Two Dance Companies Collaborate in Triple Bill

Wild Sweet Love, a triple bill presented by Cincinnati Ballet this weekend at the Aronoff Center, is the company’s sixth shared production with BalletMet Columbus.

click to enlarge George Balanchine’s 'Who Cares?'
George Balanchine’s 'Who Cares?'

Wild Sweet Love, a triple bill presented by Cincinnati Ballet this weekend at the Aronoff

Center, is the company’s sixth shared production with BalletMet Columbus. In 2014, a similar collaboration presented George Balanchine’s masterwork Symphony in C. Typically, the same program is presented in Cincinnati and in Columbus. 

Balanchine’s exuberant Who Cares? — set to 16 of American master George Gershwin’s most classic tunes, such as “The Man I Love,” “I Got Rhythm” and “Embraceable You” — is the longest of the three featured ballets. Cincinnati Ballet dancers perform lead roles. A total of 24 dancers, gathered from both companies, make up the cast. All appear on stage together in a brilliant finale.

Repetiteur Victoria Simon, who set Who Cares? on the dancers, travels the world staging revered Balanchine ballets for the Balanchine Trust. “Who Cares? has a very jazzy style,” she says, “but it is based on the classical ballet (technique).

“I love all Balanchine ballets, but this one has a certain charm. I don’t know if another has this jazzy feeling to it. It’s colorful, brilliant . . . pure delight.”

Who Cares? has two moods: carefree and romantic. The dashing Patric Palkens is set to partner three other principal leads: Courtney Connor Jones, Abigail Maruna Morwood and apprentice and Cincinnati native Serena Søvdsnes, who will fill in for an injured Janessa Touchet. Palkens also dances a solo that demands terrific stamina.

“There’s a bit of tap, reminiscent of stuff from the ’20s and ’30s,” Simon says. “The set has a skyline; it looks like a New York City skyline. What’s interesting is that Balanchine, who fostered individuality, has demanded certain skills from each principal dancer in the ballet. For instance, one girl has to have very good jumps; another has to turn very well. It’s an energetic, fun ballet.”

The eponymous Wild Sweet Love, from well-known choreographer Trey McIntyre, is danced entirely by Cincinnati Ballet. Audiences will know the more modern-inflected McIntyre from his spicy, Latin-flavored Chasing Squirrel, reprised last season. Wild Sweet Love has music ranging from Roberta Flack to Queen, and traces a tempestuous journey through the ups and downs of love.

It’s a wonderful chance for audiences to catch beloved principal Sarah Hairston in a lead role. Hairston has just announced her upcoming retirement (as has senior soloist Zack Grubbs, who unfortunately is out for this performance due to injury). They are slated to continue at Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Academy as academy dean and academy principal, respectively, after a farewell performance in September to help artistic director Victoria Morgan kick off her 20th season with Cincinnati Ballet.

Hairston and Grubbs have been genuinely beloved during their tenure at the ballet. Hairston has had significant new works created on her. She’s danced the lead in ballets like The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake and Symphony in C. She is particularly known for her dramatic ability in bringing depth of character to her roles.

Also, Hairston almost miraculously came back from not one but two grueling ACL injuries after her promotion to principal.

Grace Shivers is Hairston’s understudy in Wild Sweet Love. “It’s really special to be in the studio with her,” Shivers says. “She’s so nice, so generous. It’s also helpful to have a role model, somebody to show me how it’s all done.”

Hairston learned her role in Wild Sweet Love directly from Ilana Goldman, who was in McIntyre’s original cast.

“It’s hard to step into someone else’s shoes when the role has been made on them,” Hairston says. “But she’s allowed me to make it my own. I don’t like it when people want us to dance like them. We are all different. I want to explore the role with my body and my personality.”

Filling out the bill is BalletMet artistic director Edwaard Liang’s Age of Innocence. Danced entirely by BalletMet company members, this ballet is another modern piece, inspired by Jane Austen and named after a novel by Edith Wharton, set to music by Thomas Newman and Philip Glass.


Cincinnati Ballet presents WILD SWEET LOVE Friday and Saturday at the Aronoff Center downtown. More info: cballet.org.


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