Louisville Ballet Reminds Us, Diamonds are Forever

By Djinn Shockley

The origins of Ballet can be traced back to the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th and 16th centuries. However, Louisville Ballet, which was founded in 1952, has made its own leaps and bounds in keeping this elegant form of dance alive in our fair city. The Louisville Ballet is the only regional company that the renowned Mikhail Baryshnikov has performed with in repertoire productions (during the 1978-79 and 1979-80 seasons).

On April 13, the Louisville Ballet celebrated its 60th anniversary by putting on an earth-shattering performance that added another page to the history books. The dancers performed a mixture of both traditional and new styles, with some performances combining Japanese and African techniques. The costume designs were sleek, with just the right amount of sparkle to glimmer under the lights. This show combined all the necessary elements to define elegance, like a group of swans dancing on a lake under the moonlight.

Louisville native Wendy Whelan returned from New York just to perform during the Ballet's Diamond celebration. Her performance in The New York City Ballet's "After the Rain" was in 2005, but it carved her spot in their dance company exquisitely in marble. Wendy brought this graceful dance home to Louisville, accompanied by another NYCB member, Craig Hall.

Whelan and Hall were as one during the performance of this magical dance. Their movements were a combination of grace and fluidity. At times, they were like intricate paper dolls, swaying as if touched by a gentle breeze. Whelan and Hall entranced the crowd with their intimate dance. The end of their performance brought the audience to their feet, filling the Brown Theater with thundering applause.

The Anniversary program also introduced two new pieces during their Diamond celebration: the ballet mistress, Mikelle Bruzina's "Sansei" with music performed by Ben Sollee and Adam Hougland's "Unyielding Radiance."

'Sansei' was an interesting piece, as it told the story of a grandmother, mother and granddaughter celebrating life in a large family, ending with the climactic death of the eldest. The influence of Japanese traditional music and dance was subtle, yet obvious in this piece. Erica De La O portrayed the grandmother with a soothing, yet powerful display of energy. In the end, her body was gracefully lifted into the air to give the impression of beginning a journey into the afterlife.

Then end-all of the evening was a grand performance that once again brought the crowd out of their seats. The music of Bach combined with West African music brought a festive display that enraptured the crowd during Val Caniparoli's "Lambarena." This performance combined a fusion of ancient African dance with the spiritualized movement of traditional ballet on the stage. The Brown was filled with positive energy as the dancers erupted on the stage and kept viewers captivated till end.

Diamonds are indeed forever, and Louisville Ballet's 60th Anniversary was a celebration of dance that will be inscribed in the memories of all who witnessed it for many years to come.

Upcoming events:

Tutu Revue Presents: "Things That Go BUMP In The Night," Friday, August 3 at 9:30 p.m. at the Rudyard.

Sassafras Dance Company's newly added Tutu Revue Burlesque Show. The event will include the renowned resident performers as well as newly added Beginners Burlesque Class students. As always, the costumes are sure to be incredible, along with the choreography. This is a FREE event, so come out and enjoy the entertainment as the ladies perform for your viewing pleasure.