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Northern Ballet and American Ballet Theatre première dance films inspired by students’ choreography from West Yorkshire and New York City

3 Aug 2020


Image credit: Minju Kang and Lorenzo Trossello in ROOTS

Northern Ballet has worked with American Ballet Theatre to create four new dance films, featuring professional dancers performing choreography by students from West Yorkshire and New York City. Produced as part of the Burberry Foundation’s Burberry Inspire programme, which pairs schools with arts organisations in Yorkshire and New York, the films can be watched at northernballet.com/digitaldance

Filmed on location including recognisable landmarks such as The Hepworth WakefieldSalts Mill and Times Square, the final films were overseen by Northern Ballet’s Artistic Director of Digital and Choreographer in Residence Kenneth Tindall. Performed by professional dancers from Northern Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, students from Castleford and Queens inspired the choreography for the films in a first for both ballet companies.

Kenneth Tindall said: “The collaboration between Northern Ballet, Burberry Inspire and American Ballet Theatre is a wonderful concept that is close to my heart. It was a project like this that sparked the imagination of a young working-class kid, in an inner-city school in London who otherwise would never have discovered the world of ballet. It’s an honour to have come full circle and be in the position I am in now, utilising my skills and creativity to try and engage and inspire the next generation as I was inspired all those years ago.”

Leanne Kirkham, Director of Learning at Northern Ballet said: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, the unprecedented impact on every aspect of our lives has highlighted the importance of creativity as we’ve adjusted at home, at work and at play. With great challenge comes great opportunity and we wanted to share this ethos with young people by offering them a chance to work with professional dancers like never before. Pupils in Yorkshire and New York City have risen to the challenge and created some beautifully inspiring choreography which our dancers have loved bringing to life.”

The films mark the first collaboration between Northern Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, working together virtually to bring the students’ ideas to life.

Dennis Walters, Associate Director of Education and Training at American Ballet Theatre said: “We’re pleased to build upon the success of the Burberry Inspire program and now bring virtual learning in dance and design to a wide audience of middle school students in NYC and beyond. The opportunity to collaborate, share ideas and develop curriculum with the talented artists and educators of Northern Ballet has been a special experience for the artists of American Ballet Theatre and the students participating in Burberry Inspire. We look forward to our continued partnership and the opportunity to share student stories and experiences through dance-making from both sides of the Atlantic.”

The Burberry Foundation first launched Burberry Inspire in 2018 in Yorkshire, aiming to give young people a deep and varied experience of arts and culture whilst studying the impact of this on their development. During the first year of the programme, more than 4,000 young people benefitted from their experience of the creative arts, ranging from dance and theatre to filmmaking and sculpture with four Yorkshire arts organisations: Northern Ballet; The Hepworth Wakefield; Leeds Playhouse; and Leeds Young Film.

Earlier this year, the Burberry Foundation expanded the programme internationally for the first time, launching in New York City with American Ballet Theatre, Reel Works and Studio in a School. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations from the Yorkshire and New York programmes came together to find new ways to inspire and support students in the midst of the pandemic virtually, with support from the Creative Arts Team (CAT) at CUNY and The Ideas Foundation.

Pam Batty, Secretary to The Burberry Foundation and VP of Corporate Responsibility at Burberry said: “The Burberry Foundation is dedicated to using the power of creativity to drive positive change, which is why we’re thrilled to have expanded Burberry Inspire internationally and help bring eminent arts organisations from across countries together. Supporting the arts and engaging students in creativity is more prevalent than ever, and we’re grateful to all the teams who have worked tirelessly to continue to provide resources and cultivate a true sense of community and connection.”