Orlando Ballet recognized Hill with a cheerful reception.
The Orlando Ballet has had an eventful decade. The organization has seen executive directors come and go, faced intense financial woes a few short years ago and recently received millions of dollars in funding for its new ballet center.
But Robert Hill, the school’s artistic director, has been a constant figure during these times. For the last decade, Hill has spearheaded the company’s artistic endeavors and is now celebrating his 10th year with the group.
“The word I’ve come up with after 10 years is ‘gratitude,’” Hill said. “I feel a great deal of gratitude.”
Hill accepted the Orlando Ballet artistic director position after years as a freelance coach, choreographer and director in New York ballet. Before that, he had performed with the American Ballet Theatre and spent five years direct ing ballet in Mexico before returning to the United States.
When traveling through Orlando, Hill was approached with an interview for the artistic director position. The idea of taking a leadership role in a growing area piqued his interest.
“I was interested in the fact the Central Florida area is one of the fastest growing areas in the country,” he said. “There was a great deal of potential for growth and that’s what’s been happening. I’m excited to be part of this community that’s growing, including culturally. … I can say after 10 years that things have never been better at the Orlando Ballet in every single way.”
He said it’s been a rewarding and learning experience to shift from professionally dancing to directing a ballet organization. He also is aware of the shifting lifestyle and viewing habits of arts enthusiasts, and he said it’s been rewarding to try to keep the artform alive.
The secret: being open to change and growth.
“In terms of audience, not just in Orlando but globally, people don’t really want to sit in the theater for three to four hours with three intermissions or even two intermissions,” he said. “A lot of the older war-horse ballet — for example, ‘Swan Lake’ which was originally in four acts — most places are now doing Swan Lake in two acts. Same with ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and our upcoming ‘Cinderella.’ Being aware of all that and being sensitive to it is important in order to keep people interested.”
It’s an encouraging time for the ballet, Hill said. Several of those patrons and supporters celebrated Hill’s 10th year with a cheerful reception at Dr. Phillips Charities where he was recognized with by Orlando Ballet figures. The Orlando Ballet is also about to debut its new “Arcadian Broad’s Wonderland: Mad Tales of the Hatter” show. And most importantly, ground has been broken and construction is underway on the Harriet’s Orlando Ballet Centre, which will bring all the ballet’s school, staff and performers under one roof.
Hill has several ideas for the future — including having the company travel to New York to perform, compete in national and international festivals — and he said he’s glad the Orlando Ballet is at a place where it can make those opportunities happen.
“There’s been a lot of work to get this organization as a whole to the place where it’s at,” Hill said. “To me, it feels like we’ve got things organized and we can move forward in a big, big way. … Now, we can really go to where a high-level arts organization can go on a national scale.”