Cincinnati Ballet’s Kaplan New Works series, which runs April 20–29, is an institution at the midwestern company. Now in its 12th year, and sixth season presenting an all-female lineup, it has positioned itself at the forefront of a global conversation around gender imbalances in ballet. Namely, why do so few women create and lead in an art form dominated by female performers?
During the beginning of her tenure at CB, artistic director and CEO Victoria Morgan didn’t prioritize the lack of female voices. “Then I started to realize that the representation is really skewed,” she says. “I thought, as a leader, I should do something.”
This year, Morgan will continue the Kaplan New Works Series’ tradition of supporting female choreographers. She reached out to Jennifer Archibald, a choreographer who mixes hip-hop influences with a ballet background. “Jennifer has a more aggressive style, but you have to have ballet technique to dance it.” Morgan introduced Archibald to the street artist Swoon, who creates large-scale murals and installations. The two will work together on designing Archibald’s ballet.
Other premieres include a shorter work by Morgan and a ballet by Cincinnati-based choreographer Heather Britt, who frequently creates for CB. “I like being part of the development of a talented person’s craft,” Morgan says. “And Heather is worthy of being highlighted.” Eros Redux, an older work by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, will complete the program, making its U.S. debut.
Morgan appreciates the contrast within this season’s program. “Jennifer is phenomenal at intricate port de bras, and she creates her own music remixes. Annabelle’s piece is quite dramatic and weird. I’m more neoclassical, and Heather is more contemporary, with a background in Límon and Taylor.” It just goes to show, Morgan notes, how much female choreographers can defy assumptions. “Women have dynamic voices and they need to be part of the conversation.”