An enlightening week – Assemblée Internationale 2023
From April 30 to May 6, Artistic Director & CEO Christopher Powney, Chief Operating Officer Pippa Adamson and 2nd Year Ballet Teacher Paul Lewis travelled with four of our 2nd and Pre-professional Year students, Caspar, Emile, Katie and Sasha, to Toronto for Assemblée Internationale 2023.
Canada’s National Ballet School established the global event in 2009, bringing together the international ballet community. This year, the event focussed on anti-Black racism. The organisers stated:
Assemblée Internationale 2023 (AI23) is an opportunity for leaders of the global ballet training community to come together to examine our accountability in advancing equity, create the change needed in our beloved art form and lead by example for society at large.
37 schools from around the world took part in the event and both students and staff enjoyed meeting with such a diverse range of people. All schools were involved in two main performances at the end of the week, and several other smaller pieces were danced as well. These works were taught over Zoom to students, and it was rewarding to see them perform live with other young dancers.
Meeting incredible dancers and kind people from across the world was a privilege. There were lots of diverse lessons, including ballet, contemporary, jazz, and traditional African. – Emile
Not only did I get to experience classes with so many new, wonderful teachers and choreographers, but I also got to meet some amazing people from all over the world. This will be an experience I won’t forget, having made new friends, and hopefully, our discussions on these major topics will enforce change to be seen. – Katie
Between rehearsing for performances, our students took part in intergenerational workshops and discussions. These sessions mixed together staff and students from the participating schools, allowing everyone to meet new people and learn from each other
I was able to learn so much in such a short amount of time. The theme of this year’s event was based upon anti-Black racism, which incorporated group learning sessions with teachers and students educating us to progress the dance world, along with modern society. – Emile
I’m very grateful to have been a part of this experience, to have learned and understood more about the importance of anti-Black racism in dance and other important factors that need changing in the dance society. – Katie
Student Think Tank
Pre-professional student Caspar Lench was involved in the Student Think Tank group. Working with seven other students from international ballet schools, he has taken part in the lead-up to the event for several months so it was exciting for him to be able to meet other group members in person. The Student Think Tank spoke about what they have learned from the event:
Along the way, we’ve learned a few things: that there is power and value in using our voices as students and as dancers. That with active listening comes deep learning. That no matter our age, we each can make a difference in the world for the greater good. That it is so important to be in a community to move ballet forward. That we all bring different perspectives and excel in different areas of this craft, and together, we can do more and go further. That we must establish a sense of community, comradery, and safety so that we can get into the tough questions and conversations.
Thoughts from our staff
Our Artistic Director & CEO, Christopher Powney spoke about the importance of diversity within ballet:
Equity in ballet is essential. Young people who have innate talent, artistry, and musicality, whatever their background or circumstance, should have access to high-quality training and parity of experience. Greater diversity on our stages will strengthen and enrich our art form, sustain its importance in today’s world, and ensure everyone can enjoy, appreciate and value dance.
Our Chief Operating Officer, Pippa Adamson talked about the event:
It was an enlightening week. I found it interesting to hear about the different contexts of anti-Black racism from around the world and how we are all at different points on a journey. The discussions we had were not always comfortable; at times they were revealing and difficult. It’s given us all a lot to think – how small changes can make a big difference.
Ballet Teacher Paul Lewis added:
Our students were amazing – they had a lot to contribute and it was brilliant to hear from the younger generation.