Robert Hill: Building a Modern Ballet

Photo Credit: Michelle Revels

The Orlando Ballet is a staple in Orlando’s entertainment scene.

Established in 1974, it is currently Central Florida’s only fully residential professional ballet company. While the dancers take center stage to bring each story to life, there is a man behind the scenes who strives for something else: to make ballet relevant to a modern audience.

Artistic Director Robert Hill’s background is impressive. He has been a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater, The Royal Ballet and the New York City Ballet, and he has danced with companies from around the world including the Scottish Ballet and the Australian Ballet. These experiences with renowned directors, choreographers and ballerinas are reflected in the Orlando Ballet’s performances.

Under Hill’s direction, collaborations with esteemed local arts organizations have developed. Dancers have performed to live music from the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Uncorked series at The Abbey shows the process of creating movement from scratch directly in front of spectators.

These collaborations are just one way Hill is fulfilling his mission of making ballet relevant to today’s audiences. Another is dispelling the myths of this genre of dance.

“A lot of people who haven’t been to the ballet have a preconceived notion of what the ballet is,” Hill says. “When we actually get them to come watch a performance and they see the athleticism, the sweat, how beautiful it can be and how well it can tell a story, they get hooked.”


During his time as artistic director, Hill has created much of the choreography on his own. He says if you can create a minute of choreography per hour, then you’re doing well.

He describes his creative process as watching a movie screen in his brain. He visualizes what he wants to happen then asks others to create it. Sometimes it only works on his brain’s movie screen because the movements don’t translate to the human body. Other times, it produces the energetic yet graceful movements for which he is known.

“Once the concept and the deadline are entered into my brain, I basically live with it 24 hours a day until it’s completed,” Hill says, noting that he often collaborates with dancers in terms of movement ideas that feel logical and organic in terms of progression.

So what does the future hold for the Orlando Ballet? Hill envisions more collaborations and welcoming more choreographers from Europe to create stage work here in the United States. He also wants the company to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and in New York City.

“I want Orlando Ballet to continue on its path to becoming an important international ballet company,” he says. “Also, in the process, to create a repertory that says, ‘Oh, that’s the Orlando Ballet’ … so that it will be appealing for presenters to bring us in.”

The Orlando Ballet’s 2016-17 season will begin with a performance of “Dracula,” which will run Oct. 28-30 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.



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