Sunday, February 11, 2001

Dance notes

Ballet academy starts renovation

By Carol Norris
Enquirer Contributor

        With enrollment doubling in one year at Cincinnati Ballet's Otto M. Budig Academy, the ballet is thinking expansion. Now that the Blue Ash studios, which opened last February, are humming along, attention has turned to adding 15,000 square feet to the location at Liberty and Central avenues near downtown.

        Plans include three new studios, expanded waiting and changing areas and a new kitchen. When work begins in the spring, the first step will be to move the parking lot a block south and build on top of the present one.

        “We've already cleaned out "dreaded room nine' for more office space,” public relations director Susan Eiswerth says. “That was the room that held everything from napkins to practice tutus. It was chaos. Walls are coming down next week.”

        A completion date of summer 2002 is planned for the renovation.

        Prison project: The Pat Graney Company will hold an informational meeting noon-2 p.m. Saturday at Contemporary Dance Theater, 1805 Larch Ave., College Hill. It's open to anyone interested in learning more about Keeping the Faith — The Prison Project.

        In Seattle, Ms. Graney and her modern dance company developed a women's prison program, which involves music, movement and writing. The company is in Cincinnati to develop a similar but smaller program for Tristate women's prisons.

        Ballet valentines: Love is in the air. Cincinnati Ballet wraps up Romeo & Juliet (2 p.m. today, Aronoff Center, 241-7469), and Valentine's Day is just around the corner. A little investigating discovered love can blossom in the dance studio as well as anywhere.

        Four Cincinnati Ballet dancers met their mates in the studio, but not one fell in love because of wonderful pirouettes. When asked “how did you know this was the one for you” here's what they said.

        • Anna Reznik, married to Alexei Kremnev (both principal dancers): “He has the bluest eyes. I knew him in school as a small boy (as children they studied at the same dance school in Moscow). One day, after we were older, I looked into his eyes and just felt it. I just knew it.”

        • Meridith Benson, principal, married to retired dancer Mario Delanuez: “It was just like Romeo & Juliet — it was the first kiss. We were both in Cincinnati at a party at a friend's house. He drove me home and I knew it right away after the kiss.” They have a son, Michael, 2.

        • Jenny Leinberger Goodlett, retired, married to principal Jay Goodlett: “We met dancing. He could always make me laugh without trying.” Their daughter, Megan Elise, was born in 1999.

        • Leah Elzner, soloist, married to retired dancer Tim Snyder: “We were in dance school together in Salt Lake City. I thought he was cute and when we were dancing together, I looked into his eyes and felt something I'd never felt before. I asked him to senior prom and thought "Wow, this is really neat.' ” Son Joshua was born eight weeks ago.

        Nixon leaving: Cincinnati audiences know David Nixon through his ballets: Beauty and the Beast (1998) and Butterfly (1999) are in the Cincinnati Ballet repertory. Columbus audiences know him through his work for BalletMet Columbus where he's been artistic director since 1994.

        He's leaving BalletMet Aug. 1 to become artistic director of the Northern Ballet Theatre in Leeds, England.

        While Mr. Nixon concentrated on the professional company — increasing dancer contracts from 29 to 36 weeks and dance opportunities from 32 to 60 performances a year — his wife, Yoko Ichino, developed a unified training program for the BalletMet Dance Academy. They've said they're eager to return to Europe, where they both danced for many years.

        An international search is being conducted for his successor. Mr. Nixon will continue his relationship with BalletMet next season when he re-creates his Romeo and Juliet and will be artistic adviser until a new director is named.

        Building a "Nutcracker': With the buzz that a search is on for a choreographer to build an all-new Nutcracker for Cincinnati Ballet next season, it's time for us to make our wishes known.

        When Victoria Morgan became artistic director, she inherited the Nutcracker of her predecessor Peter Anastos. It wasn't a version she was happy with and no amount of tinkering — even the input of half a dozen choreographers — could salvage it. Ms. Morgan says she's started to look for a choreographer. “I want the new one to be traditional but with something that will make it somewhat unique.”

        Here are a few (unsolicited) suggestions:

        • Make it move. The biggest problem with the last version was it lacked lyricism and the sweep that makes dance exciting. While Tchaikovsky's music soared, dancers seemed to be plodding in place.

        • Bring back Mother Ginger, or change the idea all together. The present Salt Water Sally doesn't capture the charm and fun of Mother Ginger with her endless stream of little tykes running out from billowing skirts. They don't have to dance, just be incredibly cute.

        • It's a Christmas show set in winter. Any traveling Clara does should be by sled. Enough said.

        • Make the design — costumes, sets and style — elegant and rich. It's a little girl's elaborate fantasy — transport us.

        • Let it snow. If there were flakes this year, they were absent opening night.

        • Let the angels sing! While the Ballet Orchestra does a commendable job with the score, a recording for Snow Scene vocals doesn't cut it. It's no doubt a problem to get a choir there every night for 15 minutes of work. Could they sing in the lobby at intermission?

        Now it's your turn. Send me your ideas and we'll print as many as possible next month. Deadline: March 1.

        Carol Norris is a free-lance writer who covers dance for the Enquirer. Write her c/o Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati OH 45202; fax, 768-8330; e-mail


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