Behind The Curtain There Are Athletes

By CHRISTIE LEIGH MUELLER
Copy Editor

The city of Louisville is fascinated with high school and college athletics. We constantly herald our sports stars with Hall of Fame inductions, statues and tributes. Which is why it’s utterly baffling to know that the Louisville Ballet hasn’t sold out their 2013-2014 season, nor their Raise the Barre event on Oct. 12 as the dancers at the Louisville Ballet are some of the most dedicated, in-shape and endurance-tested athletes in our dear sports-obsessed town.

For the members of the Louisville Ballet, full days of excruciating practice of their physical skills is just another day at the office.

The  ballet is not a hobby – it’s a way of life. As Artistic Director Bruce Simpson proudly explains, “they are athletes and artists. They cannot be an artist without first being an athlete.”  So yes, that is eight and a half hours of cardiovascular, muscle-building, high-intensity, artistically challenging  classes and rehearsals per day, with a goal of being positively perfect on stage.

The atmosphere at 315 East Main St., is that of a family; they work together, sweat together and succeed together. Make one mention of the upcoming Raise the Barre celebration that supports bonuses for the dancers and allows the public, who enjoy the performances year in and year out to meet the dancers, and it triggers uncontained excitement that they get a night to let loose.

So much togetherness can lead people to believe that dancers do not enjoy –– or have a –– life outside of the studio. On the contrary, the company is full of men and women who have very full lives; from motherhood and yoga instructing to skateboarding and mechanic work. The perfect dancers you see on stage are just regular people.

It’s time to let go of any fear of attending the ballet.

The Louisville Ballet has two unique performances coming up comprised of modern and classical dance. For these two performances you’ll be in the studio where the company rehearses. You’ll see on-toe and flats.  You’ll hear stereotypical ballet music and modern orchestra sounds.  You’ll see pieces by master choreographers and from student novices with inspiring promise.  Mark you calendar now for Studio Connections (Oct. 23-26) and for Choreographers’ Showcase (Jan 22-25).

If you call yourself a sports fan, you’ll be buying your ticket to the most graceful and impressive display of athleticism in the city.

Meet BRANDON RAGLAND

Hometown: Birmingham, AL

A member of the company since: 2010

Favorite thing about Louisville: The local restaurants. I love them all. I can’t even pick a favorite.

Most fulfilling part of being a dancer: Being able to do what I love every day and make a living out of it. It’s not always easy but it’s worth it.

Choreographing on your peers? I was given opportunities to choreograph at a professional company on the Alabama Ballet. When I came to Louisville I was able to expand on that. Bruce gave me the support to expand my piece on a greater scale  which really helped my confidence. There’s a growing relationship – not just dancer/director but choreographer/director. Having to switch so quickly from co-worker to choreographer – and my peers’ willingness to try new things is great. We trust each other. This experience is  helping me put steps in place to help my post-dance career.

Meet RYAN STOKES

Hometown: Louisville, KY

A member of the company since: 2010

Favorite part about Louisville: Its ability to always surprise you with its eclectic community. You always find people who surprise you.

Most challenging part of being a dancer?

As much as you would like this to be your only job, so many of us do other things to make money outside of working nine hours a day at the Ballet.

What do people not know/understand about the life of a dancer? The beautiful end result has taken weeks of class and training and rehearsal to get there. The physical demands on the body and not showing the “work” and exhaustion.

Varied background: mechanic, skateboarder, dancer:

Technically, how I train myself as a dancer is similar to how I trained myself as a skateboarder growing up. It’s not always about whether you can do something, but how good you can make it look. Working on cars has its own benefits to keeping my brain learning and working in different ways. It’s an awesome outlet.

Meet LEIGH ANNE ALBRECHTA

Hometown: Fremont, OH

A member of the company since: 2009

Favorite part about Louisville: Firstly, it’s a big city but feels like a small town, and secondly you don’t have to change to live here. It’s accepting of who I am – the Keep Louisville Weird motto.

The most rewarding aspect of being a part of the Louisville Ballet? 

The company is such a family. Sometimes that’s bigger than a personal accomplishment.

Teaching yoga in the community: I teach at Heat Yoga and Wellness. I’ve been there since 2011. Shawna Spellman, the owner has been so supportive and understanding of me being a dancer. People slowly started figuring out that I dance for the Ballet so now everyone knows me as the little blonde dancer. It’s a nice outlet to be around completely different people who come to work out with me.

Meet EMILY REINKING O’DELL

Hometown: Ft. Wayne, IN

A member of the company since: 2000

Favorite part about Louisville: I live in Crescent Hill and love that I can put my kids in the stroller and walk to all the local restaurants, coffee shops and parks.

Most challenging part of being a dancer? 

It’s a Catch-22. You’re constantly working to better yourself. But, it’s never perfect.

What do people not know/understand about the life of a dancer? 

On stage we look like beautiful perfection but it’s dirty, sweaty and long hard days put in at the studio. You have to strive to be in the best physical and mental shape. But sometimes you just have to have a glass of wine and stop thinking about it.

Juggling family: I’m especially lucky to have a partner who understands exactly what my day is like. He helps with the care of the kids. The Ballet switches off when I’m with my kids. Bruce and the entire staff of the Louisville Ballet understand that we have loves and passions outside of the studio and it makes us better dancers and artists.

Courtesy Photos by ROBERT BURGE