Pushing the borders of ballet (copy)

Solieh Samudio and Melissa Gaona, dancers with the National Ballet of Panama, perform during the 2018 Ballet Beyond Borders competition.

The fourth Ballet Beyond Borders dance competition and conference will take place next week with around 200 dancers, many more foreign representatives and a chance to share culture and art with people from nearly 20 countries including Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Cuba and Israel.

“It’s a very diverse group,” President Charlene Campbell Carey said. “The whole Ballet Beyond Borders concept is a very fluid, wonderful creature — like a good monster that I’ve created.”

The weeklong event includes educational school visits from visiting dancers, a dance competition, public performances and a diplomacy conference covering human trafficking, the arts in China and transgender issues in international art.

The first day features a Silk Road-themed performance at the MASC Studio, lead by visiting dancers from China, who will combine folk and modern dance.

Four days later, Ballet Beyond Borders closes with two of its biggest events, the diplomacy conference and gala, which will both feature performances from world-famous dancers and troupes.

Many of this year’s highlights come from connections the Rocky Mountain Ballet has made in the past few months, Carey said, like the Tatar contingent visiting from Russia.

Montana dancers visited Tatarstan in the fall as part of a U.S. State Department-sponsored trip.

The troupe was supposed to find shared values with the Tatars, an ethnic group with their own culture and language in eastern Russia.

“That can be daunting,” Carey said. But the Tatars quickly found common ground with Salish dancers who made the trip, over their work preserving a distinct culture in a larger country.

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By the end of their visit, dancers from both groups had choreographed a collaborative hip-hop performance, Carey said.

Native American dancers Clarissa Charlie and Kya Rae Dede Rose will also contribute to a panel discussion on human trafficking, led by dancer Jordan Marinov, a founder of the “Hidden Tears Project,” which examines human trafficking’s impact across the country.

That panel is one of three main events at the diplomacy conference, along with a performance and discussion of the arts in China and a performance/discussion from transgender dancer Sophie Rebecca, who was the first transgender person to graduate from the Royal Academy of Dance in London.

“It’s about diversity and how gender is irrelevant, essentially, in the dance world,” Carey said.

Proving just how far-reaching Ballet Beyond Borders has become, this year also features the premiere of the Pakistani film “Revenge of the Worthless,” presented by its producer/director, the Pakistan Director General of the Arts Jamal Shah.

It will be the first time the movie is shown in the United States, according to Carey.

“It’s a big film. It looks a little bit like a James Bond film,” she said. “That would be a highlight for me.”

But the centerpiece is still the three-day competition, where dancers enter in categories like hip-hop, folk and, of course, ballet. They perform in front of a VIP jury and the public, which is unique to Ballet Beyond Borders.

“It adds this very welcoming degree that’s very unusual,” Carey said. “It’s what makes this a unique opportunity for dancers.”

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