Victoria Morgan pushes dancers' boundaries in the studio. Jennifer Denham, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet.

Trailblazing Women: Female Choreographers Shine at Victoria Morgan's Cincinnati Ballet

Victoria Morgan's normally bright smile is even brighter entering her 22nd season as Cincinnati Ballet's artistic director. That's because the 55-year-old company is in the best shape it has ever been: Attendance, ticket sales and the company's annual operating budget are at all-time highs. But the road to Cincinnati Ballet's current successes required an early revamp in Morgan's thinking about programming. When she took over leadership in 1997, the former San Francisco Ballet dancer had trouble accepting that the company simply didn't have the budget for her ideas about duplicating the repertoire she was used to.


"I finally realized that part of my reason for being was to find and grow young choreographic talent and to be in the conversation around today's ideas," says Morgan. That focus on rising choreographers and work from in-demand dancemakers, including Justin Peck, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Adam Hougland, has come to define Cincinnati Ballet. So has Morgan's commitment to highlighting female choreographers. Ballets by Heather Britt, Jessica Lang and Amy Seiwert and several all-female-choreographer programs have solidified that reputation.

Melissa Gelfin and Cervilio Miguel Amador in Morgan's "Romeo & Juliet" Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Furthermore, Cincinnati Ballet's current resident choreographer is Jennifer Archibald. An Ailey School graduate and director of her own contemporary troupe, Archibald is a boundary-pushing choice based on the variety of styles in which she works. Having Archibald on board has broadened the dancers' artistry, says Morgan. "She has the most impressive and seamless blending of ballet and hip hop in her work. We are an integrated society, and the necessity to fold that into our art form will help guarantee that we have future audiences."

Each season since 2005, Cincinnati Ballet has dedicated a program to world premieres with its Kaplan New Works series. The showcase has featured a wide variety of choreographers, including Archibald, Val Caniparoli and James Kudelka, as well as contemporary voices of "So You Think You Can Dance" fame, like Stacey Tookey, Travis Wall and, this past fall, Mia Michaels. The Kaplan Series "is on the cusp of whatever that next voice in dance is going to be," says Morgan. "It's a really important initiative for us because it gives our choreographers the opportunity to explore and invent."

2018-2019 Season Announcement www.youtube.com

And while new works play an important part in the company's programming, Cincinnati Ballet's repertoire also mixes in contemporary ballets (Trey McIntyre, Yuri Possokhov, Edwaard Liang), modern classics (Balanchine, Jiří Kylián), classical story ballets and newer full-lengths from the likes of Septime Webre, Devon Carney and Morgan. A prolific choreographer for the company, Morgan will premiere her version of L. Frank Baum's Oz tales with Dancing to Oz in April.

What else characterizes the 27-member ranked troupe? "We are a company of strong personalities and big movers," says Morgan. One of those dancers is newly promoted principal Melissa Gelfin. The 26-year-old describes the company culture as warm, welcoming and encouraging. "The repertoire is so dynamic and diverse," she says. "As a dancer, I have grown a lot from that and have been pushed to extremes that I personally had never been pushed to before." Gelfin says that Morgan has a gentle toughness in the studio. "Gentle in a way that you are not intimidated to push your boundaries and go to places that are a little scary."

Morgan in the studioJennifer Denham, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

For some dancers, challenging themselves might also mean pursuing a degree. The company has a unique relationship with the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. Main and second company members or college-aged students in Cincinnati Ballet's Otto M. Budig Academy professional division can receive college credit for their work in the studio and onstage. The two organizations have some shared teaching faculty, and upperclassmen at CCM have the opportunity to train and perform with CB2.

For Morgan, work ethic is a huge part of what she values in dancers. "She wants to see you go to these crazy places," says Gelfin. "If you fall she will make sure you are okay, but she may also say, 'We can do something with that.' "

Cincinnati Ballet At a Glance

  • Number of dancers: 27
  • Length of contract: 35 weeks
  • Starting salary: $484.15 per week
  • Performances this season: up to 67
  • Signatory of AGMA
  • Website: cballet.org

Audition Advice

Open auditions are held in February and March in Cincinnati, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Houston. Alternatively, Cincinnati Ballet accepts video submissions to be invited to one of 20 company class auditions throughout the year. Maximum height for females and minimum height for males is 5' 9."

