Whether you love to dance or just wish you could, you’ll certainly enjoy viewing the photographs, drawings and posters in the Cincinnati Ballet records. This recent donation to the Archives and Rare Books Library spans almost the entire history of the Cincinnati Ballet from the early 1960s until 2009. These records provide a look into the formation of this acclaimed Cincinnati institution and even its connections with UC.
The Cincinnati Ballet was chartered as the “Cincinnati Civic Ballet” in 1958. The first auditions were held in March of 1963 at the YMCA in downtown Cincinnati. Of the 200 dancers who auditioned, only 41 were chosen to join the ballet. A second audition was held in August of 1963 and 19 more dancers joined the company. Oleg Sabline, a faculty member at CCM, served as the first artistic director, and the first performance took place in Wilson Auditorium on the UC’s campus on March 15, 1964 and featured Peter and the Wolf, and Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F Minor.
In 1966, David McLain, Head of the Dance Division at CCM, became the company’s artistic director. McLain’s goal was to build the Cincinnati Ballet into a professional company. The troupe toured extensively in the late 1960s and brought in Carmon DeLeone as music director, which elevated the ballet’s stature. In 1974, the ballet started a Cincinnati tradition when The Nutcracker premiered at Music Hall. The first eight performances sold out.
In 1986, the directorship of the ballet changed hands when Ivan Nagy was hired. Nagy, a famous Hungarian dancer, is credited with attracting experienced foreign dancers, who helped to raise the standard of performance for the ballet. Nagy left the Cincinnati Ballet in 1989, and Richard Collins became Artistic Director. Collins expanded the educational outreach of the ballet by presenting free educational programs to inner city schools and classes in Cincinnati’s West End. In September of 1991, Collins died in a car crash, and Nigel Burgoine took over as Acting Director and became Artistic Director in March of 1992. He was followed by Peter Anastos (1994-1996).
In 1994, a new facility for the ballet opened in Over-the-Rhine near Music Hall allowing for offices, dance studios, a training school, and rehearsal space in the same location. In 1997, Victoria Morgan became the artistic director of the Cincinnati Ballet and in 2008, she was appointed CEO.
More information on the history of the Cincinnati Ballet is available on their website at www.cballet.org/ . A finding aid for the Cincinnati Ballet records in the Archives and Rare Books Library is available on the OhioLINK Finding Aid Repository. The Cincinnati Historical Society Library also holds material related to the Cincinnati Ballet contact information can be found on their website.