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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74 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.19 Curran mentions this about Louisville several times: He wants it to be a place where creative people feel comfortable expressing themselves — and an attractive city to people getting priced out of New York or Los Angeles. "e perception is that Kentucky is still a rural and agricultural state," he says. "And it's not. e majority of its population lives in Louisville and Lexington. And they are cities. You cannot disrespect the industries like coal, because the state exists on their shoulders. But at the same time, we have to be realistic about what the future is, and also realistic about what the opportunities are. I swear to you, in the next 10 to 15 years, people from the coasts are going to be looking at cities like Louisville, and saying, 'at's gonna be an easier place for me to live and do everything I want to do.' If we're not ready for that, they're gonna go to Nashville or to Indianapolis, and Louisville is gonna turn into this grim, empty hole of a place. It just can't! at can't happen!" Curran makes me a cup of tea, and we sit down in his living room to watch some of his old performances with the Australian Ballet. I ask if he can send me the videos we're about to see. "No," he says. "ese are courtesy of Australian Ballet. I'm not really even supposed to have them." He cues up a video of him dancing Requiem. He lifts his partner up and down the way a gentle stream would carry a leaf. e piece ends with choral voices softening. It's so tender. Except no, it's not. Curran taps the space bar to pause the video. "And now I can't feel my hands," he says. I ask what he'd think about during a performance like that. "If I obsess over whether she looks good, it's gonna look romantic anyway," he says. "If I'm just constantly trying to make her comfortable, every woman and some of the men in the audience are just gonna be like" — he lets out a sigh — "I wanna dance with him." Next he plays his pas de deux with Rachel Rawlins from Madame Butterfly. "I used to have a huge crush on her," Curran says. "She knows my sexual orientation. She's so comfortable with me. It was never about romance, so you can push it, actually, a lot further on the stage. Why the hell was I worried about what some audience members would think if I was out, and open?" We watch one last piece, from Afternoon of a Faun, awash in blue computer light. I ask Curran what he feels, seeing this now. He answers without hesitation: "Lucky that I got to do it. I wish I could have paid closer attention to what I was experiencing, but I think at the same time, if I had, I wouldn't have been experiencing it." Anything else he'd tell his former self? "I think, if I could talk to that person, I'd say, 'You need to worry a little bit less, and express a little bit more. Take a few more risks. Trust your technique and your strength.' I mean, I was stacked in that Madame Butterfly video. Huge. Huge! I did not have anything to worry about in terms of having to lift that 100-pound girl around." For the past couple of years, Curran has been experimenting with visual art. He's collecting various little objects, wondering how he can use them to contemplate gravity, like with the copper confetti in his work with Keo. But it's not the same as dancing. "You know, I was thinking, working out today: ere are moments as a dancer where your body is telling you you shouldn't, you probably should stop. But you're onstage, and you've got another 10 minutes to go. So you don't stop. You have to keep going. And the reward that comes from that, at the end. Like, once you get past that point of questioning or doubting yourself, that's a really special moment," he says. "You start the show at 7:30, and at 10:30, when the curtain comes down, it's been three hours of pretty grueling work. And so fleeting, you know? You've got nothing. ere might be a video, maybe, but that's not the same thing. It kind of disappears. I don't think you can ever re- create that. ere's a kind of melancholy appreciation of the fact that, whatever I do — making a blanket, or making visual art — it's not going to have the same" — he searches for the words. "It's not going to replace that." ere's Robert Curran, at the front of the class with the other teachers, finally in the studio for the first time this Tuesday in February. Students from the ballet school, most of them teenagers, are rehearsing for an upcoming show. He watches them silently, implacable. ey pirouette into complex forms — or almost. ey're like a slightly out-of-focus picture. Curran moves them around, as if he's turning a camera lens, and everything pops into place. e first time Albrechta learned one of Curran's pieces, "He knew every single step that was going to happen." At another point, she says, "We always giggle because we did this one section over and over and over again. And he was like, 'Just one more time.' But it was like 30 times." "One of the other things that, if you were a dancer here, you would find out very quickly: Robert doesn't like to repeat himself a lot," Ragland says. "In the rehearsal process, he is able to bring out steps and be very clear and specific on the counts, the spacing. As a dancer, you have to be very focused on what he's telling you because, probably after the second time, he's gonna want you to have it." And if you don't? "It can be tense sometimes," Ragland says. It's not that he raises his voice. "It's more so with Robert, it's his tone," Ragland says. "Like, sometimes, he can make you feel so small if he gets really frustrated with you." Oh, and the eyebrows rise. If Curran's eyebrows rise, you need to get your act together. Tonight his eyebrows are high. "ere's not enough attention to what each of you are doing as individuals," he says, his voice even and firm. Every time someone shifts their weight, it's audible. He lays into them for another good minute. "Are you going to do the work? e mental work?" he says. With that, they applaud and line up to curtsy at Curran and the other two teachers in the room. "It's not that those girls can't do it," he says. "ere's nothing that bothers me more than apathy." Just before this story is published, Curran tells me the board plans to hire an executive director in the next 12 months. It seems he might get the studio time he wants in the near future. For now, he'll keep grinding. Spreadsheets, meetings, emails. "If I had more time, then I would be putting my hand up for some collaborations that would involve me as a performer," he says. "It would be very different. It would be very, very different. But I don't resent what I'm doing now, because what I'm doing now is a means to an end. For as long as I'm here in Louisville, we are succeeding." "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?"

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