What is the Louisville Ballet?

The Louisville Ballet was founded in March 1952 as Kentucky’s State Ballet. It has grown from humble beginnings to become one of the country’s premier regional ballet companies. It started out as a civic ballet company that relied on guest artistic directors and choreographers to direct each production. It wasn’t until 1965 that a full-time Artistic Director, Larry Gradus, was hired to supervise a group of temporary dancers.

Richard and Cristina Munro, the new directors, hired eight dancers in 1975 to form the nucleus of a permanent company. The company gained professional status that year, and its journey to the company it is today began. The Louisville Ballet School was established in this year, effectively becoming the company’s official school. The school’s director has been named Alun Jones.

Jones became the Artistic Director of the Louisville Ballet in 1978 and held the position until 2002. He was busy directing the company, choreographing ballets, and designing costumes and scenery for the company’s productions during this time. Bruce Simpson took over the Louisville Ballet in 2002, becoming the company’s and school’s artistic director.

The Louisville Ballet is still the only regional ballet company to have had renowned Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov perform as a guest artist. During the 1978-79 and 1979-80 seasons, he was a member of the company. Following Baryshnikov’s appearances with the Louisville Ballet, the company was invited to participate in some of his productions in Dallas and Houston.

The Louisville community continues to show its support for the company attending performances each year. On an annual basis, about 50,000 people attend its productions. Classical as well as new, modern ballets are represented in the company’s repertoire of over 150 works.

Students interested in becoming ballet dancers can enroll in the Louisville Ballet School in the hopes of eventually joining the company or other dance companies around the world. Over 400 students are enrolled in the company’s official dance academy, where ballet and other forms of dance are taught to dancers of all ages. Audition for the Youth Ensemble, a pre-professional dance group that performs alongside the professional company during large-scale productions, is open to young dancers with professional ambitions. Youth Ensemble also performs in SERBA (Southeast Regional Ballet Association), a Regional Dance America-sponsored organization.

The ballet company’s headquarters is the Louisville Ballet Center, which is located on East Main Street in Louisville’s downtown area. Every year, the company conducts student education programs for 12,000 children. Student matinees and lecture-demonstrations are examples of such programs. Its goal is to raise awareness of dance in the general public so that more people will support their efforts to keep the art of ballet alive in Kentucky.