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Cincinnati Ballet dancers in “Then…Now” / Image: Peter Mueller // Published: 9.14.17

Cincinnati Ballet’s "New Works" Was So Good That I’m Already Plotting My Return Visit

My favorite thing about fall is the return of Cincinnati Ballet, which I’ve undoubtedly said before. Because it was as true then as it is now. Forget about the NFL or sweater weather or pumpkin spice anything… that stuff is meh compared to the ballet dancers hitting the stage again. And thank goodness for me — and for you too — that day has arrived!

Cincinnati Ballet opens its 2017/18 season with The Kaplan New Works, featuring five very different pieces choreographed by four women and one male Creative Arts Emmy winner. (Note: Of the five pieces, four of them are world premieres while the other is a Cincinnati premiere.)

There’s Nannerl, the story of Maria Anna Mozart (the older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) which is choreographed by Penny Saunders.

There’s Black Coffee, which is set to the music of KD Lang and was one of the first pieces Victoria Morgan (Artistic Director of Cincinnati Ballet) choreographed following her retirement from performing. It’s a solo.

There’s The Dance Will Set You Free, which is essentially an energetic celebration of dance — in all its forms — with choreography by Johanna Bernstein Wilt.

There’s I Couldn’t Fly When which explores the notion of limitations, specifically who or what holds us back. It’s choreographed by Heather Britt.

And finally, there’s Then…Now by Travis Wall. You might know Wall from So You Think You Can Dance fame. Also, he’s the Emmy winner. His piece is a haunting representation about the devastating impact of love.

I could go into more detail about each piece, but I won’t. Because, honestly, one of the most magical parts about New Works is the experience of seeing something totally new, with fresh eyes, and without anyone else’s opinion to guide that of your own.

What I will say, however, is that I loved it. I loved Sirui Liu in Black Coffee. That’s a performance I could become addicted to. I'd bookmark it on my web browser and watch it from "one o'clock till four." Liu is sultry. She's sexy. She's just that freakin' good, and it’s no wonder Liu's been promoted to Principal Dancer this season.

I also loved Taylor Carrasco in I Couldn’t Fly When. He reminds me a bit of young Jimmy Cunningham (who everyone should already know that I love #majorcrush). Both dancers are in this piece, actually, and have a talent for bringing their characters to life, beyond the steps that were laid out by the choreographer. They draw you in such that your eyes can barely focus on anyone else.

And finally, I can’t end this without tossing out some serious props in the direction of Maizyalet Velazquez. Her performance in Then...Now is stunning, powerful, evocative and then some. The portrait of sexual assault is simultaneously hard-to-watch, yet captivating. If you've ever wondered what it feels like to be left emotionally raw from a performance, that would be it. And what makes Velazquez all the more impressive is how, earlier in the night, she dazzles alongside Rodrigo Almarales in The Dance Will Set You Free. It's a totally different type of character, where Velazquez rocks some serious Beyonce-level confidence. Like, dang girl... Who runs the world? Answer: Mai does.

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The Kaplan New Works is performing now through Sunday, Sept. 24 at the Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff Center.

Ps: Just in case you need a little more info to convince you to buy tix, here's a peek at the inspiration behind Travis Wall's piece.