Today ought to be spent mostly dancing as April 29th is International Dance Day!
Every year on this day, dance lovers urge everyone across the globe to celebrate the universality of the art form. We unite in our efforts to surpass all political, cultural and ethnic barriers and bring people together with a common language: dance.
Through my various pursuits (as a dance writer, dance education student and ballet teacher), I am in the fascinating position of being able to regularly observe, and speak with, people throughout the dance world.
These include professional dancers who grace stages all over the world with their presence; students who are taking their first tentative steps in beginners’ ballet classes; and exceptionally talented young people who are determined to make dancing their future.
I cross paths with dance teachers who endeavour to pass the joy of dancing on to the next generation; as well as academics who devote their time to formally studying all aspects of dance and dance education to give the subject prestige and improve teaching and learning.
Furthermore, I connect with press officers and marketing executives entrusted with encouraging audiences to attend performances, as well as artists and photographers who possess a passion for honouring all things dance. And, of course, as a writer I communicate with anyone who happens to engage with my words – hopefully urging readers to look a little closer at productions and reflect upon their own experiences of dance.
International Dance Day always seems an appropriate time to reflect on the ways I am united with people through a simple shared love of dance. I have forged creative collaborations with passionate individuals I may never have otherwise encountered, including the talented Barcelona-based Ballet Papier creator Berenice.
Closer to home, I continue to meet diverse people of all ages in dance classes (whether I am teaching or participating) and at events and productions I attend who inspire and motivate me to discover new ways of thinking about, and describing, dance technique and performance. Being more involved in teaching in particular is beginning to offer me opportunities to share others’ enjoyment when they dance, further their self-belief and celebrate their triumphs – from the smallest successes to the most fabulous feats.
Ballet Papier’s slogan of the moment “meet me at the barre” certainly lends itself well to explaining my connection to the young dancer featured in the stunning pictures which accompany this post for International Dance Day. As I am an avid advanced ballet student (who has always had a keen interest in learning and can never pass on an opportunity to join in a class) I met the talented Isabel Filby at the barre. Having danced alongside her, while watching her work hard, progress and develop, I am pleased to share the news that Izzy will start at Central School of Ballet in September 2016. An interview beckons!
International Dance Day was introduced in 1982 by the International Dance Committee (known by its French acronym CID). The date commemorates the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre (1227 – 1810), the creator of modern ballet. Ultimately, the event aims to lobby governments worldwide to ensure dance has a significant place in education.
Each year, an official International Dance Day message from an outstanding choreographer or dancer is circulated throughout the world. This year, Samoan choreographer, stage director, designer and artist Lemi Ponifasio has been selected. You can read the message here. His message strikes a chord with me as he sees dance as a very human thing to do. Indeed, we all have bodies which we are able to move (albeit to varying extents) and, subsequently, we can all relate to others who move.
It is exceptionally easy to fall into the trap of wanting everything we do to be perfect. Classically-trained dancers strive for an unattainable perfection in every movement they execute yet the beauty is found in the trying and the flow – dance is not a series of static positions. Despite my own tendency to self-critique, I feel strongly that dance should be recognised as an inclusive art and that everyone can find something in dance which makes their heart soar. It could be the galvanizing effect of participating in a rigorous dance class, the adrenaline rush of performing or the experience of being just one of many spectators sat in an auditorium – removed from real life and time suspended as everyone focuses on the motion unfolding on the stage.
You don’t have to like every piece of dance you see or every dance class you attend, but broadening your horizons and being open to collaborating and sharing knowledge will open your eyes to no end of possibilities. Spending many evenings at the (ballet) barre and most days discovering dance further afield (even just when studying on my laptop) continues to keep dance interesting for me. So whether you are a student, a teacher, a photographer, an artist, a writer, or identify as just about anything else – celebrate what dance means to you, today and always!
Georgina Butler is a journalist, a dance writer and a dance teacher who specialises in teaching classical ballet. She previews and reviews productions, writes features and interviews people from the world of dance.