Beyond a dancer's facility and strong technique, Morgan looks for personality: "Someone who is vivacious and confident and has a sense of freedom and attack in their movement."

Latest Posts


Eighteen-year-old Sarah Patterson (foreground), with her classmates at New Ballet School. She's decided to stay home this summer to take advantage of outdoor, in-person classes. Courtesy New Ballet School.

Why Planning Summer Study This Year Is More Complicated Than Ever

When it comes to navigating summer intensives, 2021 may be more complicated for ballet students than last year. On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic's spring spike in 2020, summer programs went all-virtual or had very limited capacity. This year is more of a mixed bag, with regulations and restrictions varying widely across state and county lines and changing week by week.

Between vaccines and variants, can students aim for a full calendar of intensive training at local and national summer programs?

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Chris Hardy, Courtesy LINES

Check Out These 2021 Summer Intensives Especially for Adults

After a year of shuttered studios, virtual-only classes, and waving to ballet buddies over Zoom, summer intensives are back. For adult students, packing up for a few days of intensive training might seem like a pipe dream, as many of us spent the last year trying to fit in ballet classes while juggling work and, for those of us with kids, remote learning. With the country opening up again, let's start planning (safely!) for workshops that allow us to jump into technique, conditioning and, of course, high-elbowing some new friends.

For in-person intensives, please check the studio's website for detailed health and safety guidelines, including policies on masks, cleaning/hygiene, social distancing, and the policy on having to cancel in-person programs due to COVID-19 restrictions.

CALIFORNIA

Alonzo King LINES Ballet Adult Dance Intensive (virtual only, via Zoom)

May 28–31, San Francisco

Immerse yourself in the celebrated home of Alonzo King, the artistic visionary who created LINES 39 years ago. Now in its second year as a virtual offering, this four-day workshop includes ballet, yoga, Pilates, choreography and contemporary. Students also have the option to drop in to class if they can't commit to all four days.

KENTUCKY

Lexington Ballet Adult Ballet Intensive

July 12–16, Lexington

Why should thoroughbreds have all the fun of training in the horse capital of the world? Reach new heights in your training at Lexington Ballet's Adult Ballet Intensive. Join school directors Luis and Nancy Dominguez and principal instructor Ayoko Lloyd for a five-day workshop that includes conditioning, Pilates, technique and repertoire. All classes are held in the evenings, and the program welcomes beginning through advanced students.

A group of eight smiling adult ballet students\u2014seven women and one man in the middle\u2014pose in a line and stand on their right leg in tendu crois\u00e9 devant.

A group of dancers pose at a past Lexington Ballet Adult Dance Intensive.

Ayoko Lloyd, Courtesy Lexington Ballet

Louisville Ballet Adult Summer Intensive

May 31–June 4, Louisville

Polish off a glass of sweet tea (or two), and then work up a sweet sweat at Louisville Ballet's Adult Summer Intensive. Geared towards beginning through advanced levels, students ages 18+ can take part in half- or full days of training. Classes offered include technique, pointe and jump strengthening, modern, Pilates and yoga. Students will also perform in a livestreamed performance on the final day.

MASSACHUSETTS

Brookline Ballet School Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

June 23–27, Brookline

The Red Sox and New England Patriots may get a bulk of the glory in Beantown, but the city is also a mecca for ballet. At Brookline Ballet School's Adult Summer Ballet Intensive, students (beginner or intermediate level) will spend three weeknights and two weekend mornings in technique and repertoire classes, wrapping up with an informal performance on Sunday afternoon.

