A gem of Cincinnati for more than 50 years, the Cincinnati Ballet Company’s mission has always been to inspire hope and joy in the local community through the passion and beauty of ballet. The ballet has seen an exponential growth in recent donations as well as in attendance under the leadership of Victoria Morgan, who will be celebrating her 20th anniversary as artistic director this year. One of the most powerful aspects of the company is its academy, which teaches children and young adults of all ages the impact of dance. 

Founded in 1997, the goal of the Otto M. Budig Academy is not only to provide pre-professional dance training but also to provide an inspiration to dance in the first place. The Academy goes by its guidelines to teach, challenge and inspire. 

“The academy gives children a sense of discipline and respect. How they have to act in the dance studio is different than how they would act on a soccer field,” says Sarah Hairston, newly appointed director of the Academy. Hairston was a dancer for the ballet for around 15 years before she took her new position this past August. “We hope it is a new era for the Academy,” she says. 

It is broken up into two divisions for young dancers to accommodate curriculum for each age level and experience. There is a separate division for young adults. “We have a really robust community outreach program,” says Mariclare Hulbert, director of marketing for the ballet. 

The two young divisions include the children’s division for kids ages 2-7 and the main division that is broken up into seven levels, for kids ages 8-18. Classes in the children’s division mainly focus on movement and coordination, while classes in the main division cater to each level of difficulty and experience. This connection to the ballet company is an incredible opportunity for students to network in the ballet community as well as get experience with professional performances. The Academy is the first place the ballet looks for the child roles in the ballet’s productions.

Auditions for Clara and her younger brothers in The Nutcracker are open to the community as well as the students. The Academy has also put on its own production of The Nutcracker in the past, depending on how many students have received a role in the main production. “Christmas becomes a crazy time around here,” says Hairston. 

Another way the ballet gets kids and students involved is through its Ballet and (Root Beer) event, which is tailored to younger generations but is based off its other event, Ballet and Beer. The event will be held Dec. 1 and will give kids the chance to get a sneak peak of The Nutcracker while watching the rehearsals and mingling with the dancers.

The Academy’s main production is always in May at the end of the school year, giving the students the ability to showcase their abilities and what they learned. “Our goal is to train pro dancers,” says Hairston, “but we also realize the importance of what students learn here and how they take that to the next step in their life.”