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 73 rheumatic fever. Her husband, Brian, says that at some point during her illness, her heart had probably grown to twice its normal size. In February 2018, she had the final of several heart surgeries in her life. After finishing a ballet production that involved the Kentucky Opera, Curran traveled back to Australia to be with his family while his mother recovered. One week became three. "We'd been in and out of that horrible room where they try to prepare you for the worst a couple of times," Curran says. But his mother seemed to be on the mend, and the ballet had a production to get together. Curran came back to Louisville to work on Giselle. en, over the next two weeks, his mother's condition worsened. He didn't make it back to Australia until shortly after she died in April. e experience brought Curran closer to his three brothers, who live in Australia. "Although," he says, "I do believe they think I'm going to step in and be Mom's replacement, 'cause they're all straight country boys, and they're like, 'You're the gay one. You take care of all that stuff.' Mmmm, I don't know about that, guys." At another point in an interview, he says, "And my dad has completely changed now. My dad, up until my mom died, he very, very rarely — I could count on one hand that he would actually say to me, 'I love you.' And every time we talk now, he says it every time. And so my dad's whole life has changed. And my dad's wearing my mom's jewelry. He's doing stuff he would never have done before. He would never have had my mom's wedding band on his little finger." His mother's death has changed how Curran interacts with Louisville Ballet dancers as well. "I had this preconceived idea that I needed to be like a distant authority figure," he says. He still doesn't exactly socialize with them — he's a bit older than most of them, and there's a built-in professionalism to the director- dancer relationship. "But I think coming out of that dark period, I just realized how much room there is for lightness in that power dynamic. It doesn't have to all be authority and expectation and stern or earnest communications," he says. "ere's room for vulnerability on my part. ere's room to show when I think something's funny, or when I'm embarrassed, or when they embarrass me." ("To get the dancers to make him laugh" is sort of a goal, dancer Leigh Anne Albrechta tells me. She adds that Curran has only shared personal stories during rehearsals maybe twice. "And we love hearing them," she says.) All of Curran's life he'd been put in costumes — those meant for the stage and those meant for the world. ere's the way he played the role of Siegfried in Swan Lake, and then there's the way he played the role of manhood. ere's the way he played the role of a student, a dancer, a principal artist and, now, an artistic director. After all that loss, he started to question the parameters of those roles. "I think I had a reckoning with all of the sacrifices that I've made to be here in Louisville. And I've made some really big sacrifices," he says. "And so if I'm going to be here, if I'm going to be doing this, what's going to make me feel like me? I guess I'm tired of pretending. I'm tired of filling a mold. And I mean literally tired. Not frustrated tired but, like, exhausted. Like, depleted. So what am I going to do to energize myself?" It's a buzz, heading into the women's sections of clothing stores instead of the men's — that same sense of adventure Curran felt when he first left home to study dance at 13. He likes to wear makeup from time to time, and he's as comfortable in high heels as he is in Nikes. at's Robert Curran at the Speed Gala in a kimono and Dr. Martens. at's Robert Curran in full makeup at a holiday party. "Nobody batted an eyelid. Really, nobody cared. And it was really fun for me. I felt really comfortable, really natural, and easy. And the process was fun, too. Getting ready was fun," he says. "It kind of harkened back to — this is almost a little paradoxical — but it harkened back to my process of getting ready to go onstage. at cathartic process of preparing yourself for something, instead of just throwing on the normal suit and tie." In one interview, I ask Curran if he feels a responsibility to be open about his identity and inspire other queer people. "Yeah," he says. "But not so much on the sexual orientation side. On the gender norm side. And I don't know what that means for me." One chilly night in February, Curran meets me for dinner at Eiderdown. We talk a bit about life outside hetero-normative margins. "As I proceed through more and more failed relationships," he says, laughing a little, "I think I'm coming to terms with the fact that normality is not something I should be striving for. It's really a waste of my time. Because judging myself against that standard, those standards, is pointless anyway, because that's not what my life is ever going to be, or was ever going to be." We walk back to his apartment at the Germantown Mill Lofts. It's a capacious one-bedroom with a hip industrial vibe — concrete floors, exposed brick walls, granite countertops, stratospheric ceilings. e boxes and boxes of wool Curran inherited from his mother sit by a shelf in the living room, waiting for Curran to sit down with a cup of tea, pull up e Good Wife on his MacBook (he doesn't have a TV) and crochet them into more granny squares he'll eventually form into a blanket. A chair that belonged to his grandmother sits in the corner of his bedroom, buried under a mountain of scarves. (When I told a friend who worked at the Kentucky Center that I was profiling Curran, she asked me which "marvelous scarves" I'd seen him wear. My favorite: a dark scarf with a flaming red dragon snaking along it.) Beside scarf mountain is his makeup station, a wooden table with a towel on it and an arsenal of products, arranged into a scruffy mise en place: palettes, wipes, scissors, brushes, pencils, lipsticks, two disembodied eyelashes lying in a case like little caterpillars. A pair of red high heels gleam on a shelf in the closet next to a pair of black leather heels with studs around the top cuff and a cream-colored clutch. ("I got the red pumps online at Nordstrom Rack," he emails later. "I'm on a budget! It may be a long, long time before I get to shop at Louboutin! If ever?") He says he'll never wear the "horrible, boxy, straight man" cashmere sweaters again. In another interview, I ask him if he's worried about how people will react to his looks. "I think there's almost a bit of defiance in it for me, to be honest," he says. "I feel like I want to live in a city that accepts all of that, and nurtures all of that — nurtures people's individual ways of expressing themselves. And I think that there was an element of defiance. I think the only thing that worries me is that the amount of work that I need to do here to keep this company going and thriving isn't always compatible with that expression. Because it takes time to put yourself out there that way; it takes time to be consistent about it. I'm sitting here in sweatpants and high-tops right now, with residue of makeup from last night, painted nails — but that's not the whole picture. And it was fun, I had a fun time last night (seeing Cher). I got all dressed up, and I really enjoyed it. But it takes time to express yourself like that. And I don't always have that time."

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