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Louisville Ballet would get funding for state tour in Democrats’ budget proposal

Erica De La O and Benjamin Wetzel dance Balanchine's "Rubies" during the 2017-2018 Louisville Ballet season.
Sam English
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Sam English
Erica De La O and Benjamin Wetzel dance Balanchine's "Rubies" during the 2017-2018 Louisville Ballet season.

Democratic lawmakers in Kentucky have allocated more $1 million to the Louisville Ballet in their proposed budget to help the arts organization with touring costs.

The Louisville Ballet could get money to take performances into more regions of the state.

House Bill 114, the Democrat’s budget proposal bill, includes “$1,500,000 to the Louisville Ballet Company in fiscal year 2024-2025 for start-up equipment costs and to support touring and community engagement performances and other events outside of Louisville.”

It would be a one-time funding for the ballet.

Louisville Ballet CEO Leslie Smart said the potential funding is a portion of what the arts organization asked for.

“We actually requested $3.9 million of investment,” Smart said. “That would encompass us having live music for our mainstage productions. And also, it would include startup capital cost for us to be able to tour our main stage productions throughout Kentucky.”

Smart said the $3.9 million would have also helped recover revenue lost from having to cancel some 2022 Brown-Forman Nutcracker performances under guidance from the governor and bad weather conditions.

While the ballet didn’t get the full amount, Smart said they would receive if the draft is approved will help with some touring costs, particularly equipment needs.

“We're not like the [Louisville] Orchestra. We can't just pick up a chair and sit down on concrete. We literally have to be on this distended platform and a marley floor for our dancers,” Smart said.

Expanding the ballet’s audience, particularly to Kentucky communities outside of Louisville, is a priority for Smart.

“We are the official state ballet of Kentucky. And so we definitely need to be performing out in the state,” Smart said.

She’d like to see the engagement programs, especially the ones geared toward students, expand across the state.

“If we can expose children to the arts, and potentially engage them in the arts, the outcomes are significant,” Smart said.

The impacts of arts education help improve students’ emotional and social development while helping them succeed in more traditional classroom goals.

Smart said the funding would not only be beneficial to ballet itself, but the impacts would create a healthier, better Kentucky in general.

The budget process in Kentucky begins with organizations requesting funds from the state government. Then, the governor and members of their party submit a budget through a bill in the House of Representatives.

The opposing party does the same. Once a final budget bill is passed in the House, it goes to the Senate, then to the governor to be signed into law or vetoed.

In Kentucky, Republicans hold a super majority, so they can easily override a veto from Gov. Andy Beshear. House Republicans released their own budget draft which does not currently include funding for the ballet.

The final budget will be decided by April.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.