A top dancing school in Britain has done away with ballet because it considers the dance an “elitist white art form” that discriminates against other groups of people. The decision from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance has shocked the dance world as the organization looks to “decolonize the curriculum” of their school by getting rid of the popular dance style that thousands of people practice every year.
Staff at the school in Leeds confirmed that the school would no longer offer ballet in its auditions because of the cost of learning the dance style and its idealization of an unhealthy female body shape as well as its gender-divided roles.
Francesca McCarthy, head of the undergraduate studies at the conservatory, called ballet an “elitist art form.” She added that ballet has “strongly gendered roots” that became “problematic in relation to the inclusion of non-binary and trans dancers.”
Although ballet will no longer be part of the audition process, the dance form will still be taught at the school. The admission cost for students entering the coveted dance school costs as much as $11,000 per year for British students and $20,400 for international students who want to perfect their ability to dance.
While the school will continue to teach ballet to its talented students, they are taking a new approach. Teachers are working to make ballet more “inclusive” for all dancers who enter the academy.
“There are issues relating to body, money, language, and movement vocabulary,” McCarthy (photographed above) told The Telegraph.
Ballet classes are expensive for students. They can be cost-prohibitive for students who struggle with varying degrees of poverty. And all too often, ballet classes offer more opportunities to white students than comparable students of color.
Northern School of Contemporary Dance also hopes to make its ballet lessons more gender inclusive.
“There was a shift to ladies and gentleman over time, but this is still problematic in relation to the inclusion of non-binary and trans dancers,” McCarthy added.
McCarthy is a family woman herself. She has a “wonderful wife” and two adopted sons. She credits her lesbian partner for helping her become more aware of the “challenges experienced by young people today,” adding that the Leeds dance school urges teachers and administrators to use gender-inclusive terms like “dancers/people/folk/everyone/everybody.”
The changes come as the ballet world is grappling with how to make the centuries-old dance form more inclusive. New York City’s American Ballet Theater announced last year that it would be hiring its first “black female principal dancer” in the company’s history.
The decision to stop holding auditions for ballet at the Leeds-based school has been met with mixed reactions on social media. Some people are supportive of the move, while others feel that it is “elitist” and “divisive.”
What do you think about the decision to cancel ballet classes at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance? Is it a step in the right direction, or is it elitist and exclusionary? Let us know in the comments below.
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