James Cunningham is originally from Little Hocking, Ohio. His early dance education began at age 10 from the Mid Ohio Valley Ballet Academy. In 2010, he graduated from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. While earning a BFA in dance on full scholarship, he was also able to begin his career as a professional dancer with Cincinnati Ballet in 2008. There, James performed roles such as Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet, Country Boy from Fancy Free, Principal Pas de Deux from Rubies, Escamillo from Carmen, the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, and Kashchei from Firebird. He danced with Cincinnati Ballet for 11 seasons and was promoted to Soloist in 2016. Cunningham has worked with many choreographers; Adam Hougland, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Jennifer Archibald, Justin Peck, Ma Cong, Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa, Val Caniparoli, Nicolo Fonte, and Yuri Possokhov.
In 2016 and 2017 James was selected to be a dancer for the National Choreographers Initiative. Beginning in 2014, James has taught year round for the Otto M. Budig Academy of Cincinnati Ballet. His choreography “Prohibition Condition” was selected for Director’s Cut in 2016. That year he also created a ballet for the fall showcase at the University of Cincinnati. Chamber music groups in Cincinnati have commissioned him for short works that cater to site specific venues. James has also contributed choreography for an annual benefit concert in Columbus, OH. Proceeds go to the Central Ohio Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation. He has also created works for Cincinnati Ballet II. In 2017 he made a duet in collaboration with musician Brice Dessner that opened the Music Now Festival. His most recent solo work, “Mercurial Impulses,” appeared at the 2018 USAIBC for bronze medalist Chisako Oga. James is honored and excited to be starting the next new chapter of his dance career by joining the Grand Rapids Ballet.