Interview by Keith Waits. Photographs by Sam English.
Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Leigh Anne Albrechta has been dancing with Louisville Ballet since 2009, performing as Dawn in Robert Curran’s Coppélia, Spring Fairy in Cinderella, Marie in The Brown-Forman Nutcracker, soloist in Serge Lifar’s Suite En Blanc, George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, and Kammermusik No.2, and several world premieres including Lucas Jervies’ Human Abstract. Leigh Anne has also enjoyed her time performing and working with former Artistic Director’s Bruce Simpson and Alun Jones; Associate Artist Director Helen Starr; and Choreographers Amy Seiwert, Ma Cong, Val Caniparoli, and Adam Hougland.
1. What is the next performance you are/were scheduled to do?
Louisville Ballet Artistic Director, Robert Curran’s Kentucky. Vol. 1 was to be the final show of the’ 19-20′ season. Fortunately, we’ve been told it will be on the schedule for next season.
2. When did you first know you wanted to be a dancer?
I was running around on my toes, dancing in the kitchen, wrapping anything I could find around my ankles to create pointe shoes since I was three years old. So, I started dancing when I was 3, alongside gymnastics. Eventually, that lead to my parents driving me forty-five minutes to ballet and thirty minutes to gymnastics every day from the age of twelve. At fifteen, my ballet teachers and gymnastic coaches began asking me about my long term goals. I decided on a career in ballet. A year later, I left for Connecticut to attend Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts. With that move, things became very real, and that’s when I knew I wanted to become a professional dancer.
3. Is there a ballet you are longing to do but haven’t done yet?
I would love to perform Chroma by Wayne McGregor. (The groundbreaking one-act ballet premiered in 2006 at The Royal Ballet and remains influential). At this point in my career, I have had the chance to perform in a lot of ballets. Right now, I’m longing to work with different choreographers. This list includes Wayne McGregor, William Forsyth, Christopher Wheeldon, Jiří Kylián, Alexander Ekman, and Crystal Pite. They all have created such amazing works that I find so intriguing and captivating. I love it when I get the chance to work with a new choreographer. It always teaches me something new about my movement quality. It pushes me into discomfort, which then creates a unique and beautiful discovery. I would be beyond excited to get to work in the studio and learn from any of these epic choreographers.
4. What has been your most difficult role or performance?
I’m torn between performing Juliet in Adam Hougland’s Romeo and Juliet and the more recent SERENADE – AT HIGH – VELOCITY triple bill. Both shows were very different performances, but both were equally difficult. Juliet was my first three-act lead. It was physically challenging because of the length of time on stage, and emotional narrative powering you through the performance. Also, we had one cast over three performances, so when you include the rehearsals leading up to the performances, let’s just say it was… difficult.
SERENADE – AT HIGH – VELOCITY was taxing for a much different reason. I performed in all three pieces, and each work was entirely different from the other, leading me to jump from classical ballet in pointe shoes, to contemporary in flat shoes, and finishing with contemporary in pointe shoes. The physical and mental demands made me doubt that I had the strength to accomplish it on some of those days leading up to the performances… of which I performed in all. Shew!
When I’m in these more difficult performances and rehearsing as much as we do, it comes down to recovery. It’s about getting sleep and eating the right way to fuel my body. The outcome is beyond rewarding. And to be able to look back at being emotionally and physically tough enough to perform at a high level, that’s what fuels me to take on the next challenge.
5. You made your debut as a choreographer in a studio program. Do you plan to choreograph more?
For right now, my focus is on being the best dancer I can be, not creating the dance.
6. When you choreograph, who is your most important inspiration?
Ultimately it’s all about the dancers. As I would create choreography that worked in my body, I would get in the room with the dancers, and everything would need to look different to be effective on them. The dancers had an intuition that I learn to trust and enjoyed engaging with. I believed the music would be my inspiration, but I realized very quickly they were the real inspiration. Keep in mind, I’ve only choreographed once, so this was my singular experience!.
7. Which is the difference in dancing classic or contemporary movement?
When I was young, my thinking was classical and contemporary ballet were nothing alike. However, as I’ve matured in my professional career, I’ve realized both are incredibly similar. Visually and physically, both can be different but not by much. Each requires an extensive understanding of technique and strength. Each requires musicality and the ability to play within that musicality. Each is uniquely challenging, but contemporary ballet feels more natural in my body, and it helps that I really love it.
8. Besides Louisville, what other places have you worked?
Before I moved to Louisville in 2009, I performed with the Charlotte Ballet in Charlotte, NC. I have also performed in Sedona AZ, Fort Wayne IN, and in my hometown, Fremont OH.
9. Do you have a non-theatre job, and if so, are you able to do it right now?
Yes! I teach vinyasa yoga. I’ve been teaching in the Louisville community since 2011. With the current state of social distancing around COVID-19, I’ve moved my yoga classes to a different forum. I’m teaching yoga classes LIVE on Facebook via my Leigh Anne Albrechta – Yoga page. Monday – Friday at 9a and 5p and Saturday and Sunday at 10a for the foreseeable future.
10. What music have you been listening to?
I’ve been creating more playlists recently for my Facebook Live yoga classes. So, my time is spent on Spotify doing deep dives hunting for the best yoga vibes. Although I’m not driving anywhere, I love the Spotify playlist, “Your Daily Drive.” So now, when I go on walks or clean the house, I turn that on!
11. What book is on your bedside table?
I just finished The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I cannot stop thinking and talking about that book.
12. What is the first thing you will do when quarantine ends?
I think it’s going to be a slow return back to normal for me, but I’m looking forward to going to EL MUNDO with my husband and our friends. This was a typical weekly gathering that I miss dearly. I look forward to traveling, as well. The ballet season ended in April, so I usually try to travel to new places or to visit my family and friends in the spring/summer while we’re on a break from our hectic season schedule.
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.