Lee Hall’s smash hit film and musical, Billy Elliot, saw a working-class lad take up ballet in the middle of the 1980s miners’ strike. It was ballet as we’d seldom seen it before and was seen as a breath of fresh air for an art form described as ‘unattractively elitist’. But did ‘Billy’ really put the boot into ballet as a posh person’s pastime, and has ballet really shaken off its elitist tag – if indeed it should?
Dance in the UK seems to be in rude health. The 2006 Dance Manifesto proudly heralds dance as ‘the fastest growing art form, with over 13 percent of the population now attending dance performances and over 4.8 million people participating in community dance in England’. Ten million people watched the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. Yet despite efforts by the likes of the Ballet Boyz and Matthew Bourne to make ballet accessible and exciting to a diverse and growing dance audience, ballet is still seen as elitist, and was described by Germaine Greer as a ‘cultural cancer’. But others argue that ballet should stop apologising for championing excellence. Andrew O’Hagan asks, ‘should it continue to bend backwards in an effort to gain media attention and meet the current craving for banality?’ Must the ‘barre’ of aspiration and excellence be lowered to make sure ballet comes alive for everyone?
artistic director, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company
former dancer; critic, Sunday Express; co-founder, National Dance Awards
ballet dancer, Les Ballets Grandiva and Fort Worth Ballet
|Dr Shirley Dent|
communications specialist (currently working with the British Veterinary Association media team); editor, tlfw.co.uk; author, Radical Blake
|Dr Shirley Dent communications specialist (currently working with the British Veterinary Association media team); editor, tlfw.co.uk; author, Radical Blake|
|Hannah Lake freelance arts consultant, coordinator and educator|
|recommended by spiked|