Cincinnati Ballet presents a wide variety of repertoire during its performance season, including a number of new works. In this issue, Artistic Director, Victoria Morgan, talks about the upcoming Bold Moves program and some of her favorite moments of the 2018-2019 Season.
1. What are the characteristics of the ballets chosen for a Bold Moves program, and how does the production differ from The Kaplan New Works Series in the Fall and Director’s Cut in the Spring?
Bold Moves works typically have an edgy orientation with a risk-taking point of view. While our New Works program gives us raw, developing choreographers in short snippets (usually there are five choreographers in the evening), our Bold Moves program is about more established choreographers, but still with the idea of an innovative and contemporary approach.
And, to distinguish amongst them all, our Director’s Cut program is connected to our relationship with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, so that programming is more neo-classical, including ballets with symphonic music. Director’s Cut is where you would find the Balanchine and Robbins works, and other established choreographers. That’s what you will witness in next season’s program with Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Val Caniparoli, two highly established wonderful choreographers with a proven track record, both who will be giving us Cincinnati Ballet premieres.
2. Why did you decide to group the three ballets in this year’s Bold Moves program together?
This year’s Bold Moves is a bit of an anomaly in that while there is a gorgeous contemporary ballet by Ma Cong, Near Light, it also includes the wonderful humored work by one of the world’s most famous contemporary choreographers, Jiří Kylián, with his Sechs Tänze (Six Dances). We then close the evening with the World Premiere of Dancing to Oz, choreographed by me, with an original score by our maestro, Carmon DeLeone.
I say this Bold Moves is an anomaly not because of the first two ballets, but because Carmon and I are bringing to the stage a wonderful one-act gem about a would-be ballerina based on the Wizard of Oz story. It was originally meant to be an education and outreach ballet, but with Carmon’s 50th Anniversary celebration and our focus on Stravinsky in the Director’s Cut series, Dancing to Oz found its way into the Bold Moves program. It’s because it fit into the idea of a risk-taking, inaugural production with new sets, costumes, libretto and, of course, composition.
3. Cincinnati Ballet has never presented a Jiří Kylián work in its long and illustrious history. What made you decide that this was the right time – and the right program – to do it?
Sechs Tänze is an extremely entertaining, light-hearted, whimsical piece. In spite of the orientation of being a very demanding contemporary work, it is also a ballet that the kids will love, complete with powdered wigs (the powder flies everywhere, bubbles and black aristocratic gowns float around the stage, and much more), and the fact that it is set to Mozart’s accessible and charming Six German Dances. It fits the entertainment structure of balancing Dancing to Oz and complements Carmon DeLeone’s style of jazzy Broadway/classical accompaniment.
4. If someone has not seen Sechs Tänze before, what should they watch for? What do you particularly like about this ballet?
I love the physicality and the humor of the piece. It is detailed in its floor work, movement of arms, and relationship and coordination of movement between the characters. It is a riot, and has unexpected facial expressions that are all a part of capturing, in a contemporary way, the essence of Mozart’s music.
5. How has Dancing to Oz, your most recent collaboration with Carmon DeLeone, evolved since you first had the idea to turn the classic Oz tale into a dance piece? Did you make any major changes or adjustments along the way?
Yes, we have adjusted almost every scene, character, and every transition in minor – and sometimes – major ways. This includes things like taking a pause in the action while something funny happens, adding extra counts to the Road of Yellow Bricks Dance, changing the tempi and energy of scenes, like the one with the Poppies, from being gentle to more aggressive. There is nothing scarier than an aggressive Poppy!
The libretto changed as we got into the actual creative process and, of course, inevitably the budget worked its way into our creative planning. It has been a huge team effort with the entire production team, our set, costume and lighting designers, and Diana Adams, our Wardrobe Director, who is retiring after this project after 47 years (Phew! She has been amazing in all my 22 years!)
6. What are your thoughts about how Dancing to Oz has turned out, and will it have a life after the Bold moves program?
We are hoping that this work can live on not only to return to the Aronoff stage, but to fulfill its original intention – to be an education and outreach program. We can modify/simplify various scenic elements and make it possible to tour it to schools, not just the entire work, but also sections of this production.
It does have a message about deciding to fight for what you want and not giving up because you don’t feel you are worthy. Like the original Wizard of Oz, there is a confrontation with the Wicked Witch of the West and her Demons. However, unlike that Wizard of Oz, and typical of the ballet world, there is a battle with the lead character’s reflection in the mirror, and how she can see herself in a positive way. It will be a provocative piece, but it’s also just plain fun and visually arresting.
7. Tell us about the other new work on the program, Ma Cong’s Near Light. What should audiences expect to experience with this piece when they see it?
When we talk about “contemporary ballet”, Near Light is the perfect rendition of that idea, expressed in gorgeous partnering and beautifully executed contemporary ideas in movement with a strong ballet technique requirement.
I really love this ballet. It was created for my 20th Season celebration, and has always been special to me and the dancers who performed it. Many of those same dancers will reprise their roles from previous performances during my 20th Celebration. The return of Near Light gives them the opportunity to find a deeper artistic expression and/or fluidity of movement. It is always a joy to come back to something you love!
8. What would you like the collective takeaway from this Bold Moves program to be for the thousands of people who will see it this year?
I would like people to know that we are not only serious about this art form, but we also have a sense of humor. There is beauty that is full of emotion and invention, there is a dynamic work that is so fast and furious and frankly a riot, and the closing piece has a narrative. The evening shows Cincinnati Ballet in three very different choreographic orientations. So, the production will be rich and diverse, beautifully breathtaking, and hysterical!
A few season-closing questions:
9. When you look back at the season that is just ending with Bold Moves, what were some of the highlights for you, and why?
There was so much to love for such different reasons. I was so proud of our dancers, David Morse and Taylor Carrasco, who created original choreography for New Works, that fit seamlessly with more experienced choreographers on the program. Peter Pan, in connection with Carmon’s 50th Anniversary, was poignant. My favorite part of Nutcracker was seeing those young students on stage, as well as those in the audience swirling and twirling during intermission.
Also, it was great watching our Company dancers take on new roles and perform familiar roles, with another year’s experience behind them, and performing even better that the year before.
Sleeping Beauty challenged the Company’s classical technique, and our dancers rose to show our community that they were capable of that classical purity.
Rite of Spring made me cry every time I watched it. Such devastation you seldom see on our stage, but the Stravinsky music and Adam Hougland’s interpretation, hit something deep and primal about the state of our humanness and our vulnerability.
10. This season focused on celebrating the incredible work that Carmon DeLeone has accomplished with Cincinnati Ballet over the past 50 years. Given your collective talents and the fact that you obviously really enjoy working together, are you already talking about possible future collaborations in the years ahead? Anything that you can share?
I am ready to take a very long nap! I have a feeling Carmon is, too! HA!