Ashley Thursby admits that dancing in the Louisville Ballet’s Studio Connections program can be a little intimidating, especially on classical pieces like Victor Gsovsky’s “Grande Pas Classique.” Compared to the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall, where the company performs its mainstage productions, the audience in the company’s rehearsal studio is so very close.
“It gets a little overwhelming at times, being that close up, when you know that [the audience can] see every little wobble you might have that evening,” she says. “But in other instances, like in more contemporary choreography, it’s more raw and it’s easier to stay in the feeling. It’s not as, ‘woah, they’re right there.'”
Studio Connections opens Wednesday in the ballet’s rehearsal studio on East Main Street. It’s an intimate, up close and personal program, a mix of classical ensemble and pas de deux work and original pieces choreographed by company members. In the relaxed atmosphere of the rehearsal studio, the company can try out their new moves.
Thursby will dance in fellow company member Brandon Ragland’s “Allegro Energico” as well as stage a revised version of her own “Andante,” a duet that debuted in last season’s Choreographer’s Showcase. This is Thursby’s sixth season choreographing original work for in-studio performance.
“When you’re working with your colleagues, you grow as an artist yourself. You correct them, and you realize where those corrections come from, and that they always come from a good place,” says Thursby. “Whereas, when you’re getting corrected on a piece you are in, it can sometimes be a little hurtful, [like] oh, man, that moment felt so much better than it obviously looked.”
The opportunity to re-stage the pieces that debut in Choreographer’s Showcase results in invaluable on-going development time for new work. “Andante” (set to the andante movement of Shostakovich’s second piano concerto) didn‘t quite feel finished to Thursby when Amanda Diehl and Mark Krieger danced it last season, though their dramatic lifts elicited delighted gasps from the audience. She’s had some time to revise, and now, she says she’s much more pleased with the final product.
“The first time around I wasn’t quite able to solidify, for example, the male section. I had this going-down-to-the-floor, more contemporary bit, and I didn’t feel like it really fit in with the ascension, that dynamic of continuing to grow and release. It was kind of a dead moment for me,” she says. “That was the first thing I changed.”
Having these opportunities to choreograph and stage new work for their peers is one way the Louisville Ballet helps dancers prepare for the next stage of their careers — after all, nobody can dance professionally forever. Thursby says she can see herself morphing into a choreographer over time.
“Music has always spoken to me. I don’t want to say that’s the only reason why I dance, but one of the main reasons I love dancing is the music,” she says. “When I hear music I often will see movement to that music if I’m inspired by it.”
Studio Connections features “La Vivandière” by Arthur Saint-Léon, “Grand Pas Classique” by Victor Gsovsky, “Andante” by Ashley Thursby, “La Esmerelda” Pas de Deux by Marius Petipa, “Saligia“ by Sanjay Saverimuttu (first presented in 2013 Choreographers’ Showcase) and “Allegro Energico“ by Brandon Ragland. Performances are Wednesday-Saturday at 315 East Main Street.