Adventures in Tutus

By:  Sydney Vollmer, ARB Student Worker

I have never been to a ballet in my life. Why? Simply put: everyone in my family (excluding one aunt) has told me it’s boring and weird.  Indeed, I have let the opinions of others shape my own experiences (or lack thereof). I was perfectly happy never thinking to attend a ballet…until I started working at the Archives and Rare Books Library.

As the student worker here, part of my role includes sorting, inventorying, and processing collections so they can be properly stored in the archives for future research. The project I am currently working on is sorting everything that was recently given to us by Cincinnati Ballet Company (CBC).

We hold the collections of CBC that were acquired before I was hired, so the material I’m working on is a recent addition to the archive.  From what I hear, the last round was much more manageable. Below, you can see some pictures of the room where I am working. This is the collection AFTER a preliminary sorting. I’ve probably spent about 12 hours in there over the past few weeks and I’ve even had help and supervision. Even if it doesn’t look like it, this is progress!

After seeing those pictures, you might be asking yourself, “Why would this change your mind about going to the ballet? Shouldn’t it have the opposite effect? That place looks like a wreck.” To that, my response is this: Maybe ballets are boring. Maybe I’ll go and I won’t understand anything that’s going on.  Maybe I’ll hate it. But even if I do, I’ll still have a respect for it that I didn’t have before.

Working on this collection, I feel like I’ve known CBC since its beginnings. I’ve handled pictures, programs, lots of newspaper clippings (much to my chagrin), advertisements, posters, financial statements, newsletters, magazines, and sketches for sets, costumes, advertisements, and posters. Once you spend this much time with something and handle this variety of works, how could it not spark your interest? How could you not feel connected to it? I have already learned so much about ballet, mostly that the body can move in ways I didn’t know were possible. Just kidding…it’s also taught me about the business behind small arts organizations, advertising, and the kind of dedication people have to have to pursue ballet as a career.

So sometime over the next year, I will probably be attending a ballet. There is no way that I could spend this much time, effort, and frustration without seeing what it’s all about. Until then, I’ll keep you posted on how the collection is coming along. In return, tell me what you think of Cincinnati Ballet or about a project that’s frustrating or rewarding for you. Join the conversation on Twitter @UC-ARB Library or on Facebook: Archives & Rare Books Library, University of Cincinnati.