Sunday, 10 January 2021

Ballet Rising

Standard YouTube Licence

One of my favourite principals at the Dutch National Ballet was Casey Herd.  He impressed me in Dawson's Empire Noir. Brandsen's Mata Hari and many other works. He continues to impress me now with his latest enterprise, Ballet Rising.

Ballet Rising is the standard-bearer of a movement with the following vision:
"The stars of the ballet world used to be born and trained in Europe and North America or sometimes Japan, Cuba and Argentina. Today the talent pool has grown. More major dancers are coming out of China, Mexico, Brazil, South Korea and elsewhere. Dancers have a wider range of ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds than ever before. Globalization is expanding the ballet world, fueling international exposure to and passion for ballet—and transforming the art form. Ballet Rising takes an in-depth look at the communities reshaping ballet and brings their stories to global audiences. Although ballet has always spoken to people on a profound level, imagine how engagement would grow if people all over the world felt like ballet represented them. What if ballet were accessible to dancers everywhere? Ballet Rising is joining the movement to make ballet a truly global art form that welcomes all to take part."

Now if those sentiments sound familiar you are quite right. Though my background and experience have been from the other side of the footlights, I have shared Herd's vision ever since I helped to establish a dance club at my university over 50 years ago. It has been one of the focuses of Terpsichore  and it is one of the reasons why I set up Powerhouse Ballet and The Stage Door,

Some idea of the breadth of Herd's vision can be gleaned from its recent articles:

Now all of those countries have a long and rich tradition of dance. Many in those countries regard ballet which developed in the imperial and royal courts of the former colonial powers with understandable suspicion.  Herd acknowledges that  possibility and accommodates it:
"We want to highlight communities where there is already an interest in ballet. We are careful to visit places where the drive to build ballet communities has originated within the local communities themselves. We pay close attention to the sensitive nature of cultural encounters, and we strive to build positive relationships with local arts organizations so that the global ballet community grows in harmony with local customs. While we encourage the exposure of ballet to people in all walks of life, we hope that classical ballet expands only in places where a community expresses its own interest."

In fact, as the South African dancer, Dada Masilo has shown, ballet can be the medium through which African dance tradition can be communicated to audiences outside that continent (see A Brace of Giselles 13 Oct 2019).

For many years the best and the brightest students from Africa, Asia and other countries have won scholarships to Europe and North America where they have been hired by the world's leading companies.  That's fine for the dancers as it provides them with an opportunity to perform but not so good for audiences and other students in their countries of origin,  That is understood by Ballet Rising and it is for that reason that Herd and others encourage the development of schools and companies in those countries.

This will not be the last time I shall mention Ballet Rising and if there is any way that I can further its objectives I shall certainly do so.

1 comment:

  1. I saw Dado Masilo's Giselle and met her in the DancExchange. A wonderful performer and a truly inspirational re-presentation of a classic.