Charlene Campbell Carey: SAIBC online interviewIncluded on the panel of jurors for the SAIBC online is Charlene Campbell Carey, Artistic Director of Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre and President of Ballet Beyond Borders. She speaks to SHEILA CHISHOLM:

2020 is not the first year a virus has turned continents upside down. Archaeologists discovered ancient Egypt mummies scarred by smallpox. Mass populations succumbed to the 1918 Spanish Flu and, since HIV/Aids emerged in 1981 an estimated 32 million people have lost their lives to this global epidemic.

Now here in July 2020, we sit with Covid-19 totally disrupting our lives as scientists scramble for vaccines.  However, while grim news daily spews out through media centres, resourcefulness has become “the parent of invention”. And this includes people opening up new, creative, avenues for learning, business and entertainment that we didn’t give a flickering thought to when 2019 gave way to 2020.

One such person is Dirk Badenhorst.  Tied into his determination to upgrade South African ballet/dance standards, Badenhorst founded the biennial South African International Ballet Competition (SAIBC) in 2008. It’s been a huge international success – but who’d have believed that the 2020 event would take place at Artscape, but online … a move regarded as a global first.

Charlene Campbell Carey: SAIBC online interview

Introducing Charlene Campbell Carey

Incredibly this medium has attracted 155 competitors. The largest number since SAIBC’s inception, they represent 29 countries ranging from Mexico, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Malaysia, Belgium, Switzerland as well as South Africa. Once again Badenhorst has gathered an illustrious panel of Jurors which includes Charlene Campbell Carey, Artistic Director of Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre and President of Ballet Beyond Borders (pictured right).

Apart from her Juror responsibilities, Ms Carey is part of a series of free, daily, panel discussions attended by members of the Jury as well as some of the world’s most eminent ballet/dance company directors, schools and heads of outreach and development projects across Africa.

This unique platform forms an open global channel discussion touching on (un)employment opportunities, ballet as therapy, training, advances in choreography, and gender issues. Insight on how an individual country approaches these challenges should, ultimately, lead to improved understanding.

As Ms Carey’s Ballet Beyond  Borders (BBB) gave a hint of the unusual, I thought to bring dance lovers a short interview with Ms Carey about her own career and BBB. In her charming accent she talked about the strong influence of her parents on her career choices. Both professional theatre performers  – her mother a  ballerina, her father a filmmaker, actor, writer and anchorman –  unsurprisingly young Charlene trained in all art disciplines.

“Focus goes beyond technique”

“I am eternally grateful to my parents for their support, especially for ingraining me with a deep-seated hunger for all art and culture,” she says. This drive gained Carey a scholarship to the American Ballet Theatre school where she also acted as assistant to director Patricia Wilde – Balanchine’s former muse.

“Patricia encouraged me to find my own destiny so after an uninterrupted career, principally in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles as dancer, actress, teacher, coach and choreographer with different ballet and opera companies, television, film, radio, city music hall, in 1998 I stepped into the unknown when I moved to Montana. There I built my pre-professional school and professional company,” she says.

“Focus at my school – Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre – goes beyond technique as the role in global communication is vital towards making us human. Ballet Beyond Borders (BBB) embraces dancers/teachers from all over the world,” Carey explains.

Charlene Campbell Carey: SAIBC online interview

South African influence

She rejoices in what Durban-born Andile Ndlovo (pictured left) has brought to BBB. “Not only did Andile perform and choreograph beautiful classical and contemporary works, he also taught us Zulu dances. He’s collaborated with Salish Kootenal and Blackfeet nations and DHOL drummer musicians from Pakistan.”

Carey continues: “Presently our projects centre around Covid-19.” Asked to explain how she translates an invisible virus into ballet, Carey replied: “Most people fear what is unknown and unseen so we draw upon visual artists, and scientists, to unwrap fears to put life back into perspective. As an example, if someone choreographs an opus casting different featured dancers from different cultures and backgrounds together, overnight  prejudice virtually vanishes – nothing but the production becomes important.”

“Transgender dancers also find a home at BBB as here they too can show, in dance, their experiences,” says Carey. “Presently our deep pool of stories bring to life how locally, nationally and internationally Covid -19 has affected us all.”

How and where: The Ballet Diplomacy conversation with Charlene Campbell Carey, Sophie Rebecca, Roman Baca and former Ambassador Maxwell Baucus takes place on Thursday 16 July at 3pm (SA time) via the SAIBC Facebook page

Read more: SAIBC online

More info: The week-long SAIBC online runs 13 to 18 July 2020. The daily offering starts at 2pm SA time with a ballet class, followed by a panel discussion and the competition rounds, and there will be a closing gala on the final evening followed by the awarding of prizes.

All panel discussions are free and streamed live to the SAIBC Facebook page. Everything else can be accessed through the ArtOfLife app, now available on the Google Play Store and via the Bluestacks app for iOS users. The ArtOfLife app is available for free download on the Google Play Store via iOS users should click this link to watch: