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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Dance

Kentuckians in Dance

Artistic Director Bruce Simpson
Louisville, KY

Bruce Simpson

Who Bruce Simpson, artistic director of the Louisville Ballet, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, where he studied at the Scottish Ballet School and danced with the London Festival Ballet and Royal Ballet. He was principal dancer and ballet master for South Africa's State Theatre Ballet, where he was a member of the company for 30 years, and has worked with dance companies and schools in southern Africa, Israel, Russia, and Hong Kong. Before coming to Louisville in 2002, Bruce was artistic director of Texas Ballet Theatre (formerly Fort Worth-Dallas Ballet).

What “As artistic director, I am directly responsible for everything having to do with the aesthetic of the ballet company: choosing the ballets, choreographers, designers, dancers—everything down to what photos go into the program.”

When/Where “There are no set work hours; it's as the job demands. My average day is 10 hours, and it can be as long as 14 if we're in performance. I work in an office, the studio, the theater.”

How “I work with the ballet's board of directors and in partnership with the executive director, who's in charge of the financial side of the business. I also work with dancers, choreographers, designers, and production staff. And I'm involved in all special events—galas, fund-raisers, etc. I'm the company's public voice. I give press interviews. I'm the artistic voice of the company. The biggest challenge is financial. We are so privileged in this community that so many people donate to keep the ballet alive. But it makes us highly responsible in that we have to produce a high-class product. You have to be a people person—that's an essential quality. You have to be a pragmatist and have the skills to bring various creative ideas from different people into a long-term view which has to be short-term specific. I know where I want the company to be in four or five years' time, so I have to do the kinds of ballets now that will get us to that point. You have to have very, very high standards, from how a dancer ties ribbons on point shoes to how they behave in the theater to maintain high standards for performances.”

Why “The big attraction of the job is its multi-faceted interests. It is never boring. I can go from a board meeting, where we discuss finance, to the studio to coach a dancer and teach class, into wardrobe to decide on costumes, and then in to corporate sponsors for a meeting, and back into studio for rehearsal or to do a radio interview.”

Getting There “I was a dancer for 30 years and a ballet master, coaching and training, for 17 years. Under the jurisdiction of my previous directors, I had exposure to how a director functions, and then I was offered a position in Fort Worth when I was guesting with [that] company and they saw the quality of the work. One of the most important things was working in the theater for 35 years with so many talented people—performing artists, designers, and so on.”

Photo: Dan Dry

600 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502 (859) 258-7000 (800) 432-0951