“The Brown-Forman Nutcracker” is a holiday tradition in Louisville. The Louisville Ballet opened its first full-length production of the winter classic in December 1963 — but if the company doesn’t raise $3 million, the show might remain in the Land of Snow.
“It is — in my opinion — one of the most beautifully choreographed and designed Nutcrackers in the United States,” said Louisville Ballet CEO Leslie Smart.
Leslie would know. The former dancer is also niece to one of the original dancers of the Louisville Ballet, so keeping the organization going is more than just a job. The task has, however, become increasingly more challenging.
The company continued paying dancers amid pandemic closures, and last season’s weather-related Nutcracker cancellations led to a $250,000 loss. In an effort to recover from these setbacks, Louisville Ballet has set the multi-million, year-long fundraising goal to back its operations — which include performances, classes at The Louisville Ballet School, and its free Ballet Bound program.
The official ballet of Kentucky has already taken a few cost-cutting measures. These include using recorded music as opposed to having the Louisville Orchestra play during this season’s Nutcracker performances, and using existing costumes + scenery for “Giselle.”
“We will ensure that the fifth-oldest ballet in the country — a company with a 72-year history — remains,” Leslie said. "[Shutting down] is not an option. As a former dancer, I have great tenacity and determination.”
She urges the community to support Louisville Ballet, adding that a critical component of generating income is subscription packages, which can include tickets for the full five-show season, or a trio of select performances. “You don’t necessarily need a subscription for the series,” Leslie added. “You can choreograph your own through single tickets, but we do need the community’s support.”
For more information and ways to help Louisville Ballet, email Leslie or call 502-583-3150.