Arts and Humanities
4:38 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Back to Their Roots: Louisville Ballet's Next Season Goes Back to Classics

The Louisville Ballet returns to its classical ballet foundation for its 2013-14 season. Val Caniparoli’s “The Brown-Forman Nutcracker” reprises its role as season anchor on December 3, bookended by full productions of “Swan Lake” and the Romantic classic “La Sylphide.”

Drawn from Russian folk tales, Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” is the story of Odette, a princess transformed into a swan by an evil sorcerer. Her curse can only be broken by love, but the sorcerer conspires with his own daughter, Odile, who appears as a black swan to thwart Odette’s romance with dashing Prince Siegfried. The company’s production is choreographed and staged by artistic director Bruce Simpson after Marius Petipa and Nicholas Beriozov.

Artistic director Bruce Simpson says he likes to tease out a subtle theme to unite his seasons – the thread uniting this season’s “Lady of the Camellias” and “Romeo and Juliet” is the embattled woman, embodied in doomed courtesan Marguerite and young Juliet. Next season, says Simpson, is all about the triangle, starting with “Swan Lake,” which opens in Whitney Hall September 13.

“Odette is one woman and Odile is another, as much as she’s danced by the same dancer. And there’s Siegfried, so there’s this triangle of good and evil, if you like, and he has to make his choice between the two,” says Simpson.

The triangle thread also runs through “La Sylphide,” which opens February 21. The oldest surviving Romantic ballet, “La Sylphide” made its debut in 1836, and Danish ballet master August Bournonville’s choreography has endured for nearly two centuries.

In a small town in Scotland, a fairy charms a farmer away from his fiancée in an otherworldy pursuit of pure – but ultimately unattainable – happiness.

Artistic director Bruce Simpson says that “La Sylphide,” one of the first Romantic ballets, helps him ground his dancers in their identity as a classical ballet company.

“When we’re talking about the classical ballet, it’s a highly disciplined, very, very difficult style. Dancers need to get back to their roots and pull all of that together,” says Simpson. “At the same time, [“La Sylphide”] fun for the audience. There are reels and Scottish country dancing and a great story.”

Continuing the triangle theme, the ballet’s mixed repertory program will close the next season with three ballets by prominent male choreographers. “Complementary Voices” (April 4-5), features “Tethered Pulse” by Ma Cong, set to music by Zoe Keating and Joan Jeanrenaud. “Tethered Pulse,” a ballet about how couples maintain their romantic connections, premiered in the Tulsa Ballet in 2011. Principle choreographer Adam Hougland brings back his “Fragile Stasis,” which the company debuted in 2007. The program will close with a world premiere by Caniparoli.  

"Like Adam Hougland, our principle choreographer, [Caniparoli] has very strong relationships with the dancers in our company, because he works with them often," says Simpson. "It's familiary territory. They understand the personalities. The dancers understand the choreographers. It makes for a great working environment to create something new."

Two of the company’s popular annual programs return for the new season. Studio Connections, a showcase of classical and contemporary dance with a focus on variety and versatility, runs October 23-26 in the company’s studio on East Main Street. Also returning to the studio January 22-25 is the annual Choreographer’s Showcase, featuring new work created by the company’s dancers. Full programs for both showcases will be announced later.