Ballet auditions dropped as school dubs it 'white' and 'elitist' in move to make curriculum gender neutral

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Tom Evans

By Tom Evans

Published: 17/07/2022

- 10:07

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:50

A leading dance school has dropped ballet from its auditions, with staff saying it is rooted in "white European ideas"

The "elitist" art form has been ditched as a requirement for school-entry auditions at The Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD).

Ballet's "contentious nature" is the apparent reason, as teachers hit out at the discipline.

The school aims to be a “progressive institution” and has recently introduced a string of new policies relating to gender and race.

The move came after consultation with LGBT groups – and ballet was binned from the school's audition day after it was found to divide roles along gender lines.

Ballet has been dubbed 'white' and 'elitist'
Ballet has been dubbed 'white' and 'elitist'
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The Northern School of Contemporary Dance
The Northern School of Contemporary Dance
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The NSCD, based in Leeds, said: “We review content and have removed ballet from our audition day due to its potentially contentious nature.”

Francesca McCarthy, head of undergraduate studies at the school, told The Telegraph: “It is essentially an elitist form.

"Young people need to pay to take ballet classes as a general rule and for a vast number of potential students, they’ve not had access to ballet.

“It is a very specific form that is built around particular white European ideas and body shapes that are often alienating to young people who do not fit that aesthetic ideal.

“There are issues relating to body, money, language and movement vocabulary.”

Gender distinctions in terminology such as “ballerina” for women and “danseur” for men – and the everyday use of “men and women” or “girls and boys” in dance classes – were also criticised.

Ms McCarthy added: “Ballet has strongly gendered roots in terms of the movement vocabulary.

“Most of our ballet staff were trained at a time where divisions in the teaching of ballet were clear and men lifted women.

"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.”

The NSCD now encourages staff to use gender-neutral terms such as "dancers" and "people", Ms McCarthy explained.

Teachers are briefed to “try and embed the use of they in terms of pronouns in order to not make assumptions about a dancer’s identity”.

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