Nutcracker and beyond: Three must-see shows from Cincinnati Ballet

By John David Back Just when I thought I was going to start cooling off from the Hottest Cincinnati Summer Ever, I went to see the Director's Cut at the Cincinnati Ballet. This seven-part ballet…

By John David Back

Just when I thought I was going to start cooling off from the Hottest Cincinnati Summer Ever, I went to see the Director’s Cut at the Cincinnati Ballet.

This seven-part ballet took me in every conceivable emotional direction. I laughed, I cried (almost), I sweated some. It was a hell of an opener to the season, and if you missed it you should feel bad.

You can redeem yourself, however, as there’s some great stuff coming.

This season already is special: It’s Victoria Morgan’s 20th at Cincinnati Ballet. As the “ballerina boss” — artistic director and CEO — she has grown the company into a powerhouse, and gotten bearded nobodies like me to become repeat season-ticket purchasers.

Director’s Cut, in particular, was special because it also served as a send-off for principal dancer Sarah Hairston and senior soloist Zach Grubbs. Their last performance in the show (and for Cincinnati Ballet) was when my tears nearly fell. All the dancers came out clapping, balloons fell from the ceiling, the woman behind me kept whistling in an attempt to startle everyone into submission. It was powerful.

For the record, I didn’t really cry. Much. It’s just hard watching grown-ups cry, you know?


As always this season, you’ve got Frisch’s presents The Nutcracker, which is a Cincinnati staple. I usually give up my ticket to this one so my mom can go with my sister. The ballet this year also is taking The Nutcracker on the road, to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (I’m still waiting on my paid travel from Victoria. Please call me. Let’s make this happen.)
Personally, I get more into the contemporary dance. I like the classic stuff, don’t get me wrong: it really shows how amazing these dancers are, and it’s fun to get swept up in the history. But dancing to modern music, new styles, new choreography — it gets intense. It’s almost animal. You’re watching these incredibly gifted artists exhibit all our basest human emotions. Pride, love, anger, lust, sensuality. Everything. It’s a true artistic experience. If you can let yourself get lost in these moments, you’ll travel from your animal instincts to your highest levels of comprehension and back again.

So, if I were you, I would absolutely go online right now and buy tickets to:

Bold Movesprimary-Bold-Moves-1460409685

Kaplan New Works Series



And take a loved one to see The Nutcracker.

I personally will be at all of them. I’m in row D. Come see me Saturday nights at 8 p.m.


Here are some notes I took for Director’s Cut I want everyone (especially the dancers) to see:

  • Taylor Carrasco: You grew your hair back good job.
  • Patric Palkens performed his hardest part yet – smiling a lot. It kind of unnerved me, but was fun to see. He still makes me nervous.
  • James Gilmore bench-presses Sherman tanks.
  • Rodrigo Almarales: Were you actually drunk? You can tell me in private.
  • Also: props to James Cunningham for choreographing that piece. It was fun as hell.
  • Sarah Hairston looks like she doesn’t take shit from anyone. Ever.
  • Zach Grubbs seems like I’d see him at Home Depot with inside out sweat pants, but also he can jump six feet vertically.
  • I fell in love with all eight dancers in the Ma Cong piece. Will you please perform that at my birthday? It’s December 6.


Photo by Zackariah Cole //

John David Back is a Cincinnati native who lives and works in OTR. He’s an avid reader and a mediocre writer who loves the experience of art and beauty. Tell him what he should experience and send fan mail to