Xavier Pellin in Tim Harbour’s “Work in Progress” | Photo by Sam English

The Louisville Ballet’s “Choreographers’ Showcase” is always one of its season’s most interesting offerings, with multiple choreographers trying out new work, often with a bigger and better trained group of dancers than they’ve worked with before.

This year promises to be something special. Teaming with the Kentucky College of Art + Design (KyCAD), the Louisville Ballet is creating an immersive dance-filled environment that will pair choreographers with artists and students from the art school.

These big changes require a big name change. #ChorShow is a title, but also a hashtag and something of a curatorial and design-oriented thesis for the evening of open world sandbox-style creativity that takes place Thursday, Jan. 31, through Saturday, Feb. 2.

Insider caught up with Louisville Ballet Artistic Director Robert Curran as well as Ezra Kellerman, KyCAD’s assistant professor of Studio Art, to find out about this site-specific performance that will move through the entire 849 Gallery.

Robert Curran | Courtesy of Louisville Ballet

The choreographers for the ballet’s yearly “Choreographers’ Showcase” create a proposal, which is submitted to Curran, who chooses choreographers based on what he sees. This year’s crop didn’t know about the KyCAD collaboration when they created their proposals, but Curran did and he chose the ones that paired well with the concept he and Kellerman were brewing.

“It’s not a ‘Come in, observe and leave.’ It’s a ‘Come in and spend three hours wandering around, pick your own adventure, see whatever you want. See some things twice. Get a drink. Get some food. Look at some art. Look at some performances. Hear some talk backs. Hang out,’ ” says Curran. 

Kellerman sees a similarity between his own DIY practice and those dancers creating with visual artists for the first time.

There are no rules — “we’re going to do what we feel like doing, we’re going to figure it out, make it happen,” explains Kellerman. “So to see some of the dancers who have operated under the maybe more traditional boundaries of that world embrace this new opportunity, he has been really cool.”

This format is in part due to the relationship the Louisville Ballet has had with the Louisville fine arts community through Curran’s tenure as artistic director. But Curran also sees it as a response to what a growing number of audiences want.

“People are hungry for a different forum,” he says. “They want to be able to do it their own way. Take their phones. And then take pictures have a drink get some to eat, there are multiple stimuli everywhere.”

Mark Krieger and Natalia Ashikhmina in Justin Michael Hogan’s “35 662618 632814 5” | Photo by Sam English

The suggestion to take one’s phone is not made lightly. Programs and supplementary materials will only be available online, and during the performance, your smartphone will be just as necessary. You can use social media to interact with the artists, choreographers and dancers.

“We are encouraging, almost demanding, that they have their device with them if they want information about what they’re seeing and if they want to know where to go next,” said Curran. “I keep saying, ‘If you need to know where the bathrooms are …’ ”

The #ChorShow Twitter account will have multiple people keeping up with the audience’s questions, comments and observations, like a call center.

The use of technology turns an evening at the ballet into something for along the lines of a ballet festival, in the vein of a miniature Bonnaroo or Burning Man. But the tech ties to the theme that emerged as Curran ushered #ChorShow’s choreographers from concept to consumption — isolation.

Ezra Kellerman | Courtesy of KyCAD

Kellerman, who admits to having a “nerdy academic side,” described the thematic convergence of the evening’s works.

“The digital mitigation of human interaction can cause folks who — especially people who feel like they’re on the outside of societal normative constructs regarding race and gender — to feel more isolated than they would (feel) connected,” he says.

Another type of isolation, which keys into criticism aimed at tech-heavy events like #ChorShow, is the digital divide, the idea that those without devices might be left behind in a world run on apps. Curran, Kellerman and company can’t cure that divide, but they can combat it courtesy of several iPads KyCAD is keeping on site to be used by any viewers who come sans phone.

Organizing this evening of art, dance and technology has been a complicated endeavor. Wrangling the plethora of moving pieces coming together to make these new works has challenged the Louisville Ballet and KyCAD creatively, logistically and technically. And that suits Kellerman.

“For anytime that it’s been a little overwhelming, it just makes me excited to do it again next year and hope that we have enough of an audience turn out,” he says. “But you know, like anything in life, you do it one time and you think about, ‘Oooh! Next time!’”

#ChorShow permeates 849 Gallery for three days only, Jan. 31 through Feb. 2. 849 Gallery is located at 849 S. Third St. These events will sell out and space is limited. Purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended. Advance tickets to Saturday evening’s show are sold out, but tickets will be available at the door. Tickets are $35 for the general public ($40 at the door) and $28.75 for subscribers.

With five performance spaces, extra art and up to six shows and a FaceTime event for each piece, it’s going to be delightfully complex. Below is a description of each piece. 

Jake Ford and Sanjay Saverimuttu work on their piece “Amid Exes and Whys.” | Courtesy of Louisville Ballet

AMID EXES AND WHYS by choreographer Sanjay Saverimuttu and visual artist Jake Ford. Performances at: 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., FaceTime at 3:40 p.m./7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m., FaceTime at 8:40 p.m. You can follow Sanjay at @thesanj or sanjaysaverimuttu.com. You can follow Jake at @jfordpuppylove or jakefordart.com.

PROXY by choreographer Xavier Pellin and visual artist Bobby Barbour. Performances at: 2 p.m., 3:20 p.m., 4:40 p.m., FaceTime at 2:30 p.m./7 p.m., 8:20 p.m., 9:40 p.m., FaceTime at 7:30 p.m. You can follow Xavier at @xavierpellin.

SUPPRESSION OF THE HEART by choreographer Aubrielle Whitis and visual artist Dominic Guarnaschelli. Performances at: 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., FaceTime at 2:10 p.m./7 p.m., 8 p.m., 9 p.m., FaceTime at 7:10 p.m. You can follow Aubrielle at @aubriellewhitis. You can follow Dominic at @guarnaschellistudio.

UNTITLED WORK by choreographer Tim Harbour and visual artist Matt Weir. Performances at: 2:30 p.m., 3:15 p.m., 4:15 p.m., FaceTime at 2:45 p.m./7:30 p.m., 8:15 p.m., 9:15 p.m., FaceTime at 7:45 p.m. You can follow Matt at @mpweir or mweirworks.com.

35 662618 632814 5 by choreographer Justin Michael Hogan and visual artist Josh Azzarella. Performances at: 2:30 p.m., 3:50 p.m., FaceTime at 3 p.m./7:30 p.m., 8:50 p.m., FaceTime at 8 p.m. You can follow Justin at @jmichaelhogan. You can follow Josh at @azzarellastudio or joshazzarella.com.

Eli Keel

Eli Keel

Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at amanwalksintoablog.wordpress.com.