Cincinnati Ballet Principal Dancer Sarah Hairston, a company member for 15 years, and Senior Soloist Zack Grubbs, a member for 14 years, announce they will retire in 2016, going on to serve as the new Academy Dean and Academy Principal, respectively, for Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Academy. The two company veterans will help Artistic Director Victoria Morgan kick off her 20th Season with Cincinnati Ballet before officially retiring, with a special appearance and farewell performance taking place in September 2016.
Hairston and Grubbs have been essential elements of Cincinnati Ballet’s artistic identity since they first joined the company in 2001 and 2002 respectively. Hairston, throughout her extensive career at Cincinnati Ballet, has had new works created on her by some of the most sought-after choreographers in the industry and has danced lead roles in several full length productions including The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, Swan Lake and Symphony in C. She has become known not only for her tremendous talent but the depth of character she brings to the stage. “Performing is something I will truly miss,” says Hairston. “I love being on stage. I love being a character and giving all my emotions to the audience. This is a feeling you can’t describe.”
She has also faced her share of adversity, having recovered from two grueling ACL injuries shortly after being promoted to Principal. “Becoming a principal was a personal milestone and something I always wanted but never knew if it would happen,” she says. When she became injured, she was told she would not be able to dance for a year, but she made it her personal goal to be back to dance the role of Giselle in six months. “It was a big goal and I think many people doubted that it was possible,” she says, “but the amount of support from my family, friends, my students and fans was incredible.”
Following her triumphant return to the stage as a Principal Dancer, she went on to receive glowing reviews from critics and colleagues alike. Artistic Director & CEO Victoria Morgan says, “Watching her dance, you can see her thoughtfulness and consistency. She imbues every movement with value and importance, reaching deeper to perfect her technique.” When she’s not on stage, Hairston has become a cornerstone of Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Academy, pursuing her passion for teaching and inspiring the next generation of ballet students.
As one of Cincinnati Ballet’s favorite dancers for the past 14 years, Zack Grubbs has encountered many professional and personal milestones during his time at Cincinnati Ballet. He worked his way up to Senior Soloist dancing lead roles in classical and contemporary works alike such as Mozart’s Requiem, Romeo and Juliet, The Firebird and Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room. Known for his versatility onstage, audiences have enjoyed his many on-stage incarnations as lead characters such as the Mad Hatter in ALICE (in wonderland), Von Rothbart in Swan Lake and Captain Hook in Peter Pan. “Although a dancer’s career is fleeting,” says Grubbs, “I am truly grateful to have spent the majority of mine with such a bold, receptive and dynamic company as Cincinnati Ballet, and with all of the remarkable people I’ve met along the way.”
Off stage, Grubbs has become an integral part of the company and the Cincinnati community, engaging in many other capacities at Cincinnati Ballet such as serving as a dancers’ union representative, teaching in the Otto M. Budig Academy and performing frequently with the Cincinnati Opera. Morgan says, “I love his up-beat approach in the studio and on stage, and his determination to capture stamina and every part of the choreography. I’ve also had the pleasure of sitting across the table with him as the dancers’ union representative, marveling over his brilliant and detailed negotiation skills. This, along with his energy and great humor, has been key in providing leadership and inspiration here at Cincinnati Ballet.” He has also been able to balance a successful dance career with family life, becoming a husband and a father of two children during his time as a dancer at Cincinnati Ballet. His daughter is now a student in the Otto M. Budig Academy. “During my time with Cincinnati Ballet, I’ve not only been welcomed into an amazing organization, but I’ve been rooted into this increasingly progressive community that continues to captivate me,” he says.
Cincinnati Ballet is pleased to announce that upon retirement of the two beloved dancers, Hairston and Grubbs will serve as the Otto M. Budig Academy’s new Academy Dean and Academy Principal. Joining them on the new leadership team is retired Cincinnati Ballet Soloist Dawn Kelly, who is promoted from Academy teacher to Assistant Academy Principal. Their shared background makes them a rare and especially effective team. In a statement Hairston, Grubbs and Kelly iterate, “The three of us share almost 45 years of history with Cincinnati Ballet and are excited our experience will take on new life as we build the next generation.”
Artistic Director & CEO Victoria Morgan says, “I look forward to partnering with this new leadership team in ushering in a new era for our Academy and our company. Their heart to inspire students through dance has been overwhelmingly evident in their service as Academy instructors, mentors and outreach leaders over the years. Their aptitude in the classroom and ballet experience will undoubtedly take us to new heights as we partner in building Cincinnati Ballet into a world-class organization.”
Their leadership builds on the incredible foundation created under the tenure of current Academy Dean, Catherine Batcheller. Through Ms. Batcheller’s leadership, the Academy has implemented a new syllabus, greatly enhanced its offerings for summer study, expanded performance opportunities and built a Summer Intensive program with an international reputation for excellence.
Cincinnati Ballet 2015-2016 Season Sponsors: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation, ArtsWave, The Louise Dieterle Nippert Musical Arts Fund, Rhonda & Larry A. Sheakley Family Foundation, Rosemary & Mark Schlachter, Ohio Arts Council, PNC Bank, Frisch’s, Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine, Cincinnati Enquirer
Photo: Peter Mueller