By HAZEL LEVINE
Edgy. Gritty. Raw. These elements are what make the second annual Raise the Barre fundraiser a knockout party. The Louisville Ballet’s upcoming event focuses on and raises money for the dancers who comprise the ballet’s company. The Ballet’s 13th St., warehouse will be converted to a chic event space, offering a “behind the scenes” look at the working side of Louisville’s elite dance company. According to Louisville Ballet Artistic Director Bruce Simpson, Raise the Barre attendees will see “another side of the ballet” and that the company’s costumes and sets will be a part of the party experience.
Raise the Barre is an opportunity for the twenty-four full-time dancers and fifteen trainees to let loose and mingle with their biggest fans. Hailing from sixteen states and five countries, all 39 company members now call Louisville home and are active members of the local artistic community.
Simpson, along with Bittners President Douglas Riddle, has created the event to help sustain and support the dancers. Simpson says,“this evening is unique in that it is for the dancers, to celebrate them and to help them. All of the funds raised go directly to giving dancers a salary bonus.”
Riddle has an intimate relationship with the Louisville Ballet dancers, and wants to share this dynamic with the rest of the Louisville community. Douglas sees the Ballet as “one of the most inspiring and creative organizations in Louisville.” He co-created Raise the Barre because he feels deeply about ensuring that the dancers have a sustainable career in the field they are truly passionate about. Riddle describes the event as “up close and personal,” and “a chance for the audience to get to know the dancers on a human level.”
Simpson and Riddle wanted to create an event that truly honors the company members of the Louisville Ballet. Raise the Barre doubles as an exclusive event for the Louisville community to really get to know the diverse group of dancers that make up the company. Many national ballet companies feature traveling dancers that come and go, but the Louisville dance company hires full-time, permanent dancers who choose Louisville as their home.
Simpson has cultivated “longstanding relationships, where [he] works with the dancers, nurtures them, and develops their talent over 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 years. The dancers establish an extraordinary sense of family, and a wonderful sense of home in Louisville.” Christy Corbitt Miller, in her ninth season with the Ballet, feels that “this town is so supportive…like being part of a larger family, outside of her ballet family.” Newer dancer, Rob Morrow is originally from New Orleans and joined the Louisville Ballet in 2007. Morrow cannot wait for Raise the Barre so that he can “meet all the donors in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.” Morrow has been thrilled with his experience here and believes that the “Louisville art community is amazing…everyone is passionate here.”
Simpson, who hails from Scotland, and who spent thirty years with South Africa’s State Theatre Ballet, made Louisville his home eleven years ago. For him, Raise the Barre is the perfect opportunity to integrate Louisville’s ballet patrons with his company of internationally renowned dancers. Simpson characterizes the three main factors that dancers look for when searching for a ballet company: a trusted Artistic Director, a repertoire in which they can look back on their careers and feel fulfilled and the quality of city in which they will be living. When dancers join the Louisville ballet “they do not want to leave,” and Simpson is very proud of how Louisville and the Louisville Ballet takes care of its dancers.
Riddle has a very personal love for the Louisville Ballet and its dancers. Their practice facility on East Main Street is only a few blocks from Bittners and he stops by to view rehearsals when he can. Raise the Barre will give fans of the ballet a similar “up close and personal” opportunity. After a short performance, the dancers will stay at the party and socialize, erasing the barrier between audience and performer.
Cara Hicks, the Ballet’s Director of Marketing, describes Raise the Barre as “a very intimate affair, very different from our big Gala. It is more rave-like than black tie, definitely geared toward the younger generation.” She even hinted at a surprise performance by the company, which may include topless male dancers.
Riddle and Simpson envision Raise the Barre as a night in which the dancers take a much-needed break from long rehearsal days and the annual gearing up for the annual run of The Nutcracker and just show up and party—like the other attendees. No work, only play. Miller, veteran dancer and a new mother, cannot wait: “As a mommy, it is a really fun night out on the town…and the purpose makes it even better.”
Simpson is aware of the fact that people are constantly being asked to donate and fund every type of cause and institution. However, he feels that when people watch performing arts, they only see the “gorgeousness,” they do not really sit back and think about the finances of the event. The value of the dollar decreases every year, and that makes fundraising very difficult. Simpson is hopeful that the Raise the Barre fundraiser will provide an even bigger salary bonus than last year.
This year’s sponsors: Brown-Forman, YUM! Foundation, Calospa Rejuvenation, Jaguar Louisville, Bittners, Highland Cleaners, Kindred Healthcare, Thornton’s, and The Diaz Family are all repeats from last year’s event. Simpson was thrilled that all of them “wanted to support the event again.” This is not only a feat, but it definitely says that this event is sought after and adored.
A limited number of $100 tickets are available in advance by calling 502.583.3150 ext. 232. The cost includes an open bar, food, dancing, music, and a very memorable night. The party starts at 9:30pm and goes until the last attendees leave the dance floor. Ticket holders will also receive discounts to in-studio performances in October and January; another great opportunity for community members to experience the Louisville Ballet in an up-close and personal way.