We are launching a weekly blog series called Stage and Studio, written by Louisville Ballet Company member Annie Honebrink! Be sure to check in each Friday to read the next installment.
This week, Annie touches on the history of Louisville Ballet’s spirit of collaboration and what it means for the future:
Experiencing Art. Experiencing Life.
By Annie Honebrink
Art is an experience, an encounter between artist and viewer, a union amongst artists. We often separate art into its categories, and yet, each form weaves and connects with the others so very intimately. Music breathes life into movement while dance gives sight to music.
Since its conception sixty-five years ago, Louisville Ballet has observed a spirit of collaboration. Through these collaborations, the arts have been pulled together and enhanced as they carry one another to new heights. From its first production on March 16, 1952, this collaborative disposition was adopted by Louisville Ballet. The program, comprised of selections from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Saint-Saen’s Carnival of the Animals, and Elizabeth Stark’s The Swan, was shared with the Louisville Orchestra. Alfred Bendiner, a famous caricaturist, depicted the dances from Carnival. Louisville Ballet’s dedication to partnership between the arts has followed the company through its years of growth and establishment and into the present. Last season the Ballet joined forces with the Louisville Orchestra for a co-production. “We worked on rethinking everything and about how we can put the ballet and the music in the light,” the Orchestra’s leader, Teddy Abrams, stated. Abrams composed a new score, and Adam Hougland, principal choreographer with Louisville Ballet since 2003, was commissioned to choreograph two world premieres for the production. Artist Chris Doyle created a scenic design for a portion of the program as well.
In addition to collaborations between local artists of all disciplines, Louisville Ballet has maintained a tradition of welcoming and collaborating with artists from around the world. In 1955 Alexandra Danilova, Prima Ballerina of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, directed, choreographed, and performed with Louisville Ballet. Mikhail Baryshnikov performed with the company two times, first in 1978 and again the following year.
While internally Louisville Ballet and its artists have much to offer the city of Louisville and the world as a whole, the union between the arts as well as collaboration with a myriad of artists—local and foreign—is vital to Louisville Ballet’s mission of Making Moving Art. In order to keep art moving, breathing, and growing, it must be nourished, stretched, and challenged—as must the artists. Last week the company completed its performances of Choreographer’s Showcase, a project in which three company dancers and one external guest choreograph new works on the remaining company dancers. Programs such as this are essential in the growth of both the company’s artists as well as the Ballet as a whole. Showcase promotes and fosters a safe, nurturing environment in which the dancers can delve into the realm of choreography. However, in order for projects like Chorographer’s Showcase to succeed, it is imperative that the company’s dancers be exposed to established choreographers such as Adam Hougland, Val Caniparoli, and, most recently, Lucas Jervies. On February 22nd, Louisville Ballet’s production of Human Abstract will open at the Kentucky Center. With this program the Ballet embraces its longstanding practice and collaborates with international choreographer Lucas Jervies. In his ballet, Jervies will stretch the dancers beyond the field of ballet, elevating their artistry to new levels.
Visual art that is considered abstract captures emotion and essence, rather than presenting a concrete reality. In his ballet Human Abstract, Jervies will share a story with the audience. The story is tangible, real, raw, relevant. This new narrative, however, will not be told in the traditional ways of the classical ballets Louisville Ballet has in its repertoire this anniversary season—Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and The Sleeping Beauty. While these classics are still powerful in their definitive storytelling, Human Abstract will present a fresh, innovative means to convey a tale. Stories shape us as humans. Each life is a composite of stories—memories amassed one by one, sculpting into a person. Every story is not clear-cut. Reality can be blurry. The lines of truth and right and wrong and love and hate are often crooked. Or erased. Or one and the same. We all see through different eyes—eyes that view this world in a way unique and their own. What looks Up to one may appear Down to another. What is Yes may be No. Nice and True may be opposite, while Love and Hate are the same. Sometimes we slip in and out of reality—perhaps without even knowing. Other times, our reality will change all together. Because eyes can deceive. But as we gather more stories for our store—as we learn from them, grow from them, and let them sculpt us—we can learn to see differently. More clearly—hopefully. That is the beauty of art—the ability to transcend humanity and teach the soul to see. To breath. To feel. Human Abstract will delve into the emotion and essence of its characters, portrayed by Louisville Ballet artists. The ballet and the dancers, under the guidance and direction of Jervies, will bring to life the stories of these individuals, revealed to the audience in an original and new manner. The core of many stories is the same—love, hate, betrayal, joy, fear—and yet, the ways in which these stories can be perceived and delivered is endless. Human Abstract is a ballet that will pave the way for storytelling in the arts to move forward.
Without our past and heritage of classical ballets, such as this season’s Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, our art form would have no present or hope for a future. Without new works and projects as Choreographer’s Showcase and Human Abstract, our art form would be fixed in the past—stagnant and unmoving. The combination of these important ends of the spectrum—from Petipa to Jervies—is what propels Louisville Ballet forward and makes its present exciting and powerful. Collaboration between arts and artists of all manners is what keeps art alive, flourishing, and expanding. Art lives. It is not meant to be seen, but felt. You don’t watch art—you experience it.