By Kathi E. B. Ellis
Entire contents copyright © 2015 Kathi E. B. Ellis. All rights reserved.
This morning in one of the Louisville Ballet’s studios, , flanked by dancers and staff of the Louisville Ballet, Artistic and Executive Director Robert Curran and incoming board president Lisa Patrick Leet made the exciting announcement of an anonymous one million dollar gift to the company. It is the largest individual gift that the Louisville Ballet has received in its 64-year history, and only the third gift of this value. Curran stated that “this gift not only recognizes the exciting potential of our new vision, it also recognizes the strength of our entire arts community and the city that so strongly supports us all.”
Leet prefaced the announcement with her own personal story, a story that is a testament to the power of introducing children to the arts at a young age. She recollected her 10th birthday present: tickets to the then Louisville Ballet Company with guest artists Violette Verdy and Edward Villella, renowned artists worldwide. Immediately determining to become a dancer and transform audiences in the way that she herself had been transformed, Leet shared that she was accepted into the company on her 15th birthday. Fast-forwarding to today, she acknowledged that she did not become a professional dancer, but here she is starting her term as the president of the board of the Louisville Ballet. Leet’s story reflects the vision of Curran that our relationship with dance can last a lifetime, even as that relationship shifts.
Continuing the practice of commissioning local artists begun last season, the immediate impact of this anonymous gift will be seen in the season-opener, Coppélia, as Curran extends local partnerships to visual artist Jacob Heustis who will be the scenic designer. A recommitment to live music brings the Louisville Orchestra to this production (and we can hope future productions as well). Curran will be re-envisioning Coppélia to be set in Louisville in 1917, on the verge of World War I. Resident costume master Dan Feedy will design new costumes.
In answer to a question about the anonymous donation, Curran acknowledged that the donor, a supporter of his for many years, has requested anonymity so that the focus of the gift can be on the work of the Louisville Ballet. The gift is in support of Curran’s vision for programming, and audiences will see the benefit in areas such as live music, new partnerships and collaborations, and new work.
Beyond the immediate excitement that the work of the Louisville Ballet has received such tangible recognition beyond the borders of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the company is committed to ensuring that “this gift is the first step in creating a new, strong platform for the Louisville Ballet’s growth.” As Fund for the Arts CEO, Christen Boone said, “this is really good momentum” for the whole arts community.
With rehearsals for Coppélia starting immediately, the infusion of this substantial gift into the Louisville Ballet’s 2015-16 season, is a fillip to the company’s growth in recent seasons and an invigorating augur for Curran’s vision of the future.
[box_light]Kathi E.B. Ellis is a member of the Lincoln Center and Chicago Directors’ Labs and an associate member of the Stage Directors & Choreographers Society. She has attended the LaMama Directing Symposium in Umbria, Italy, and is featured in Southern Artisty, an online registry of outstanding Southern Artists. Her directing work has been recognized with nominations for the South Florida Theatre Carbonell Award. Locally, Kathi is a member of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company, a founding principal of StageLab theatre training studio, and is part of ShoeString Productions an informal producing collective. She has written book reviews and articles for Southern Theatre, the quarterly publication of the Southeastern Theatre Conference, and was a contributing writer for JCPS’ textbook for the 11th grade Arts and Humanities survey course and for YouthArts Tapestry, a Kentucky Arts Council publication.[/box_light]