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 67 as they can be, because one area is gonna suffer more than the other," Ragland says. "When he first got here, there was so much of this great energy in the studio." He adds, "When he became both artistic and executive, and he started putting more energy into the administrative side, we felt very left by the wayside. And I know that it's been a constant juggling act for him. But I will always say that it's just too much for one person." Curran wants to sit in on a rehearsal for an upcoming production called Human Abstract, a contemporary work by his longtime friend and fellow Australian Ballet alum, the choreographer Lucas Jervies, who often works with the Louisville Ballet. But Curran's schedule is getting crowded. He has just enough time to fit in an hour for an Orangetheory class. (e idea is to grind through a series of exercises, trying to keep your heart rate in the "orange" or "red" zones, 80-plus percent of your ticker's beats-per-minute max.) "I finish at 9 o'clock tonight, and I don't want to go home and do anything but watch some episodes of e Good Wife and have a cup of tea," he says. But the grind has helped grow the ballet's budget from, by Curran's estimation, about $3.4 million when he started to "very close to $5 million." (Around 2010, the ballet was more than $1 million in debt, according to a 2014 Courier-Journal article about Curran's hiring.) More and more dancers want to work there. At the first round of auditions Curran held in February 2015, maybe 30 or 40 dancers tried out. Last year about 150 did, and he anticipates 200 this year, if not more. "And I've got 26 contracts, and most of them are full," he says. Still, it's not enough. He'd like to see the budget grow to $7 million, recruit more board members, hire an executive director — do more, more, more. Add to that Curran's ambitious programming. In addition to annual performances of staples like e Nutcracker, Curran is committed to new and challenging work — especially when it involves other art forms. e ballet has done performances involving musicians, writers and poets, architects, visual artists and designers. is year's Choreographer's Showcase paired choreographers with visual artists to explore themes surrounding technology and futurism. Last year, Curran created a new work with Vinhay Keo, a graduate of the Kentucky College of Art + Design who contributed light and set design and appeared onstage. e piece — which explored, in a conceptual sense, French colonialism in Keo's native Cambodia — was titled in a Cambodian language called Khmer; it is not meant to be translated into English. If that doesn't sound boundary-pushing enough for you: During one sequence, copper-colored confetti fell on dancers for something like 12 consecutive minutes. And if you've ever been to a classical ballet performance and been disappointed to hear the orchestra replaced by a recording, Curran has your back. He says the ballet spends between $300,000 to $500,000 a year on live music. is all brings up a ubiquitous phrase that drives Curran crazy, one that, he says, had infected the ballet prior to his hiring: It's just Louisville. "is is not just Louisville, where we could use canned music. is is Louisville. e arts ecosystem is so tightly knit, relying on each other," he says. He mentions his close professional relationship with Louisville Orchestra music director Teddy Abrams. "I can get on the phone to Teddy and say, 'I'm meeting with this donor, or I would like to do this program,' and he'll be like, 'Yeah, I'll put in a good word for you.' And I'd do the same thing," Curran says. "I believe in what we are doing as individual companies, but also so much in what we get to do together. e collaboration with the opera last year was huge. It was so scary, but we had the opera and the ballet and the orchestra at Whitney Hall, doing really phenomenal new, brave work. If the work that we've done artistically has pulled us together so tight, then there's potential for us to do some really big things." Curran feels like the ballet is on the cusp of becoming a bigger, better-resourced organization. "We're really, really close. But it's like the last five meters before you get to the toilet when you're busting. It's excruciating, and frustrating, 'cause you feel like it should have already been done. I feel like it should have already been done. But if you don't do it now, then the next person who comes along is going to be equally as frustrated," he says. He looks up from his computer, resting his hands on the wooden table. Just then, someone needs him for something. "I better go and talk to these people," he says. It feels like he's gone for a very long time. "Sorry about that," he says, slipping back into his office. I get the impression that Curran applies that Orangetheory method of running at full speed to his work. At one point, he tells me, "Working to live is a way to work, and I do not have any feelings of disrespect toward people who work to live. But I'm more of a live-to-work person." If you leave a performance satisfied, thinking nothing more than at was pretty, Curran has failed. I doubt anyone thought that after seeing the ballet's 2017 production of Stravinsky's Firebird, choreographed by Jervies, who set the story amid the refugee crisis. Not exactly comfortable territory for classical, conservative audiences. Curran has been preparing for the Louisville Ballet's first show to feature queer narratives, a reimagining of Jervies' Human Abstract, initially performed in Australia and again in Louisville in 2017, sans overt LGBTQ themes. (is version of Human Abstract, billed as a "psychological drama," was performed February 28 to March 3. Cinderella shows April 5 and 6.) e ad for it depicts two men from behind, wearing only tights. (Insert peach emojis.) ey hold hands, one of them looking straight ahead, the other looking at his partner. ere's copy next to them: "If you love someone, let him go." As the ballet began to promote the season, it received phone calls accusing it of Satanism, social media posts full of homophobic rhetoric, ugly snail mail and a grotesque email from a local doctor. at email is a hateful word salad including gems like "sodomites," describing the ballet as all-caps "EVIL." In response to all the pushback, the ballet posted an open letter "against hatred and prejudice," composed by the ballet's marketing team and Curran. It begins, "Our hope is that, whoever you are and whoever you love, you'll feel celebrated at Louisville Ballet." It goes on: "is particular company's past is one of resilience, loss, and most importantly, love. And from the first brick at Stonewall nearly 50 years ago" — a reference to the 1969 riots against police at New York's Stonewall Inn bar, commonly credited as the beginning of the gay rights movement — "to the historic marriage-equality decision only four years ago, we feel it's a fundamental part of our mission to express narratives that honor those who've consistently fought against bigotry and discrimination." e ballet's cover photo on Twitter shows two male dancers resting their heads on each other's shoulders, promoting Human Abstract. "I'm proud of it, and I think that we need to stand in our truth and not be

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