By all accounts, we are now a nation of non-stop groovers. The Dance Manifesto, launched in 2006, tells us that dance is the fastest growing art form, with millions of people both attending performances and taking part. ‘Community dance’ is the grassroots phenomenon du jour, radically changing the idea that dance as an art form is only about men-in-tights and women-in-tutus. And the most cutting-edge community dance is Street Dance – from hip-hop to krumping – which has been identified by the Department of Children, Schools and Families as an exciting new art form in need of more recognition and public funding. It seems ballet is losing its privileged status, but should is it a case of out with the old and in with the new, or is there something to be said for the elitism of ballet?
In 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King, the legendary dancer and choreographer Arthur Mitchell returned to New York to set up the Dance Theatre of Harlem to ‘disprove the myth that Negroes can’t do classical ballet’ – a striking contrast to the attitude shown by those now championing community dance. Can something like Street Dance compete with the choreographic traditions and disciplines that have allowed classical ballet choreographers from Balanchine to Wheeldon to continue to astound audiences with their work? Is the opposition between ballet and new dance forms a false one, now that choreographers like Russell Maliphant are incorporating capoeira into classical ballet technique? What role does ballet have in the modern world of dance?
designer of many dance shows from the Royal Ballet and La Scala Milan to Cher's Vegas show including West End Musicals.
former dancer; critic, Sunday Express; co-founder, National Dance Awards
ballet dancer, Les Ballets Grandiva and Fort Worth Ballet
co-director, NY Salon; co-founder, London's Truman Brewery
MBE Director, London Contemporary Dance School
dance editor, Time Out; freelance journalist writing on dance, music and education
artistic director and founder, Impact Dance, a Hip-Hop theatre company, street dance organisation and educational facilitator; Free-Lance Dance Artist.
|Dr Shirley Dent
head of communications, PhonepayPlus; co-author, Radical Blake
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