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Louisville Ballet Furloughs, Cuts Staff And Reduces Salaries

An empty parking lot at the Louisville Ballet following COVID-19 pandemic-related shutdowns on March 26, 2020.
An empty parking lot at the Louisville Ballet following COVID-19 pandemic-related shutdowns on March 26, 2020.

Louisville Ballet leadership made staffing cuts recently following an approximately $850,000 revenue loss from canceled events and programs, according to artistic director Robert Curran.

COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions on public gatherings postponed the ballet’s season closer, “Kentucky! Volume 1,” and its major fundraising event, as well as suspended the company’s community outreach programming and The Louisville Ballet School’s spring semester. 

Curran said they were able to fulfill the dancers’ 2019-2020 season contracts, paying them through April 4. The dancers are now off the ballet’s payroll until the new season begins, a standard protocol for American ballet companies. Curran estimates that roughly half of the ballet’s 30-member administrative staff has been furloughed or laid off and the remaining half took pay cuts.

“Every single other employee of the ballet, whether they be part-time or full-time, has had to be furloughed or laid off or have a salary reduction,” Curran said. “It's been across the board.”

Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky Performing Arts and the KMAC Museum have also reduced or furloughed staff and imposed pay cuts in the last month because of the economic hardships that have rocked the Greater Louisville arts community resulting from pandemic-related shutdowns. 

“I think we've all had to make the decision to sustain our organizations through these challenging times,” Curran said. “They're not easy decisions to make, and it's heartbreaking.”

The ballet has applied for federal relief, including from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“We’re applying for every bit of funding possible,” according to Curran. 

Curran remains optimistic in the midst of planning for the ballet’s next season. They hope to fold the postponed “Kentucky! Volume 1,” into the 2020-2021 season. He says about 25% of ticket holders asked for a refund following its postponement.

“We’ll make it work,” he said. “Art always does survive.”