Louisville Ballet Company Dancer Tiffany Bovard in rehearsal for William’s Folly. Photo by Sam English.


Louisville Ballet Performs In Central Park

By Kathi E.B. Ellis

Entire contents copyright © 2016 Kathi E. B. Ellis. All rights reserved.

Collaboration continues to be in the air in the Louisville arts community. This time around it’s not just that Kentucky Shakespeare’s community weeks embrace both a musical and ballet, but that the Louisville Ballet week features a brand new work, William’s Folly, which brings together a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets, original live music and new choreography. What a combination!

Roger Creel first embraced Shakespeare and dance with his Sonnets in Blue for the 2015 Choreographers Showcase. This time he is expanding on those ideas, and introducing live music, rather than using pre-recorded tracks.

Back in 2015 the performer of sonnets was Kentucky Shakespeare actor Tony Milder. Kentucky Shakespeare artistic director Matt Wallace saw a performance and reached out to the Louisville Ballet. Independently Scott Moore, a Louisville-based musician, had also reached out to the Ballet to indicate an interest in collaborating. All this eventually led to a meeting between Robert Curran, Roger Creel and Scott Moore.

With a degree in English, Creel is confident in stating, “It all begins with Shakespeare.” Never a bad place to start. Musician Scott Moore also has an affinity with poetry and admits to being intrigued by Shakespeare. He is interested in creating music for this piece that “leaves room for dance and the spoken word.” Both Creel and Moore are committed to creating a crossover work that will appeal to a broad spectrum of people. And by debuting this new iteration of Shakespeare, ballet and live music in Central Park that is quite likely.

Building on the 12-minute original version with 4 sonnets, Creel’s vision now encompasses 23 sonnets in a 35-minute piece. There will be two actors; Milder is joined by Megan Massie, also familiar to Kentucky Shakespeare audiences. There are three dancers; Brandon Ragland and Jordan Martin return as Shakespeare and The Dark Lady respectively, and Benjamin Wetzel rounds out the trio as the Young Man. There is also an ensemble of six (Christy Corbitt Miller, Annie Honebrink, Tiffany Bovard, Mark Krieger, Phillip Velinov, Justin Michael Hogan.) Moore has created leitmotifs for the three primary characters, dipping into traditional music, originally from the British Isles, by way of Appalachia. Likewise the dance style is influenced by social dancing from Elizabethan times and how it has influenced Appalachian dancing.

William’s Folly is in two acts, with the first act focusing on Shakespeare’s relationship with a young nobleman, and the second act introducing The Dark Lady. The role of the ensemble is both to embody the emotions of the characters and to reflect the community around the principal characters. At an early rehearsal that I attended briefly Creel was working with The Dark Lady and the three men of the ensemble, together with one of the sonnets (Milder.) The interweaving of text, movement, and music was fascinating as each layering brought more complexity and nuance to the work.

Company Dancers Brandon Ragland and Tiffany Bovard with Former Assoc Artistic Director and Dancer Helen Starr photo by Sam English 2016

Company Dancers Brandon Ragland and Tiffany Bovard with Former Assoc. Artistic Director and Dancer Helen Starr photo by Sam English

Moore is joined in performance by Tricky Cricket colleague Charlie Patton. Both performers grew up in the classical music tradition infused with folk, bluegrass, and other traditional music forms that influence Moore’s music compositions. For William’s Folly he has turned to “The Wayfaring Stranger” to inspire Shakespeare’s leitmotif  to “Star of the County Down” for the Young Man and to “The Devil in the Strawstack” for The Dark Lady. Moore and Patton will be playing live; at the time I spoke with Moore exactly where on the Central Park stage was undecided.

Attendees next week will also experience a more traditional approach to Shakespeare in Dance – Kentucky Shakespeare’s umbrella title for the week – as the Louisville Ballet is also restaging two other Shakespeare story ballets in their repertory. Former Artistic Directors Alun Jones and Helen Starr are restaging the balcony scene of their version of Romeo and Juliet, with Mark Krieger and Christy Corbitt Miller respectively. They are also reviving Othello, with choreography by Peter Darrell, with the following cast, Brandon Ragland (Othello), Tiffany Bovard (Desdemona), Phillip Velinov (Iago), Justin Michael Hogan (Cassio), and Annie Honebrink (Emilia). These two pieces form the first part of the evening. They are followed by the premiere of Roger Creel’s William’s Folly. This triple bill is a rich offering of Shakespeare and dance, set against the magnificent tree-lined Central Park stage as the sun sets and the stars come out.

Shakespeare in Dance

August 10-14, 2016

8:00PM Nightly Free Show; 7:15 pre-show

Louisville Ballet
Kentucky Shakespeare Festival
In Central Park


kathi e.b. ellis headshot colorKathi E.B. Ellis is an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and a member of Lincoln Center and DirectorsLabChicago. She has attended the La MaMa 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 South Florida theatre’s Carbonell Award.  Locally, Kathi is a member of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company, a founding principal of StageLab theatre training studio, and 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.