In August the Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Academy launched its inaugural Professional Training Division (PTD) initiative. The 38-week program—led by Academy Director of Training and former Cincinnati Ballet Principal Sarah Hairston—is designed to prepare dancers for their career, assisting with the oftentimes challenging transition from ballet student to professional dancer.

Hairston notes the isolating feeling students can endure when coming from a high school or dance college with a long-term invested coach or teacher, to joining a company where dancers become one of many. “It can be overwhelming at a young age and I see so many dancers get lost, out-of-shape and uninspired,” says Hairston.

The initiative aims to bridge the transition by focusing on the development of each student’s professional aptitude. The academy outlines this through immersion in a course of study aligned with the artistic repertoire of Cincinnati Ballet’s professional Company, and providing participants with professional performance opportunities.

“Being a professional dancer is an amazing career, but it can be tough,” says Hairston. “To have mentors that are fresh out of their careers helps build perspective for them. It makes them see the career differently and more realistically. We are all determined to make sure each dancer feels they are fully supported while they are here with us, and we are truly invested in their future.”

Participants engage in 27 hours of practice each week that encompasses daily classes in technique, pointe and variations, as well as weekly classes in conditioning, modern, contemporary, men’s class, pas de deux and choreography. Students are also involved in learning choreography with the Company and Second Company dancers that they potentially perform in full-length productions with when extra dancers are needed. They also have rehearsals for performances that they will participate in around the city such as Cincinnati Ballet’s Family Series, the Academy’s Spring Production, in-studio showcases and Cincinnati Ballet’s educational outreach programs.

“[The Division] puts us on the map and in line with what other major companies and academies are doing all over the country,” says Hairston. “The talent we have here in this first year is beyond what I expected. We are all so proud and in love with the dancers here with us.”

The PTD succeeds the triumph of the Academy’s nationally recognized Summer Intensive program that serviced a record-breaking total of 179 students—an increase of 56 percent from Summer Intensive 2016. It expanded this year to include an additional sixth week and fourth level of training, which was led by the new Academy artistic leadership team and the most prestigious guest faculty to date.

The Academy has numerous initiatives in the works this season and anticipates unveiling several new programs within the year that will serve students of various ages.

“Our long-term goals include expanding our services on all fronts. We want to use dance to serve the whole community while also becoming a destination school for promising students across the nation,” says Ginger Johnson, director of academy administration. “Our hope is to provide dance-related benefits to novice students of all ages as well as the highest level of burgeoning young talent. We want everyone to have a place here at the Otto M. Budig Academy.”

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