What Does a Cincinnati Ballet Dancer Do Over the Summer?

Two Cincinnati Ballet dancers explain how they train—and relax—during their summer break.

This month, thousands of students in Cincinnati entered a new classroom, sat down to a blank sheet of paper, and spent the first five minutes of the day answering the same question: what they did over their summer vacations?

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

For Cincinnati Ballet’s Nikita Boris and Catherine Lasak, however, the summer looked…pretty much the same.

Nikita Boris at a dance workshop in Spain.

Photograph courtesy Oleg Klymyk

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

“So I stayed relatively busy,” says Boris, “but it was fun, it was nice to be doing different things.”

Lasak, a 24-year-old new dancer, lives over the river in Ft. Thomas. This summer, she traveled to Wisconsin and Mississippi to visit her family and her boyfriend, then came back to the Queen City to dance in the Cincinnati Opera’s production of Aida.

“They usually reach out to 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 incredible—those artists are amazing.”

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

Photograph courtesy Cincinnati Opera

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

In the meantime, the dancers have been keeping busy. Since ballet is such a physical profession, both Lasak and Boris worked out often 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 multiple times a week, Boris also works with a personal trainer to strengthen and lengthen her muscles.

Photograph courtesy Catherine Lasak

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

“I do love lifting weights and more of a [high intensity interval training]-based workout,” says Lasak, “but this summer, she gave me a lot of explosive exercises for the legs, so I would do a lot of jump squats, box jumps, single leg jumps, moving laterally.”

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

“It’s incredible. We have nine beautiful studios,” says Boris. “In the old space we had one really large studio that was great, but there was really just no sunlight at all, and we’ve gone from that to all open windows, sunlight flooding into the studios…it’s really next level.”

Photograph courtesy Nikita Boris

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

“The [repertoire] this year is so well-rounded and so 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 and exciting and very progressive, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Even though they’ve already hit the ground running, both dancers are glad to be back in the rhythm of rehearsals. A ballerina’s work week runs Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with an hour break in the middle for lunch.

“I feel that the future of this company is so bright…and I feel it’s one of my greatest blessings to be able to be a part of this company, and I’m excited to see what this company can continue to do for Cincinnati,” says Lasak.

The Cincinnati Ballet’s 2022–2023 season kicks off with the Kaplan New Works Series September 8–18. See the Ballet’s full season schedule here.

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