Harmony in Diversity Creates a New Positive Energy. This is the mantra of Patrick Parson, Founder & Artistic Director of Toronto-based, Ballet Creole.
For the past twenty one years, Ballet Creole has continued to break new ground in the Canadian dance scene, while providing a platform for Black & multi-ethnic artists to train and perform professionally. Comprised of both a School of Performing Arts and a professional touring Company of dancers and drummers, Parson’s Ballet Creole is focused on the process of “creolization.”
“I’m from a mixed background from a cosmopolitan island where we have integration of different cultures,” says Parson, a Trinidad & Tobago native. “When you really look at creole in the Caribbean, it’s the philosophy of languages coming together: French, English, Spanish, native Indian. My work is a creolization of forms: the different languages of dance that come together to unite.”
Indeed Parson’s choreographies meld the free-flow aesthetics of Afro-Caribbean rhythms with the technical vocabulary of contemporary dance and classical ballet. His work has been hailed by critics time and time again, noted for its “supreme athleticism” and “strong” and “sophisticated” choreography.
But as Parson recalls, the dance scene in Canada was not always this warm. “When I first arrived to Toronto in the late 80’s there weren’t any opportunities at all in the professional dance world for Black dancers like myself. If I wanted to dance professionally in my own cultural vernacular I’d have to create my own opportunities…So that’s what I did.”
In 1990, a young, determined and head-strong Parson began to build his dance company. Soon after he would open his school of performing arts, a training ground for his company dancers and an opportunity to nurture new generations of culturally diverse, aspiring dance professionals.
The Ballet Creole Studios is nestled on a quiet street in Little Portugal. It provides a home to the Ballet Creole dance company and Parson’s two-year Professional Training Program, a rigorous and intensive curriculum combining dance training in Dunham, Horton, Ballet, Modern dance, Contemporary Afro-Caribbean and Cuban techniques. Dancers come from all corners of the globe to take part in this unique program.
“I came to Ballet Creole from Mozambique on a scholarship,” says Salé Almirante. “I had no technical dance training, just a burning passion to dance and to learn. I didn’t even know how to point my feet. But Patrick believed in me.” Almirante, who has performed with the company on occasion, has just returned from a dance contract in Winnipeg with Nafro Dance. He currently teaches African dance in Toronto.
Patrick Parson’s Ballet Creole has come a long way since 1990. When you enter his studio, you can’t help but feel that you’ve entered a special place, a hidden gem, a quintessentially Canadian enclave. Here different cultures come together in creative expression. Everything is alive. The energy is palpable. Everyone is connected through the language of dance.
About Ballet Creole: Ballet Creole comprises a professional dance company, which tours locally & internationally and a School of Performing Arts, which offers a full-time Professional Training Program and Recreational Program for adults and children.
For more information visit: www.balletcreole.org