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Summit in Suffolk.

If it's "a flock of swans" and "a bevy of beauties," would the collective noun be "an assemble of ballet directors"? The largest gathering of company leaders convened in Britain last winter for a secretive weekend retreat in the depths of the English countryside. There they discussed the many challenges that face the art of classical ballet today: globalization, individuality, and the development of new choreographers and directors.

The symposium, the first of its kind to be held in the United Kingdom, took place January 10-12, in a secluded, stately mansion in Snape Maltings, Suffolk, in East Anglia. Twenty-five current and former directors attended: Boris Akimov (Bolshoi Ballet), John Alleyne (Ballet British Columbia), Frank Andersen (Royal Danish Ballet), Reid Anderson (Stuttgart Ballet), Dinna Bjorn (Finnish National Ballet), Ricardo Bustamante (Ballet de Santiago, Chile), Iracity Cardoso (Gulbenkian Ballet, Portugal), Didier Deschamps (Ballet de Lorraine, France), Wayne Eagling (Dutch National Ballet), Espen Giljane (Norwegian National Ballet), Kevin Irving (Goteburg Ballet, Sweden), Marc Jonkers (National Ballet of Portugal), James Kudelka (National Ballet of Canada), Ivan Liska (Bayerisehes Staatsballett, Germany), David McAllister (Australian Ballet), Kevin McKenzie (American Ballet Theatre), Mikko Nissinen (Boston Ballet), Madeleine Onne (Royal Swedish Ballet). The list also included a full flush of British directors--Mark Baldwin (Rambert Dance Company), David Bintley (Birmingham Royal Ballet), Christopher Bruce (former director, Rambert Dance Company), Monica Mason (The Royal Ballet), David Nixon (Northern Ballet Theatre), Ashley Page (Scottish Ballet) and Matz Skoog (English National Ballet).

Ensconced for three days, they mulled the future of classical ballet among themselves. Then the directors returned to London, where they held a press conference at Canada House in Trafalgar Square, summarizing their discussions and answering questions.

The weekend was hosted by DanceEast, the National Dance Agency for the East of England, whose director, Assis Carreiro, was also the retreat's organizer. "I believe ballet is at crisis point," she told DANCE MAGAZINE in an interview before the weekend summit. "Ballet can't be `precious' anymore. There are those who say that, compared to other art forms, the ballet rep is small and is stuck in its past glories. But if it is to flourish in this new century, its whole being needs to be challenged and stirred."

Obviously, from the beaming smiles at the press conference and the genuine camaraderie oozing from them all, the weekend was a huge success. Nearly every director stated at some point that the time they had spent together was invaluable. "It was a fabulous event," declared Nixon. "We talked and talked--which is strange when you think that we have spent twenty, thirty, even forty years onstage in an art form that never speaks! Now as directors we have to have language, and this weekend, we've found that we share common aspirations as well as challenges. Now we have each other, and while we are in different parts of the world, we know each other and now can share issues together."

The newly found network will mean that the directors will be able to work on the problem of globalization--though they discovered that next season will see a rather large number of Romeo and Juliets. As for authenticity, Akimov recognized that many versions of the classics are being performed and there is a need to safeguard them; he also called for a system that would preserve the works of such choreographers as Ashton, MacMillan, and Cranko--something on the lines of the Balanchine Trust.

Retaining identity was another pressing concern. It was stated that each director has an obligation to develop a company in a creative way, which is much more easily accomplished when there is a tradition in place.

Of how much practical use was the conference? Bjorn remarked that it really was too soon to make specific statements about what had been learned as there was so much to think about and take in. "However, we have confirmed that, while our job is a lonely one, it's very worthwhile work. Each one of us has different ideas for our different companies, but now, when we go back home again, we will be able to continue our dialogues via email. So we won't feel alone! It's been really wonderful to know and help each other."
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Title Annotation:symposium of ballet directors discuss challenges facing classical ballet
Author:Willis, Margaret
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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