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..

News
Boston Ballet's Kathleen Breen Combes, María Álvarez and Dawn Atkins. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Alexandra MacDonald (front row, third from left) didn't win a medal at the Genée International Ballet Competition, but says she came home inspired and newly motivated by the people she met there. Photo Courtesy Genée IBC.

Ballet competitions are an exciting part of any dancer's career. Yet while scholarships, prize money, job offers and the prestige that comes with winning a medal are compelling incentives to participate in one, they're not the only benefits. In fact, many dancers who go home empty-handed still look fondly on the experience and go on to become successful professionals.

This week, the 2019 Genée International Ballet Competition kicks off in Toronto. From August 20-29, over 50 dancers, ages 15–19 and trained in the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus, will perform three solos in the hopes of winning a medal and a $10,000 cash prize. Many past medalists have gone on to illustrious careers—but so have those who didn't win anything. We spoke with three Genée alumni now dancing professionally who know what it's like not to place. Read on to find out why they deem their comp experiences a success, and how you can make the most of yours—whether you win or not.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Skylar Brandt and Josephine Lee. Screenshot Courtesy Lee.

Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based ThePointeShop chats with American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt to hear about how she prepares her pointe shoes. We think Brandt might win an award for how long she makes her shoes last; watch the below video for the staggering number of days (or weeks!), and to hear about all of her unique customizations and pro tips.

Courtesy Chiara Valle

Chiara Valle is just one of many dancers heading back to the studio this fall as companies ramp up for the season. But her journey back has been far more difficult than most.

Valle has been a trainee at The Washington Ballet since 2016, starting at the same time as artistic director Julie Kent. But only a few months into her first season there, she started experiencing excruciating pain high up in her femur. "It felt like someone was stabbing me 24/7," she says. Sometimes at night, the pain got so bad that her roommates would bring her dinner to the bathtub.

Keep reading... Show less