Anti-Fascist Ballet School

The invitation was to write a manifesto for the Anti-Fascist Ballet School— which this is not.

What can be said is that the idea for the Anti-Fascist Ballet School was born out of the horror of a late-night online newspaper reading in 2015. The fear evoked, once again, feeling so small in the face of global politics.
A decision was made to name it and to invite others to think it through.
It’s a school in the making, in the doing.

At its core, it is an invitation to move together, to think together, to practice politics together, to stay close to form, but to let go off old ways of thinking. Over centuries the aesthetics of ballet have changed drastically, but its essence is to be a system of bending and stretching, to build towards turning and jumping.

The tone of the body people often assume of ballet is a twentieth-century construction. It’s not static. We practice ballet for the joy of it, and the sense of expansion and radiance the form was built on. We use somatic exercises and partner work to find this feeling from the inside out, rather than applying an external shape on our bodies.

The basic exercises remain: we plié and cambré, but since society also has changed in the last hundreds of years, why not to approach to the body while staying in form? The basic interest has to do with ways of being—towards one and the others. How to become more conscious of what we are re-inscribing to and reproducing in the world? To think about what we have been taught that belongs in the trash, rather than unconsciously upholding.

When people ask: Why practice Anti-Fascist Ballet?

The first answer is: Why not? Why not think through and make more practices anti-fascist?
Recently the school used this blurb when invited to present in Bordeaux:

“The Anti-Fascist Ballet School is a project lead by Elizabeth Ward & Magdalena Chowaniec. An activist pop-up school appears where it is needed—building connections, bridges, but also acts as a calming element. During these times when nationalism and neo-fascism are rising again, the school is a place of physical discourse. It is a practicing of body politics and grace where we look for solutions together.”

The programme presenting us couldn’t find a space willing to host us with the name. Everywhere there was the fear of retaliation. In the end, we re- named the school “Ballet Somatique”—which could sound like a cop-out but in the doing, practising together held a strong poetic resistance to it.

This is not a manifesto for the Anti Fascist Ballet School because the school is still in the making, in the thinking, but Ballet Somatique in Bordeaux was a returning.

Ten years back in Brooklyn, the Daughters of the Unchaperoned Daugh- ter performed in basements, backyards and rooftops. Something of the Daughters continues in the Anti Fascist Ballet School, and this was their manifesto:

We are the Daughters of the Unchaperoned Daughter
La Fille Mal Gardee—oldest ballet still in repertory
The Ballet of Straw or
There is only One Step between Bad and Good

1789 Bordeaux, France
Lisette had a lover
Her Mother chose another
She was forced to marry
locked in the house
until the marriage could be consummated
but she tricked her mother
and slipped into the barn with her lover
Discovered with straw in her hair and her dress rumpled
Marriage annulled and she chose her own fate
Oldest ballet still in repertory is also story of a woman who made
her own choices
She was real,
not dead or a fairy or a vision
but a country girl, alive, sexual
autonomous.

2008—In the Western Tradition of Art Dance
We the Daughters of the Unchaperoned Daughter claim lineage from Lisette

We believe in the liberating potential of movement
We believe that the way to deal with the darkness of the world is through movement.

In a culture addicted to the sedentary, the act of dancing, the act of moving, allows us to
experience freedom briefly.

There is only one step between Bad and Good
There is only one step between Bad and Good
There is only one step between Bad and Good

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