Cincinnati Ballet at 50

In 2013, the Cincinnati Ballet will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.  This renowned local ballet company has long and enduring ties to the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Cincinnati holds records of the Cincinnati Ballet and David McLain, one of its earliest directors.  The Archives and Rare Books Library will be working with the Cincinnati Ballet over the next year as they celebrate this important milestone.

As part of the celebration, the ballet is looking to collect more material related to its history including items that might be held by former dancers, former staff, long-time ballet fans and sponsors, and any members of the public.  The ballet will be hosting an Ice Cream Social on Sunday July 29th from 2:00-4:00 at their location at 1555 Central Parkway as a way for individuals to share any treasures they hold related to the ballet and their memories of the ballet.  Click on the announcement to the right for more information on this event.

The Cincinnati Ballet held its first auditions were held in March of 1963 at the YMCA in downtown Cincinnati during which 41 dancers 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 UC’s campus on March 15, 1964 and featured Peter and the Wolf, and Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F Minor.

Ballet and a bus

An Early Road Trip for the Ballet, circa 1960s or 1970s

In 1966, David McLain, Head of the Dance Division at CCM, became the company’s artistic director.  The connection with CCM brought the ballet several advantages including the use of studio and performance space.  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.   In 1974, the ballet started a Cincinnati tradition when The Nutcracker premiered at Music Hall.  The first eight performances sold out.

A Scrapbook from the McLain-Blackburn Collection

A Scrapbook from the McLain-Blackburn Collection

In 1986, the directorship of the ballet changed hands when Ivan Nagy was hired.  Nagy, a famous Hungarian dancer, attracted 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

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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 .   A finding aid for the Cincinnati Ballet records in the Archives and Rare Books Library is available on the OhioLINK Finding Aid Repository.  A finding aid for the McClain-Blackburn collection is available by contacting the Archives and Rare Books Library by phone 513-556-1959, email: or in person on the 8th floor of Blegen Library.  The Cincinnati Historical Society Library also holds material related to the Cincinnati Ballet contact information can be found on their website.

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