A dance class during a community open house at Cincinnati Ballet's new facility
Photo credit: Mikki Schaffner

Cincinnati Ballet has cut the ribbon for its new Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance in Walnut Hills. The building serves as headquarters and rehearsal space for the growing ballet company as well as an expanded education and community engagement center. The entire space is designed to serve Cincinnati Ballet’s mission: "To enrich, expand and excel in the art of dance through performance, a high-caliber academy, and impactful education and outreach in local to global communities."

Like the new Cincinnati Art Museum Art Climb and Studeō PAR- in Northside, the Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance is designed to maximize connections, both within the facility and to the surrounding community. Principal Architect Marcene Kinney of GBBN notes that the organizing principle for the building's design was to connect key views between studios, city skylines and the public. That starts at the exterior, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows offering literal transparency into almost all of the Center’s nine studios. Kinney notes, "The community studio is in the most prominent location so people can look in and see themselves, and hopefully feel welcomed to come inside."

Within the building, every studio has a clear line of vision to at least two other studios. Younger students of Cincinnati Ballet's Otto M. Budig Academy can see veteran students, like they're looking at a window into their own futures. Everyone, whether they're students, professionals or visitors, can see movement almost anywhere they look.

Each studio also features a unique perspective of the surrounding region, including views of Carew Tower, Mt. Adams, the east side of the Central Business District and more. The community studio and professional company studio share the clearest view of Cincinnati with the grand staircase.

Taking dance to new heights

The new facility opens new growth opportunities in the art of dance, according to Cincinnati Ballet President & CEO Scott Altman. As its community offerings increased, the organization's previous home could not keep pace with the ongoing expansion of the professional company. Altman notes, "We were competing with ourselves for space in the middle afternoon during academy classes. It's never part of a mission to turn people away from your programs, but we were at a point where our classes were at or over capacity."

With nine studios and floor-to-ceiling windows, the new building has the space and light needed to serve the needs of a growing, world-renowned ballet company. "It's unlike any space I know of in the ballet world: awe-inspiring. You have to see it to understand," Altman says. The dancers can now practice in studios that match the sizes of their two main stages: the Aronoff Center and Music Hall. The company has space to match its caliber of performance with room for growth.

Mercy Health has physical therapy offices onsite as well, both for the dancers and for the community at large, with plenty of room to expand offerings. One of the new studios even features a specialized track and harness system, making dance classes possible for students with limited mobility. While the system is used in hospitals and universities, the Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance is the first professional dance center in the country to integrate it into its design.

The Ballet underscores its commitment to arts education with its new facility. Recognizing the rigor involved in training, its new parents lounge is designed to be a home away from home for parents supporting the growth of their child's dance education. Some upper-level students spend as many as three to four hours in classes on a single day. Parents who sometimes live hours away will find comfortable working space in the new lounge, plus healthy vending options, meditation space, nursing rooms and more.

Cincinnati Ballet is putting the Cincinnati region on the map, and the new Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance is poised to accelerate that trajectory. Increased inclusivity, community engagement and expanded educational opportunities, key tenets of the new building design, earn this new artistic workspace a standing ovation.

Cincinnati Ballet joins ArtsWave and over 100 arts organizations in celebrating the return of live arts to the region by inviting you to BRING YOU this fall. Check ArtsWave Guide at artswave.org/guide, the region’s arts calendar, for most up-to-date and comprehensive information on Cincinnati’s arts events.