Why the English National Ballet’s new season is the most feminist ballet yet

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Elena Chabo
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English National Ballet dancers performing

It’s a celebration of women in dance

The English National Ballet’s new season is en pointe when it comes to amplifying female voices.

Dance may seem like an industry dominated by women, but female choreographers are still a minority. This April, the English National Ballet has leapt on the issue, presenting She Persisted, a programme celebrating women in all aspects of dance.

“The classical ballet world needs more women’s perceptions on female characters in narrative dance,” says choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, whose work Broken Wings, based on the life of Frida Kahlo, is one of three that make up She Persisted

“A woman wouldn’t depict a female character as frail, naive and sweet – as some male choreographers might think we are. A female choreographer would want to show the nuances and intricacies of female behaviour.”

Broken Wings joins Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre Du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) and the premiere of Nora, a new work by company member Stina Quagebeur, based on Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House. The triple bill promises three very different styles of ballet and aims to celebrate women’s resilience, talent and persistence.

“I don’t think it’s right to put women on a pedestal. The challenge of feminism in the arts is to show women as they are,” says Quagebeur. “That’s why I was drawn to Nora [in A Doll’s House] – she’s real. She is not easily cast as victim, villain or hero – she’s all of these and none of them.”

Growing attention is being paid to the female gaze, how different the narrative of art is through the eyes of women. The under-representation of women at the helm of creative projects has limited stories for too long.

“There are many female choreographers in the world presenting work but they are not often given a prestigious platform like Sadler’s Wells,” says Lopez Ochoa. It’s so important that these spaces are carved out for women, as Quagebeur explains: “It’s not tokenistic. It’s about celebrating some of the amazing work out there by women.”

She Persisted is on 4-13 April at Sadler’s Wells, London. Buy tickets to She Persisted from £12 here.

Image: Laurent Liotardo, English National Ballet