Jodie Gates Named Cincinnati Ballet’s Next Artistic Director

January 18, 2022

Cincinnati Ballet announced today that it has named Jodie Gates as its new artistic director, effective August 1, 2022. Gates will take over from Victoria Morgan, who is retiring after 25 years at the helm.

Gates, most recently the founding director of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance and founder and artistic director of the Laguna Dance Festival, will inherit stewardship of Cincinnati Ballet’s $11.5 million annual operating budget, 27 company dancers, 12 second company dancers, and the Cincinnati Ballet Otto M. Budig Academy.The organization recently moved into its new $30.8 million Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance.

Born and raised in Sacramento, California, Gates trained initially with Barbara Crockett and Ingrid Carriker, and later at the School of American Ballet. At 15, she was discovered by Robert Joffrey and at 16 joined the Joffrey II dancers. Over the course of her 35-year professional career, she was a principal dancer with Joffrey Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Frankfurt Ballet and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. She is an artistic collaborator with choreographer William Forsythe, staging ballets for Forsythe Productions. In addition, Gates has choreographed over 60 of her own works for dozens of dance companies and academic institutions. She recently received the 2021/22 Residency Fellowship from The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University.

We spoke with Gates shortly after she received the news to hear more about her plans for the company.

Why did you seek the artistic director position?

I was recommended for—and then recruited by the search committee for—the job. I feel incredibly fortunate. My career has been so filled with exquisite opportunities, so this was a natural next step. I have this incredibly broad perspective of the dance field, and I feel I am poised at this season in my life to bring all these assets together as an artistic director.

What do you bring to the position?

I’ve had a 25-year professional career as a performer; I’m an arts educator, a choreographer, a répétiteur; and I’ve founded a nonprofit dance festival. All that embodied knowledge lives and breathes in me; it is part of my DNA. I feel quite ready to be taking on this position. Additionally, in ballet we are at a pivot point; the equity, diversity and inclusion work I have been entrenched in, along with my fellowship from NYU, absolutely aligns with how I can perhaps help move ballet further forward.

In this black and white photo, Jodie Gates leaps through the air onstage with her arms thrown up above her head. She wears a unitard, her long hair flying free. Behind her, two rows of stage lights glow at the stage's edge, wit a large billboard reading "Pucci" above her.
Gates performing in Billboards while with Joffrey Ballet. Photo by Herb Migdoll, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

What is your vision for Cincinnati Ballet?

To build a vision for the organization that leads to an elevated future and to work with the organization on amplifying the identity of the company and its artists. Additionally, looking at equity, diversity and inclusion and embedding that in everything we do.

How about the repertoire? 

It’s a little too soon to go in-depth because I feel incredibly excited about getting to know the city of Cincinnati and also the community and the organization. If you were to look at my resumé it obviously speaks to the breadth of my interests choreographically, my relationship to William Forsythe and my relationship to classical and contemporary ballet.

Ballet for the 21st century reflects our time and the cultural landscape in which we live. For me, it’s incredibly important that it becomes an accessible artform for everyone to enjoy. That includes the unbuilding of certain notions of hierarchy and elitism. My hope is that we address certain issues that the artform has and humanize it so that it continues to thrive and attract more diverse audiences.

Outgoing artistic director Victoria Morgan was an early proponent of giving more opportunities to female choreographers. Will that be a part of your artistic vision?

I certainly want to continue to amplify the voices of female choreographers, as well as BIPOC choreographers. It is very important for me to move the needle in that direction. 

Do you ascribe to a certain artistic style for the dancers?

At the core of my artistic philosophy is to cultivate dance artists with a point of view. I think having a style is a rather exciting adventure that I am looking forward to exploring.

You are part of a recent wave of female artistic director hires, including Tamara Rojo, Hope Muir, Susan Jaffe and Patricia Barker. Do you feel we are beginning to level the field for women directors?

Yes, I do. I am honored to be a part of that group. It’s a start in the right direction to shift the conversation to true inclusion within this form we love. 

Cincinnati Ballet has often collaborated on joint productions with BalletMet. Do you see those continuing in future?

I believe in collaboration, co-producing and partnerships, and will be working diligently on forming all the above. I believe it makes the field stronger.