Leeds’ top dance school drops BALLET auditions, calling it ‘elitist white art form’


A major British dance school dropped ballet from its auditions because the dance style centers on “white European ideas”, staff said.

The Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) examined dance style as part of a larger plan to “decolonize the curriculum” and consider the impact of race and gender on dance.

The Leeds-based school will no longer require ballet as part of its auditions, due to the cost of learning the dance style, its idealization of particular body shapes and gender roles, staff explained.

Head of undergraduate studies at the conservatory, Francesca McCarthy, has called ballet an “elitist art form”.

Traditional ballet terminology uses “ballerina” for women and “dancer” for men, with dancers focusing on pointe work and lifts and leaps for men.

Ms McCarthy added that dance terminology has “strongly gendered roots”, with most trained teachers at one time focusing on making a clear distinction between female and male dancers.

“There has been a shift towards ladies and gents over time, but it remains problematic in terms of including non-binary and trans dancers,” she added.

Ballet will still be taught at the school, which charges £9,250 a year for UK students and £17,500 a year for international dancers.

The Northern School of Contemporary Dance (pictured) dropped the ballet from its auditions because the dance style centers on ‘white European ideas’.

Traditional ballet terminology uses

Traditional ballet terminology uses “ballerina” for women and “dancer” for men, with dancers focusing on pointe work and lifts and leaps for men. Pictured Darcey Bussel performs at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games

However, courses and teaching methods have been modified to be more “inclusive”.

“There are issues with the body, the money, the language and the vocabulary of the movement,” Ms McCarthy said. The telegraph.

She said the costs of classes impact students who cannot afford to learn dance, adding that ballet “is built around particular white European ideas and body shapes”, which could put off dancers who do not correspond to this “aesthetic ideal”.

The NSCD encourages staff to use gender-neutral words, such as

The NSCD encourages staff to use gender-neutral words, such as “dancers, people, folk, everyone, everyone”. Pictured, Francesca Hayward and Cesar Corrales perform a Swan Lake diversion amid the pandemic

Head of undergraduate studies at the conservatory, Francesca McCarthy, called the ballet a

Head of undergraduate studies at the conservatory, Francesca McCarthy, called the ballet an ‘elitist form’

The head of undergraduate studies, who credits his “wonderful wife” and two adopted sons with raising awareness of the “challenges faced by young people today”, added that the NSCD encourages staff to use non-sexist words, such as ‘dancers/the people/the people/everyone/everybody’.

Staff are also encouraged to use “they” instead of him and her, so as not to “make assumptions” about students’ identities.

It comes as the school strives to ‘decolonise’ its teaching and work with LGBT+ societies on the issue.

The NSCD said it was reviewing its content and removed the dance from audition days “due to its potentially controversial nature”.

In 2019, conservatory staff began learning more about “unconscious bias” in dance, with the aim of “decolonizing the curriculum”.

This was prioritized again after the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

That year, students started an LGBTQ+ group, which gave advice on “pronouns and the implications of gendered movement vocabularies like in ballet lessons.”

The school is also a member of the Conservatory of Dance and Drama, which has launched plans to do away with leotards and tight dancewear to help transgender people feel more comfortable.

The Leeds-based school will no longer require ballet as part of its auditions, due to the cost of learning the dance style, its idealization of particular body shapes and gender roles, staff explained. File Picture

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