Ballet dancer

What does a Cincinnati ballet dancer do in the summer?

Jn month, thousands of Cincinnati students walked into a new classroom, sat down in front of a blank sheet of paper, and spent the first five minutes of the day answering the same question: what did they did during their summer vacation?

Maybe they traveled to see family. Maybe they went to a Reds game or two, bought ice cream at Graeter’s down the street, or visited a few colleges. Maybe they found a job. Maybe they just hung out with friends.

For Cincinnati Ballet’s Nikita Boris and Catherine Lasak, however, the summer has felt…about the same.

Nikita Boris during a dance workshop in Spain.

Photo courtesy of Oleg Klymyk

Boris is a 22-year-old dancer from the corps de ballet, the ensemble of dancers in a production. The upcoming season will be her third with the Cincinnati Ballet, and she currently lives downtown. Boris spent time this summer traveling, first to New York to take part in a competition and see his family, then to France and Spain for a holiday and a workshop with choreographer William Forsythe.

“So I kept relatively busy,” says Boris, “but it was fun, it was nice to do different things.”

Lasak, a 24-year-old New Dancer, lives above the river in Fort. Thomas. This summer, she traveled to Wisconsin and Mississippi to visit her family and boyfriend, then returned to the Queen City to dance in the Cincinnati Opera production. Aida.

“They usually contact us during the summer and say, ‘Hey, we need four dancers, we need two dancers’; this season they needed 12 dancers,” says Lasak. “It was so amazing – these artists are amazing.”

Catherine Lasak dances in the Cincinnati Opera’s production “Aida”.

Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Opera

A Cincinnati Ballet season runs like most academic calendars, beginning in late summer and ending in mid-spring. Last May, the 2021-2022 season concluded with the Bold Moves Festival at the Aronoff Center. In September, the 2022-2023 season opens with the Kaplan New Works Series in the same place.

In the meantime, the dancers kept busy. Since ballet is such a physical profession, Lasak and Boris often practiced to keep their bodies in shape.

“When we’re dancing so much, we’re constantly tearing our muscle fibers,” says Boris. In addition to yoga, which she practices several times a week, Boris also works with a personal trainer to strengthen and lengthen her muscles.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Lasak

Lasak worked with the Ballet’s athletic trainer to develop a personal plan focused on areas of improvement. This summer, she worked on jumps and her “turnout,” or how far her feet can point from each other.

“I love lifting weights and more than one [high intensity interval training]says Lasak, “but this summer she gave me a lot of explosive leg exercises, so I would be doing a lot of jump squats, box jumps, single leg jumps, moving laterally.”

The Cincinnati Ballet recently moved into new offices and rehearsal spaces in Walnut Hills from the company’s former home in the West End. Both dancers are thrilled to be back at the new Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance.

“It’s amazing. We have nine beautiful studios,” says Boris. from that to all the windows open, sunlight flooding the studios…it really is next level.”

Photograph courtesy of Nikita Boris

The company is also under new creative management for the first time in 25 years. Victoria Morgan, the company’s longtime artistic director, retired at the end of last season and was replaced by Jodie Gates, who joined the company from the University of Southern California.

“The [repertoire] this year is so complete and diverse, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge of taking on all these different styles, working with different choreographers,” says Boris. “I think it’s new, exciting and very progressive, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Even if they are already on track, the two dancers are happy to find the rhythm of rehearsals. A ballerina’s work week is Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with an hour break in the middle for lunch.

“I think the future for this company is so bright…and I think it’s one of my biggest blessings to be able to be a part of this company, and I’m excited to see what this company can keep doing for Cincinnati,” says Lasak.

Cincinnati Ballet’s 2022-23 season kicks off with the Kaplan New Works Series September 8-18. See the full Ballet season schedule here.