Review: Mixed Program Opens Louisville Ballet’s 65th Season

By Kathi E.B. Ellis for WFPL
September 12, 2016

The Louisville Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in the country, and this year it’s celebrating its 65th anniversary with a year-long celebration.

The programming kicked off this weekend with “Stars and Stripes,” which included the works of American-adopted Balanchine, modern dance icon Twyla Tharp and a world premiere of a work by artistic and executive director Robert Curran.

Curran’s “How They Fade” bridged the other two works, taking the second part of the evening.

His choreography is boldly athletic and lyrical in equal measure, showcasing the nine dancers in an aesthetic and vocabulary with which they are all familiar. Curran introduced YASSOU vocalist Lilie Bytheway-Hall onto the stage with the dancers, integrating Bytheway-Hall as both observer and participant, at times appearing to double with Brandon Ragland’s similar function. YASSOU colleagues joined the Louisville Orchestra in the pit, performing their haunting original composition for Curran’s premiere.

Continuing Curran’s commitment to cross-genre collaborations, Louisville-based Letitia Quesenberry returns to Louisville Ballet as scenic designer (her debut was for Balanchine’s “Square Dance” in the 2013-14 season,) collaborating with media designer Amelia Sweeney.

Curran has talked about nostalgia as a central motif in “How They Fade,” and Quesenberry and Sweeney’s backdrop subtly suggests how old film fades and spots as time passes, and this deterioration often overtakes the original, blurring our memories in a tangible way. Less effective is the use of not one, but three, lightweight fabric screens in succession that frame then fall, from just inside the proscenium, during the final pas de deux of Ragland and Leigh Anne Albrechta.

Joining Ragland and Albrechta in this piece are Roger Creel, Helen Daigle, Justin Michael Hogan, Emily Reinking O’Dell, Kateryna Sellars, Ryan Stokes and Benjamin Wetzel. Trad A Burns returns to the company as lighting designer.

“How They Fade” is a fascinating, kinesthetic exploration of memory and relationships, a work that we can hope will become part of Louisville Ballet’s regular repertoire, allowing the dancers even more fully to engage with Curran’s choreography over time.