NEW YORK

Kat Wildish Presents (virtual, via Zoom)

June 14–25 and July 12–23

Join master ballet teacher Kat Wildish in a virtual intensive that aims to take your training to the next level. Each day, in one-hour classes, Kat will lead students of all levels from basic to advanced in various ballet exercises. The group will be limited to 20 dancers, so each person will get personal attention.

A group of older adult ballet students in leotards, tights or leggings, stand in two lines with their left foot in B+ position and holding hands, as if rehearsing a ballet.

Kat Wildish (far left) working with adult students at Peridance Capezio Center

Matthew Venanzi, Courtesy Kat Wildish

OHIO

artÉmotion Adult Ballet Summer Workshop

June 14–19, Cleveland

Head to the Buckeye State for a week of training under the tutelage of Ballet West first soloist Allison DeBona and principal Rex Tilton. In this Adult Ballet Summer Workshop, beginner and intermediate/advanced students will fine-tune their skills in two classes every morning: a 90-minute technique class followed by a one-hour class in one of the following disciplines: pointe/pre-pointe, acting, men's and women's variations, conditioning.

PENNSYLVANIA

Amy Novinski

May 24–28 and June 28–July 2, Philadelphia

Those interested in the Vaganova technique may want to check out Amy Novinski's Adult Workshops. For the five-day May workshop, newbie dancers can look forward to classes devoted to ballet, jazz and yoga. For those more advanced, the June workshop offers more rigorous technique, contemporary ballet, pre-pointe/beginner pointe and jazz.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Ballet Academy of Charleston Adult Summer Intensive

July 26–30 and August 2–6, Charleston

Embrace the low-country charm in historic Charleston, where a weeklong Adult Summer Intensive at the Ballet Academy of Charleston invites beginning through advanced students to take classes in technique, stretching/Pilates/yoga, pre-pointe or pointe (for advanced students), variations, jazz, modern, contemporary and choreography. You may choose the half-day or full-day program.

TEXAS

Houston Ballet Adult Intensive

June 1–5, Houston

For intermediate/advanced students with at least three years of ballet training, Houston Ballet's Adult Intensive might be the perfect place to hone your skills. The school has two-, three- or five-day options, and includes ballet technique, variations, yoga and Zumba.

UTAH

May 31–June 5, Salt Lake City

Ballet West welcomes students of all levels to artÉmotion's one-week Adult Ballet Summer Intensive. Classes include ballet, contemporary, pointe, jazz, modern, acting, and men and women's variations. Available in full-day or half-day options, those dancing only in the morning will take two 90-minute technique classes. The full-day experience offers the opportunity to be choreographed on for an in-studio performance on Saturday, June 5. All students will also have a professional dance photo shoot with Logan Sorenson.

A group of four men in dance practicewear face the right corner of the room and raise their arm as if beckoning someone. Three of the men stand in parallel, which the man in the middle sits in a wheelchair.

A men's class at artÉmotion Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

Logan Sorenson, Courtesy artÉmotion

INTERNATIONAL

The August Ballet Retreat in Leeds

August 28–30, Leeds, UK

The three-day August Ballet Retreat in Leeds offers classes for students of all abilities. The mornings are devoted to technique, and in the afternoon, students will focus on repertoire. In the past, The Ballet Retreat has taught solos from Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet and Giselle. One detail is still tentative: If the retreat is unable to take place in person due to the pandemic, it will be offered virtually over Zoom.

Morlaix International Adult Ballet Camp

July 2–10, Morlaix, France

The Morlaix International Adult Ballet Camp is in the heart of France's Brittany region. In this full-day intensive, intermediate through advanced-level students will be led by an international faculty. Dancers can look forward to morning ballet classes and rehearsals in the afternoon. The week of training wraps up with a performance of Bournonville's Napoli at a nearby theater. Please contact the school for information about room and board.

Still shot by cinematographer Benjamin Tarquin, Courtesy Post:ballet

10 Online Ballet Performances to Catch in April

Spring is in full bloom with another round of exciting digital dance offerings. This month, companies across the country are releasing world premieres, season finales, artistic collaborations and more. We've rounded up some highlights below.

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