Cincinnati Ballet Gets A New Leader After a Year Of Upheaval

Ten weeks ago, Deborah S. Brant stepped in as Cincinnati Ballet’s interim president and CEO. Today, the search for her successor ended when Brant was appointed to take the position on a permanent basis.

It was the first step to resolving an institutional hiccup that began last September when artistic director Jodie Gates left after just 14 months on the job, followed six days later by then-president and CEO Scott Altman announcing that he would leave at the end of 2023.

The reasons behind Gates’ departure are still a mystery. Altman left to take on a similar position with the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

At the ballet’s headquarters, though, the news of Brant’s appointment was cheered.

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“I couldn’t be happier,” said Cervilio Miguel Amador, the company’s interim artistic director. “Debbie is very knowledgeable and she’s very smart. She knows this company well and has an impressive record of community service. I can’t think of anyone I would rather work with for this job.”

Amador isn’t overstating the case about Brant. Even before she arrived in Cincinnati in 1998, she had extensive experience fundraising for several of the arts world’s biggest names; the Kennedy Center and National Symphony Orchestra, New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, among others.

In Cincinnati, she immediately built a name for herself as an indefatigable and highly effective volunteer, serving as the board chair of the Mayerson JCC, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and as a board member for Most Valuable Kids of Cincinnati, Inc. She is a past recipient of The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Women of the Year Award and, in 2021, was named Volunteer of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Cincinnati Chapter.

More specifically to Cincinnati Ballet, she led the capital campaign committee that secured funding to build the company’s new Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance in Walnut Hills.

“When I took on the interim positions, I was concerned that, despite being involved here for so long, there might be a huge number of things I wouldn’t know about,” Brant said last week. ”But the truth is that I haven’t been shocked by anything that has come across my desk.”

She has built a reputation as a soft-spoken, low-drama leader who foresees few if any changes in the administrative make-up of the company. That is a departure from recent years, which saw nearly a dozen experienced production, artistic and management staffers quietly released.

“Right now, we have a fantastic team,” said Brant. “So I don’t have any plans for major changes.”

The first priority, she said, is re-committing the company to its hometown.

“Look at the name on our building – we are a ‘Center for Dance,’” she said. “But what does that really mean? Who else could be here in the building with us? What are we doing in the neighborhood around us? How are we working in other communities in Greater Cincinnati? I wouldn’t say that greater attendance is the issue for us. It’s about helping people realize that the arts can make their lives better.”

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