News

Louisville Ballet Stands Up to Hateful Rhetoric Against LGBTQ-Themed Ballet

Louisville Ballet dancers Luke Yee and Xavier Pellin in rehearsal for Human Abstract. Sam English, Courtesy Louisville Ballet.

If you follow Louisville Ballet on social media, you may have noticed a statement posted to its channels last week. Titled "An Open Letter Against Hate and Prejudice," it says "we cannot and will not be bystanders to hate and prejudice. As artists we have a duty to challenge preconceptions respectfully and to tell the stories of those individuals and groups who make our city what it is and what it should aspire to become."

The letter was posted after the company received hateful emails and phone calls over their upcoming performances of Human Abstract, an evening-length work by Australian choreographer Lucas Jervies that follows the relationship between two openly gay protagonists.


In 2017 Jervies staged an earlier version of Human Abstract on the company that explored his identity as a gay man and how society's prevailing view of the LGBTQ community has impacted his life. "This 2019 version continues the exploration of the issues facing this community, and continues to push the boundaries of dance-theater and test the limits of dance artists," says Louisville Ballet artistic and executive director Robert Curran.

But when the company released the ballet's promotional materials, which feature a photo of two men holding hands, it received scathing responses. "You should be ashamed of promoting perversion, immorality and filth" and "I don't want homosexual smut sent to my house" are among some of the tamer examples.

"I was not expecting the hateful rhetoric," says Curran. A gay man himself, he says he has always remained optimistic about being accepted and loved, although he's often disappointed by prejudicial attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. "I have become very accustomed to burying the hatred deep down (hoping that it doesn't evolve into self-hatred), but when I see a young person trying to work out who they are, while facing hate and prejudice, it inspires me to act."

The company's letter expresses its commitment to providing a space where everyone feels represented and welcome: "We must lift up those around us in positive ways and provide support when needed. We challenge you to do the same, today and every day."

To Curran's delight, reactions to the letter—in the form of phone calls, emails, social media comments and in-person testimonies—have been overwhelmingly supportive. "There has been so much more love than hate," he says. He hopes that the letter and Jervies' ballet will help spark conversations about love and acceptance. "LGBTQ stories are not controversial, they are heartfelt and beautiful and they deserve to be told. It is my mission to create a place where that can happen without hate and prejudice."

Louisville Ballet presents Human Abstract February 28-March 3 at the Bombard Theater at The Kentucky Center..

The Conversation
Ballet Stars
Crystal Serrano and Jorge Andrés Villarini in Christopher Wheeldon's This Bitter Earth. Rachel Neville, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Crystal Serrano never envisioned someday joining Dance Theatre of Harlem, the company founded by Arthur Mitchell to show the beauty and uplift of classical ballet on dancers of all colors. Her career began with Sacramento Ballet, which she joined after one year in Pacific Northwest Ballet School's Professional Division, but her time there was cut short by illness. After recovering, she felt so worn down that she left dancing behind and enrolled at the University of Washington. But she soon realized she'd made a mistake. "I thought, what am I doing?" she recalls. "I had to dance." With a fresh perspective and renewed determination, Serrano took an apprenticeship with Oregon Ballet Theatre before landing a job with Ballet San Antonio, where she soon rose to soloist.

Keep reading... Show less
News
School of American Ballet students (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy SAB)

Do you have a "Strictly Ballet"–sized hole in your heart? Good news: There's an upcoming docuseries, "On Pointe," that just might fill it.

The School of American Ballet is teaming up with Imagine Documentaries and DCTV for the project. Though it's not yet clear where "On Pointe" will air, we do know that it'll follow talented SAB students preparing for professional ballet careers—much as Teen Vogue's popular "Strictly Ballet" web series did back in the day. But "On Pointe" marks the first time documentary filmmakers have been allowed access to the school, and it sounds like it'll paint an even more complete picture of the dancers' lives inside and outside the studio.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
National Ballet of Canada's Heather Ogden. Karolina Kuras.

After 20 years with the National Ballet of Canada, principal Heather Ogden has her dance bag essentials down to a science. "My bag is usually pretty heavy," she says. "I always like to be prepared." And as a mother of two, organization is key. Ogden keeps her Lululemon bag in order by storing like items in small pouches. "When you need something, you don't want to take forever," she says. "I like to be able to see everything easily."

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Gabriel Figueredo dancing Chroma by Wayne McGregor at YAGP's 2019 Gala. VAM Productions, Courtesy YAGP.

If you don't recognize Gabriel Figueredo's name yet, it's only a matter of time. Not only did the 18-year-old win the Grand Prix Award at the 2019 Youth America Grand Prix New York Finals, but he took second place at the 2019 Prix de Lausanne. For Figueredo, returning to YAGP this year was like a comeback tour; He won the Youth Grand Prix Award in 2013. The Brazilian-born dancer is long and lithe, but exhibits careful control while onstage. His extreme flexibility and extension are matched by a penchant for turning; his Instagram account is filled with videos from the studio.

Keep reading... Show less