Photo Credit: PETER MUELLER PHOTOGRAPY
Since 1963, Cincinnati Ballet has been the cornerstone professional ballet company of the region. 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 College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. 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. In 1970, true professional status was achieved when ten salaried dancers were hired. Performances of the classics like Sleeping Beauty and the Balanchine repertoire now took place at the Taft Theatre. The Nutcracker premiered in 1974 at Music Hall; The production was sponsored by Frisch’s Restaurants, which continues to sponsor the annual favorite. Beginning in 1978, the mainstage performances were held at Music Hall and the company’s name was shortened to Cincinnati Ballet. In 1986 the company left CCM, although it was still designated the official school. The company performed full time at Music Hall and rehearsals were held in the Emery Building.
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. Offices, dance studios, a training school, wardrobe/costume storage, and rehearsal space were all in the same 36,000 square foot building. The Mickey Jarson Kaplan Performance Studio was added in 2005.
In recent years, Cincinnati Ballet has experienced growth organization-wide. Attendance numbers for our professional, mainstage productions have grown from 58,000 during the 2015-2016 Season to 70,400 in the 2018-2019 Season. Cincinnati Ballet also increased the number of performances offerings each season, with added Thursday evening performances and the annual Family Series. During fiscal year 2018-2019, the Otto M. Budig Academy saw a nearly 21% growth in school year enrollment. Enrollment for fiscal year 2019-2020 is already pacing ahead of last year. Enrollment that includes adult and summer programming has seen a steady increase during the last five years. From fiscal year 2017-2018 to 2018-2019, the Academy saw a 17% increase, a number expected to accelerate in a new, larger space as students have been consistently shut-out of sold-out programming. Currently, 92% of children’s division classes are at capacity or have waiting lists. Cincinnati Ballet also expects to greatly expand education and community engagement programming at the new center.
The size of the new ballet center will be dramatically larger, providing ample space for the Company, as well as the Academy and specialized programming. The 57,000 square foot building will house nine studios. Designed by world-renowned architecture firm GBBN, the Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance features a sleek, streamlined exterior that boasts panoramic views of downtown Cincinnati from its two largest studios. The modern, innovative design is sure to become an iconic landmark in the landscape of the Queen City.
For more information about Cincinnati Ballet’s mission and history, go to cballet.org/mission-history/