballet technique to dance it." Morgan introduced Archibald to the street artist Swoon, who creates large-scale murals and installations. The two will work together on designing Archibald's ballet.

Other premieres include a shorter work by Morgan and a ballet by Cincinnati-based choreographer Heather Britt, who frequently creates for CB. “I like being part of the development of a talented person's craft," Morgan says. “And Heather is worthy of being highlighted." Eros Redux, an older work by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, will complete the program, making its U.S. debut.

Morgan appreciates the contrast within this season's program. “Jennifer is phenomenal at intricate port de bras, and she creates her own music remixes. Annabelle's piece is quite dramatic and weird. I'm more neoclassical, and Heather is more contemporary, with a background in Límon and Taylor." It just goes to show, Morgan notes, how much female choreographers can defy assumptions. “Women have dynamic voices and they need to be part of the conversation."

Ballet Stars

What do Diana Vishneva, Olga Smirnova, Kristina Shapran and Maria Khoreva all have in common? These women, among the most impressive talents to graduate from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in recent years, all studied under legendary professor Lyudmila Kovaleva. Kovaleva, a former dancer with the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky), is beloved by her students and admired throughout the ballet world for her ability to pull individuality and artistry out of the dancers she trains. Like any great teacher, Kovaleva is remarkably generous with her wealth of knowledge; it seems perfect, then, that she appears as the Fairy of Generosity in this clip from a 1964 film of the Kirov's The Sleeping Beauty.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Ballet Careers
Ali Cameron, Courtesy Queensland Ballet

An artistic director's position was far from Li Cunxin's mind when the Brisbane-based Queensland Ballet came calling in 2012. Since his retirement from the stage in 1999, the Chinese-Australian dancer had embarked on a highly successful career at the helm of a stockbroking firm. His wife, former dancer and current Queensland ballet mistress Mary McKendry Li, changed his mind, Li remembers. "She said, 'Wouldn't it be nice to give something back to the art form that we both have benefited so much from?' "

Seven years later, Li's contribution has been dramatic. Queensland Ballet, once a struggling choreographer-led company, has become one of Australia's most exciting repertoire ensembles, with Liam Scarlett on board as artistic associate. The budget has more than quadrupled, to over $20 million USD, and Li has launched not one but three major construction projects, with world-class headquarters, a theater and a new academy all in progress.

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News
Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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