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Chris Lingner’s path to the ballet world is a roundabout journey

If ever there were a circuitous route to one’s chosen profession, it would be that of Indianapolis native Chris Lingner. Once a competitive dancer, Lingner also danced in a touring company of a Broadway show, performed on a ship and is now a dancer with Cincinnati Ballet. Recently, spoke by phone with Lingner, who was in New York City with the company which was performing on tour at the prestigious Joyce Theater.

Chris Lingner in "Eight More" - choreography by Peter Martins - Indiana University Ballet
Max Tortoriello
Chris Lingner
Conrad Piccirillo

“I dance because it is what I love to do. It’s my purest form of expressing myself. In a way I also feel safe in the world I help create on stage. No worries, no pain, no drama from the real world at least! All there is, is the music and a story to tell which is both thrilling and therapeutic in a way,” said Lingner when asked about why he chose his career.

Lingner, the son of Terry and Louise Lingner, is a 2008 graduate of University High School in Carmel. As a child and teenager, he learned various styles of dance including jazz and was involved in dance competitions and community theater musicals. He also studied ballet and danced for many years in the former Indianapolis Ballet Internationale’s “Nutcracker.

After graduating from high school, Lingner was poised to attend Arizona University, known for its dance program, on a scholarship. However, while competing in Nashville, a judge referred him to a casting director for a national tour of the Broadway show, Twyla Tharp’s “Movin’ Out,” featuring the music of Billy Joel. After a successful audition in Chicago, Lingner placed college on hold and went on tour for nine months with the show. Dancing the principal roles of Eddie and James, Lingner was the youngest to ever dance them.

Once the “Movin' Out” tour was up, Lingner joined the first full-length Broadway musical presented on a ship in “Hairspray” as Brad, and was a featured aerialist in a review show, “Come Fly With Me,” on the Oasis of the Seas with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Lingner also performed for Clint Holmes in the Las Vegas star’s musical, “My Own Song,” and a production of “Guys and Dolls.”

Eventually, Lingner was a featured guest artist with Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre, the Indianapolis School of Ballet and in the Young Stars of Ballet Gala presented by the Indianapolis City Ballet. In 2012, Sonya Tayeh created a new work on him for an NFL Super Bowl (Indianapolis) sponsored benefit. Lingner also attended workshops at Nederlands Dans Theater and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. While at Hubbard, Lingner auditioned for a spot in the company but failed to make the cut because it was felt that he needed more classical ballet training.

Following that disappointment, Lingner went on to study ballet in the Jacob's School of Music at Indiana University for three and a half years, where he danced in 19 ballets in a repertoire that included works by Michael Vernon, Dwight Rhoden, Twyla Tharp, Josh Bergasse, Nicolo Fonte, Violette Verdy, Paul Taylor, August Bournonville, Peter Martins and George Balanchine. About his love for ballet, Lingner said, “Ballet is the purest of all dance forms which is why it is the foundation by which everything else evolved. Without a solid base you cannot explore what is possible and push the art form to new boundaries.”

After IU, Lingner was set to make audition rounds when he received a call from a friend, Roberta Wong, an IU Contemporay Dance faculty member and formerly a Dance Kaleidoscope company member, informing him that Cincinnati Ballet was looking for a dancer. Dropping everything, Lingner, applied for the position, after which he received an invitation to take a class with the company. Immediately afterward, Cincinnati Ballet artistic director Victoria Morgan offered him a place in the company. A week later in November of 2013 Lingner found himself on tour with the company, which is celebrating its 50th season, in Anchorage, Ala., in “The Nutcracker.”

Wong was happy she could help open the door for Lingner and said, “Chris is a star waiting to happen. He writes his own script in life by being open-hearted, talented, beautiful and reverent. I happened to be a conduit for this particular job, but there will be many more. He makes you want the best for him; he is just that kind of person.”

As far as those who have influenced him along the way Lingner said, “I have many influences. Some close, some I’ve only ever seen in movies, and some I have only had a brief encounter with. Victoria Lyras, artistic director of the Indianapolis School of Ballet is a major influence in my ballet career. She believed in me from the beginning and I wouldn’t be where I am without her guidance.” About Lingner, his mentor Lyras predicts, “The sky is the limit for him. He’s got the most phenomenal work ethic. He is so curious, willing and open to suggestions and ideas that are given to him. He’s so smart. I never had to say anything twice to Chris. He totally got it with a sparkle in his eye. He just absorbs everything so quickly and will continue to grow. As long as he has that desire and that hunger it is up to him to create.”

Lingner said his younger brother Cory, who also happens to be dancer (and a Broadway performer to watch), “has also been an inspiration from the beginning. He’s taught me so much without even realizing it. And any male dancer would be remiss to not be inspired by such greats as Baryshnikov, Nureyev, Astaire, and Kelly.”

“It can be one of the most satisfying and thrilling careers one could ever have if you are willing to work hard enough to achieve it. You will meet fascinating people and create a network that can span the globe. It’s also a career that will certainly never have a dull moment. Every day will bring something new,” said Lingner regarding the payoff for a career as a ballet dancer.

Finally, when asked what kind of impact he would like to have, Lingner emphasized, “I would like to leave a legacy that expanded the art form and exposed more people to the beauty of dance. Hopefully I will be the kind of dancer that other dancers and audience members will remember, for years to come, many thrilling moments in time that we all shared in the theater.”

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