Arts and Culture

Louisville Ballet has launched a new choreographic award to highlight “promising choreographers on the cusp of their careers,” according to a news release Wednesday.

The ballet’s Dysart Award comes with a $20,000 cash prize, a $5,000 charitable donation to a dance education program of the winner’s choosing and the chance to create a new work that will be showcased in the Louisville Ballet’s season. The award is named after Nancy Dysart, one of the founders of the Louisville-based ballet company.

The 2021-2022 inaugural accolade has gone to Anne Jung, an artist with the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company in Germany.

“I was overwhelmed, and I couldn’t believe it,” Jung told WFPL News of learning she had won.

Jung has danced with Ballettmainz in Mainz, Germany, under the leadership of Pascal Touzeau, as well as the world-renowned Dutch contemporary dance company Nederlands Dans Theater. She began her choreographic career in 2016.

“It’s also a question of when can you call yourself a choreographer? And how can you become a choreographer as well, in terms of like, you need possibilities for that,” Jung said. “So I’m so thankful that I have this possibility to create with a company.”

“Louisville Ballet is thrilled to launch the Dysart Award, giving well-deserved recognition to the next generation of inspiring, world-class choreographers,” Louisville Ballet artistic director Robert Curran said in the release. “Even from our initial discussions, Anne was clearly a strong candidate. Her artistic integrity, the breadth and depth of her dance career to date, and commitment to her craft clearly combine to show her incredible promise as a rising choreographer.”

Her new piece, “#fourwithfive,” is slated to debut during a mixed repertoire program at the Kentucky Center in February. 

In conjunction with the Dysart announcement, Louisville Ballet rolled out its repertoire lineup for an additional production in its 2021-2022 performance season. “Program 4” opens Feb. 17 and, in addition to the Jung commission, includes works by Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Robert Barry Fleming, Louisville Ballet resident choreographer Adam Hougland and Louisville Ballet company artist Brandon Ragland.

Jung said her new work is about exploring how bodies can move through space together.

“I like to work in duets, I like to work in trios, and bring bodies together to become a union or …have the body of the other dancer being an extension of my body,” she said.

These dancer-to-dancer relationships and connections feel even more important to Jung after the years-long COVID-19 pandemic that often involves keeping people away from each other.

“I love this exchange of energy, of personalities, in being spontaneous with the other [dancer], and playing around,” Jung said. “And I’ve really missed that. And yeah, that definitely also influenced my work I’m creating here, to really embrace that we have the chance to be close and together, and we should just like also celebrate that.”

Jung was chosen from “a shortlist of choreographers compiled and shared by each member of the nominating panel,” according to the news release. Curran and former Nederlands Dans Theater artistic producer-curator Rupert Tookey co-directed the panel. Other panelists included:

  • Katrín Hall, artistic director of GöteborgsOperans Danskompani
  • Virginia Johnson, artistic director of Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City 
  • Lourdes Lopez, artistic director of Miami City Ballet 
  • Ingrid Lorentzen, artistic director of Norwegian National Ballet 
  • Kevin O’Hare, director of The Royal Ballet in London
  • Matthew Rushing, associate artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater 
  • Debbie Turner, CEO of Cape Town City Ballet in South Africa 
  • Medhi Walerski, artistic director of Ballet BC in Vancouver 
  • And Wendy Whelan, associate artistic director of New York City Ballet, who was born and raised in Louisville

Jung said she’d like for the $5,000 donation to go toward the dance and gymnastics club she trained at early in her life. She began her career as a rhythmic gymnast. And while she has no specific plan with the $20,000 cash prize mapped out, Jung is thinking about how those funds can help her eventually make the transition into choreographing full time. 

“It’s great to have like a backup in that sense for that time, and to also make the decision to go that way,” she said.

This story has been updated to add comments from Jung. 

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.