Internationally-renowned choreographer Iván Pérez has named his latest production with the Paris Opera Ballet after a seminal work by a De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) historian.
Image from Opéra National de Paris
Ramsay Burt, Professor of Dance History at DMU, wrote his book The Male Dancer in 1995 and it immediately won plaudits for talking openly about dance, gender and male homosexuality.
Professor Burt has been approached many times since by male dancers, particularly when he is overseas, saying how much the book has meant to them. He is also in great demand as a guest speaker at lectures and dance festivals.
But he admits to still being astonished after receiving an email from Spanish choreographer Pérez saying how the book had inspired him as a young gay artist – and that he was naming his latest work at the Opéra National de Paris The Male Dancer.
Together with the Mariinsky Ballet, Moscow Bolshoi Ballet and the London Royal Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet is regarded as one of the four most preeminent ballet companies in the world.
Professor Ramsay Burt
Professor Burt said: “I’m kind of gobsmacked. I had no idea that such a renowned choreographer would read my book. There are experimental choreographers I know who have commented on it but this is really in a different league.
“When I wrote The Male Dancer in 1995 I was aware that issues around the history of dance and male homosexuality were not being talked about and this was a gap that needed filling. That was what made it significant.
“People need a history. At the time of writing the book there were gay histories in literature, painting and film but there was nothing approaching the subject within dance.
“Many writers were thinking ‘okay we know some men in dance are gay but so what?’. It was a kind of protective way of thinking and there was a sense that it might damage, in particular, ballet’s reputation and affect sponsorship.
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“We are talking about elite organisations which are very hierarchical compared to the smaller contemporary dance companies.”
Professor Burt will be attending the premiere of Pérez’s piece on Saturday 19 May and hopes to also see the company in rehearsal.
He added: “When people talk about how my book influenced them I tend to be very British about it. I’m kind of embarrassed and I down play it.
“I really don’t want to be put on a pedestal. I just want people to see I am interested in them and their work. There is a danger of becoming arrogant if you get any kind of adulation, and I don’t want that.”
Posted on Friday 11th May 2018