The Louisville Ballet has announced that artistic director Bruce Simpson, 64, will retire at the end of this season. Yesterday, Simpson informed the dancers, board of directors and staff that he will complete his tenure in July, when his current contract expires.
Simpson has served as artistic director since 2002.
“The company needs time for this transition period, which has to be a positive transition, and it does take time to find a replacement,” says Simpson. “There is no good time, but we don’t have any visiting choreographers at this time, the board is in good shape, everything’s in good shape, and the company’s rehearsing ‘Nutcracker,’ which is at least familiar to them, so if there’s no such time as a good time, this is the best.”
Simpson says he hasn’t decided what he will do after July, but he looks forward to having time for contemplation and reflection.
“I’ve got nothing on the horizon. Zero. I haven’t given it any thought whatsoever,” he says. “I’ve been involved in the dance for fifty years, so this certainly wasn’t an easy decision.”
The Glasgow, Scotland native danced with South Africa’s State Theatre Ballet for 30 years before joining Texas Ballet Theatre in 2000 as ballet master. During Simpson’s tenure with the Louisville Ballet, the company added more than 30 new works to its repertoire. Simpson also commissioned fifteen of the company’s 70 world premieres, including choreographer Val Caniparoli’s revamped “Brown-Forman Nutcracker,” which opens Dec. 7 in the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall.
Simpson says after weathering financial troubles in the 2009-10 season, the organization is healthy and a change in leadership will be a great opportunity for the company.
“We were in real financial difficulty three years ago, and in the past two years we’ve come in with budget in the black. The dancers are incredibly cohesive and positive group,” says Simpson. “I am incredibly fortunate in that I have such an astonishing, not just dedicated staff, but all of whom – like the [resident lighting designer and stage manager] Mike Fords of the world – have an intellectual property which is priceless. All of that adds to the fabric of a very healthy organization, from an artistic point of view.”
“Anybody would be blessed to work for this organization,” he adds, praising the optimism and dedication of the dancers and staff.
For the last three years, Simpson has also filled the executive director role. A spokesperson for the Ballet says the company has not decided if the new artistic director will also take on executive director duties. The board of directors and the company are finalizing the details of a transition plan, which will include a search committee for Simpson’s replacement.