Louisville Magazine

MAR 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.19 65 "I'm Done Pretending" You think it's Pinkerton up there onstage, with his new Japanese bride, the lover he'll soon forsake. But it's not. at's Robert Curran, the dancer, performing Madame Butterfly in November, 2011, the last season of his career. You think he's gazing at Cio-Cio San, the character, but he's not; he's gazing at his dance partner, Rachel Rawlins, a woman he has danced with many times in his 16 years with the Australian Ballet, 10 as a principal artist. Yes, of course, he knows the story, the betrayal coming up, poor Cio-Cio San's fate. He will bring all of that to life — has trained, monastically, to do so. But right now, with this pas de deux, when the two characters are about to sleep together for the first time, he has the chance to push himself into that indeterminate thing that makes true art happen: risk. For that he'll need emotion. Real emotion. Not just Pinkerton's, but his own. So he's thinking about Rawlins: What can he do to surprise Rawlins? How can he make Rawlins — not Cio-Cio San, the character, but Rawlins — feel something? He stands there with those shoulders and those arms and that sculpted, ancient- Greek stance, like he's both soft and made of stone. ey levitate into one another in their simple white garments, moving as deliberately as natural phenomena — as waves, as wind. At least, it looks that effortless to the audience. ey don't see the moments of doubt just before the performance — Can I do it? Am I strong enough? — or the grueling effort up close, the sweat and the snot and the soiled makeup. Every mouth in the crowd is surely airless. Curran lifts her in his two hands and something happens between those two bodies, those two instruments forged through a years-long crucible of training — something bigger than any two characters, any two people, something unlike anything that happened during the hours and hours of rehearsals. e exertion of performing sometimes leaves him seeing spots, but just now he sees only her, and because he sees only her, everyone in the room sees only her. is is his craft: to look at a partner in a way that makes everyone in the crowd swoon. In this moment, before Pinkerton leaves Cio-Cio San alone with nothing but a new child, before Cio-Cio San's ultimate sacrifice, Rawlins owns the room. It's not Cio-Cio San he lies with. at's Rawlins. It's not Pinkerton on top of her as the lights glimmer down, burying his face in her neck, knowing he'll leave. at man up there is Robert Curran. What that means is a more complicated matter. BY DYLON JONES | PHOTOS BY JESSICA EBELHAR Robert Curran, the artistic and executive director of the Louisville Ballet, has spent his life fitting into molds. Now he's breaking out of them.

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