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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72 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.19 some people use this as a cop-out, but I do genuinely think that it's the person, not their gender." McAllister says that Curran rose through the ranks quickly, becoming a principal artist — one of the ballet's front-and-center stars — at 25. He danced thousands of performances, all across the world. His parents made their first trip beyond New Zealand to see him perform in the UK. ey also saw him in Paris and Tokyo, among other places. In his spare time, Curran earned a business degree from Monash University (which the Australian Ballet paid for) and completed a graduate- equivalent certificate in elite dance teaching at the Australian Ballet School. Together with Lucas Jervies and other dancers from the Australian Ballet, Curran formed Jack Productions, a dance company focused on new work, and premiered Human Abstract in 2010. His first exposure to balancing the artistic side of things with business, Jack Productions operated for the next three years. In 2011, in his mid-30s, Curran danced the best season of his life. "I pretty much did every single opening night," he says. "I got all the main roles. I got to do Merry Widow, Madame Butterfly, Requiem — like, all the ballets that I really wanted to do. After the Rain. All these ballets that were really important to me. I got to do them all. And a traditional Swan Lake in Hong Kong. It just wasn't going to get any better than that." One day in October when he was staying in Brisbane with a friend, he lay down on an outdoor stage at a park, and the thought came to him: I'm ready to retire. He knew it was time because he didn't feel the pangs of terror that had always accompanied the idea. When he told McAllister, Curran cried. "It was sort of unexpected, I've gotta say," McAllister tells me. He says the ballet had already printed brochures for the upcoming season with Curran's photo all over them. ey ran them anyway. McAllister believes that Curran could have danced for years to come, that he showed no signs of wearing out. "I suppose it's a bit like the swan: to make all that beauty gliding across the water, you never see the pedaling of the feet," he says. "He saw there was more in life than the pedaling." In Curran's last show, he danced the role of Count Danilo in e Merry Widow, bowing at the end with a bouquet of flowers. en the curtain fell. ere's a quote by contemporary dance legend Martha Graham I've heard Curran use before: "A dancer dies twice — once when they stop dancing, and this first death is the more painful." Curran was sure. He would not come to regret the decision. But was it painful? Of course. Dancing had been inseparable from his identity since before he was making memories. at man there, exiting the stage — who is that? Curran didn't expect to get the job in Louisville. He was 37, only a couple years out of his dance career, and relatively inexperienced. He'd spent some time working with the Bangarra Dance eatre, an organization for indigenous Australians, after hanging up his dancing shoes, but he'd never been a full-time director. He knew before he left his first interview in Kentucky that the Louisville Ballet wanted him to come back for a second — he was one of four finalists selected from 80-something candidates. But after that second interview, Curran felt sure he'd tanked it. He'd prepared a detailed, 45-minute PowerPoint presentation, but something went wrong in the interview, and he couldn't get it to work. "So I had to turn it into a handout, and my 45-minute, timed, rehearsed, perfect (presentation) turned into an hour and 45 minutes to try and explain without the visuals, and trying to connect with people as they were reading ahead," he says. He needn't have worried. "He was apparently unruffled, and he presented this beautiful assignment on his vision for Louisville Ballet," says board member and former board president Lisa Leet, who was on the search committee that interviewed Curran. "e thought that went through my mind at the time was, e show must go on. He exemplified that." After the presentation, a board member said something like, "So, this is all really exciting. How do you propose to pay for it? You've been given all of our financials. You know what we're able to manage." Uh- oh. Curran hadn't received any financials. "It was horrible," he says. "It was the most horrible feeling." He told his boyfriend to forget it — the Louisville job wasn't going to happen. Just, wait, his father told him, wait and see. One hot morning in July, Curran lay in bed in his apartment in New York, uncharacteristically late, past 8 a.m. He got a call from the search firm and tried to summon the grace he'd need to weather the rejection. "I probably let it ring like eight times," he says. He got the job. "I was stunned," he says. He called his boyfriend, who was in Moscow at the time, and then his parents. Did his dad give him an I-told- you-so? "Oh, yes," Curran says. "He lives for those moments." at man up there at the Kentucky Center for a gala, a tie cinching his neck — is that Robert Curran? How about that man in the photo all the outlets like to use, the one of him wearing a gray sweater? Is that Robert Curran? Who is Robert Curran, exactly? Over the last year or two, he has been trying to figure that out. Curran has embarked on a quest for self- discovery in the wake of two major losses. A couple years ago, he broke up with dancer David Hallberg. It was not pretty. Curran had moved to the U.S. in part to be closer to him. Hallberg sustained what he worried would be a career-ending injury. Curran says he sent him to the medical staff at the Australian Ballet. Hallberg's foot healed, but their relationship disintegrated. Curran felt betrayed. "e irony," he says, thinking about how he and Hallberg switched countries, "is not lost." New York Magazine covered Hallberg's recovery; there is no mention of Curran in the piece. Curran didn't take the best care of himself after the breakup. Some nights he couldn't sleep. He didn't eat enough. He was working on a new Swan Lake in Louisville, which was just a little too on- the-nose. "I've never, ever in my life felt like my ground, like the ground underneath my feet, was so useless to me," he says. His mother, Suzanne, was a source of comfort, as she'd always been. Visiting from Australia, she'd hear Curran get up early in the morning when he couldn't sleep and come sit with him on the other end of the couch, reading her Kindle. When he'd break down and the tears would flow, she'd scoot over and hold him, Kindle still in hand. As a child, Suzanne had contracted HE DANCED THOUSANDS OF PERFORMANCES, ALL ACROSS THE WORLD. HIS PARENTS MADE THEIR FIRST TRIP BEYOND NEW ZEALAND TO SEE HIM PERFORM IN THE UK. THEY ALSO SAW HIM IN PARIS AND TOKYO, AMONG OTHER PLACES.

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