A Brief History

An Overview of Contemporary Dance Theater’s History

Contemporary Dance Theater began as a repertory dance company in 1972 to promote the art of modern dance, following a two year experiment called Dance ’70. Its vision was to provide a place for Cincinnati area dancers to perform and choreograph. CDT became a not-for-profit corporation in 1975, receiving non-profit recognition.

In the days of CDT’s performing resident company, it performed at Wilson auditorium before its renovation, Xavier University, Emery Theatre, and the YWCA downtown where Contemporary Dance Theater had a studio theater from 1978-1981.

In Contemporary Dance Theater’s first few years, it had moved from studio to studio, which became larger and larger. In 1981, the company moved to Corryville to “The Dance Hall,” as they called it. The Dance Hall was an old barn of a building in Corryville, built as a community center of sorts and once the site of Boss Cox’s political rallies. It had also been a bingo hall built over a swimming pool, which became the ballet studio with barres on tiled walls, while the main studio/theater sat above with hard maple wood floors running on the diagonal. This was CDT’s home for 16 years, and it gave opportunities to local musicians and actors to perform, as well.

In The Dance Hall, founder and director Jefferson James saw an opportunity to present dance companies from across the country and expose Cincinnati to more dance. What first began as inviting various choreographers to work with Contemporary Dance Theater, led to eventually inviting these choreographers to bring their own companies to perform in Cincinnati. Thus began Contemporary Dance theater’s history of presenting Dance from across the nation.

Contemporary Dance Theater began presenting companies from Washington DC, the west coast, and places in between, at The Dance Hall.

In 1993, Contemporary Dance Theater dissolved the repertory company in order to devote time and energy toward presenting and assisting artists.

Today, Contemporary Dance Theater has grown to become the premier presenter of a diversity of contemporary dance, now presented at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, although CDT’s offices and community dance studio are located in College Hill’s old Town Hall (built in 1885). With long-time support from such entities as the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Performance Network, The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation, ArtsWave, and the Ohio Arts Council, Contemporary Dance Theater proudly supports its 45th season in 2017-2018.

CDT’s history is featured as part of Ohio Dance’s Virtual Dance collection.  See photos and video interviews of CDT’s history from Ohio Dance’s Virtual Dance collection HERE!