Celebrating its 13th year, The Kaplan New Work Series opens Cincinnati Ballet’s groundbreaking 2017-2018 Season September 14-24 at the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater. The series offers an up-close experience with a variety of exciting world premieres by today’s most innovative choreographers. This year’s program includes special guest Travis Wall, best known for his work on the hit TV show, So You Think You Can Dance, and brand new works from Heather Britt, Penny Saunders, and Johanna Bernstein Wilt. A solo piece choreographed by Victoria Morgan will also receive its regional premiere, danced to “Black Coffee” by k.d. Lang.
Travis Wall rose to fame as the runner-up in Season two for the hit Fox TV show, So You Think You Can Dance, and is currently a resident choreographer for the show. Wall was the winner of the 2015 Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography, and has been nominated for an Emmy six times. He has choreographed for popular musicians including Carrie Underwood, Justin Bieber, and Demi Lovato. His other TV and film choreographing credits including the 82nd Academy Awards, Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary Special, the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, and the feature film, Step Up Revolution. He currently serves as the Artistic Director of Shaping Sound, the contemporary dance group he co-created with Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance, and Kyle Robinson. The Kaplan New Works Series is Wall’s first collaboration with Cincinnati Ballet, and it will also be his first experience working with a professional ballet company.
“I think Travis will be a good fit for Cincinnati Ballet because of his strong and diverse dance background,” says Artistic Director, Victoria Morgan. “His choreography is full of energy and unexpected twists and accents, and our dancers are facile when it comes to bringing strong ballet technique and pointe work to contemporary movement. We are thrilled to have him join our program, and can’t wait to see what transpires!”
Heather Britt, a Cincinnati-based choreographer and founder of the wildly popular DANCEFIX classes, presents her ninth World Premiere for Cincinnati Ballet. Most recently, she wowed audiences with the World Premiere of “Karass” in the 2016-2017 New Works. In 2015-2016’s Director’s Choice, Britt presented the sensual duet entitled “Habitual” to rave reviews. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Britt and her dancers infuse the work with a level of intimacy we rarely see onstage.”
Britt graduated from the School for Creative and Performing Arts before going on to enjoy a modern dance career in California. Upon returning to Cincinnati, Britt founded HBDC (Heather Britt Dance collective) which encompasses DANCEFIX. As a choreographer, her work has been featured several times in The Kaplan New Works Series, as well as with Cincinnati Ballet’s Second Company, Northern Kentucky University, ArtsWave, Playhouse in the Park, The Constella Festival, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati Art Museum, and Concert:Nova.
Penny Saunders presents a World Premiere, in her first collaboration with Cincinnati Ballet, inspired by the story of Maria Anna Mozart. “She was said to be as talented a musician and composer as her brother, Wolfgang,” says Saunders, “but was not permitted to continue her career in music because she was a woman.”
Saunders began her professional career with The American Repertory Ballet under the direction of Septime Webre. She went on to dance with Ballet Arizona, MOMIX Dance Theater, Cedar Lake Ensemble, and in 2004 she joined Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. In 2011, Saunders won the International Commissioning Project which launched her choreographic career, creating pieces for Hubbard Streets’ main and second company, Whim W’Him, SFDanceworks, Neos Dance Theater, Owen Cox Dance Group, and The Nexus Project. Saunders is the choreographer in residence at The Grand Rapids Ballet, receiving support from The New York City Ballet Choreographic Commissions Initiative, and the recipient of the 2016 Princess Grace Choreographic Fellowship.
Johanna Bernstein Wilt, Cincinnati Ballet’s Ballet Master, will be presenting a World Premiere piece entitled, “The Dance Will Set You Free,” focusing on the creative process and the enigmatic spirit of dance. The 2017-2018 Season is Bernstein Wilt’s 36th year at Cincinnati Ballet, and she is thrilled to be creating her fourth ballet for New Works. Wilt joined as a dancer in 1981 and performed for 11 seasons before joining the artistic team in 1992. Throughout her career, she has staged ballets for notable choreographers such as Septime Webre, Kirk Peterson, David Nixon, Peter Anastos, Val Caniparoli, William Whitener and Jessica Lang.
Her choreographic credits include “Everyday Is a New Beginning,” for Cincinnati Ballet’s New Works during the 2008-2009 Season, and “A Hero’s Prayer” for the 2011-2012 New Works to commemorate her 30 years of work at Cincinnati Ballet. She also choreographed the Elgar Pas de Deux for Lumenocity (2014) and Life (is complicated) (2016) for Cincinnati Ballet’s Second Company.
Victoria Morgan presents “Black Coffee,” with music by k.d. Lang. The expressive solo is one of the first pieces Morgan choreographed after retiring from the stage, and it will be re-worked for its regional premiere in New Works. “The words and the mood of this piece felt like my inner story at the time,” says Morgan. “I have always wanted to revisit this piece, and I’m interested to see how it can evolve as I have evolved.”
Since creating the first iteration of “Black Coffee,” Morgan has added extensively to her choreography credits, including full-length ballets such as Cinderella, Romeo & Juliet, The New Nutcracker, and King Arthur’s Camelot. She has also choreographed several contemporary works such as “Fractured Glass,” “Patriotic Pas,” and “Somewhere Close to Happiness.”