Photo: Sam English

Choreographers Showcase

Louisville Ballet with Kentucky College of Art + Design

Reviewed by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents are copyright © 2019, Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.

Color me delighted when not one, but two of Louisville’s long-standing performance institutions band together with an artistic institution, to create experiences that audiences aren’t familiar with. Earlier in the week, the Louisville Orchestra worked with the Kentucky College of Art + Design (KyCAD) to create an evening of sight, sound, and taste. Taste? Read my colleague Keith Waits’ review. Thursday evening I was privileged to see the Louisville Ballet work their magic, in partnership with KyCAD, in a different way of performance, presentation, and expression.

The Choreographers Showcase has historically been a highlight of every Louisville Ballet season as it allows for audiences to chart the progress of emerging choreographers and allows for the performers to gain new insight into their creative abilities. I think it would be safe to say that when artists work with other artists and that first spark of creativity unfolds, new and wonderful things can happen. Such is the collaboration with KyCAD. Allow me to paint you a picture of the event.

One big difference about the evening is that the performances were held at KyCAD’s studio and school. Within the building, makeshift rooms were designed to accommodate five different experiences: “35…”, “Proxy”, “Suppression of the Heart”, “Work in Progress” and “Amid Exes and Whys”. The performances are scattered throughout the evening, allowing plenty of time for patrons to see all of them, maybe even a couple of times. If you hadn’t figured it out, the audience moves to each performance location within the building. So, that’s a little different. How about being told that you can take out your cellphones, take pictures and/or videos and post it across social media with the hashtag #ChorShow? That’s a bit unconventional.

Choreographed by Xavier Pellin and designed by Bobby Barbour, “Proxy” delves into the conflict between our “real” selves and our digital selves, and has this technology caused us to become more isolated. Set within a small room, the dancers are beautifully dressed and dancing to lovely music composed by Bryce Dessner with movements commonly found within ballet. But, above them are monitors that portray something a bit different. The art is within the contrast.

“35…” with choreography by Justin Michael Hogan and designed by Josh Azzarella uses technology as well, but in a different context. Within the performance space, three tablets are set up on tripods and on the far wall is a video image projection of what looks like a similar room. As the lights go out our performers appear as do some on the video projection. As mesmerizing as the ballet dancing was and the story that they were telling, your eyes wanted to veer in other directions, further cementing part of the synopsis of “35…”: allowing something to become inextricable from our lives. In spite of all the electronic distraction, what I witnessed was the want of human connectivity that wins it all and the dancers truly brought that point home.

“Suppression of the Heart”, choreographed by Aubrielle Whitis with designs by Dominic Guarnaschelli, is a statement about domestic abuse. Ms. Whitis’ work focuses on an emotionally abusive relationship between a man and woman, where the woman is the perpetrator. The couple is surrounded by two other dancers, often hooded by cut-out workout jackets, who seem to serve as reactionary emotions of the couple: love, sorrow, fear, dread….perhaps. On a back wall, Mr. Guarnashelli has a video projection of scans of the dancers in movement. He also tailored furniture that exhibits an air of control and anxiety. Is there a peaceful resolve among the stunning choreography? Does harmony come to pass?

Designed by Jake Ford and choreographed by Sanjay Saverimuttu, “Amid Exes and Whys” is a trip down the rabbit hole of self-reflection; realizing our true identities and how that realization affects our lives. Mr. Ford’s design is a platformed, rope-light bedecked pyramid that serves as a mirror. Or is it a portal? Ah, one of the beauties of this clever ballet. Four dancers, two each on opposite sides, approach the pyramid – often mimicking the other, yet before long there is a breakaway to individualism. As the others see this there is at first hesitation, but soon there is an attraction and then interaction. It is within this interaction that we, the audience, experience the world of those that identify differently from others: love, hate, and the want/need of acceptance. With music performed by artists like Antony & The Johnsons, Christine and the Queens, and Fanny Mendelssohn, Mr. Saverimuttu wanted to highlight the talent within the LGBTQA+ community. Before and after the show, audiences are welcome to put Post-It notes on the whiteboard that sits on the wall that asks you questions like: when you see yourself in the mirror, what do you see? Feel free to grab a Sharpie and share a bit of yourself.

How does one approach the subject of deforestation and discovery in a dystopian world and create a ballet from it? That was the task at hand for choreographer Tim Harbour and sculptor Matt Weir. From their collaboration, we get “Work in Progress”. Within the synopsis of the piece, we learn that the title is apt in its name, in that as Mr. Harbour and Mr. Weir worked on the piece it became larger and longer. Mr. Weir’s design is one of the largest of the evening, with a large stage and a dropped ceiling that is reminiscent of sculpture work that I have seen around town. The background has a feeling of a forest. The music by Cornelius (Keigo Oyamada) certainly conflicts with the underlying story of a rainforest losing its life but fits within the context of happy campers that come upon it and experience it in a new and exciting way. 8 dancers, all wearing camping outfits complete with calf high socks, ties tucked in their shirt, and long brimmed hats, come upon the forest and make merry within. They celebrate in pas de deux, pas de trois, and even alone (lovely work by Erica de la O). Their happy dance leaned into Modern and left the audience with no idea that there was once devastation. Perhaps that teaches us that beauty can be found after a tragedy.

I truly enjoyed all of the pieces and the way that they were presented, however, you may have to prepare yourself to be standing for periods up to half an hour at a time to watch the performances. Not every room has the capacity to seat everyone. Also, unless you are in the room or right at the threshold, you may miss part of performances because of the breadth of the space that is being used, such as “Suppression” or “35”.

My deep appreciation to everyone who had a hand in this collaboration. It was quite obvious that there were many, many moving parts throughout the entirety of the evening that included, but were not limited to sound engineers, stagehands, lighting, and safety enforcement.

When there was not a performance to attend and/or a Q & A had wrapped up it was entertaining to walk around the halls and look and/or immerse yourself into the artwork that hung within the exhibit hall or to indulge in an intriguing VR experience.

Again, what a pleasure to see the artistry and talent from KyCAD and the Louisville Ballet that has resulted in an evening that is not to be forgotten. So take a leap and give it a try!

Bravi Tutti!!!

Choreographers Showcase

January 31 – February 3, 2019

Louisville Ballet/KyCAD
849 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202


Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.


2019 Arts-Louisville/Broadway World Theatre Award Sponsorship provided by