The Rocky Mountain Ballet Theater is bringing back one of the premiere cultural events to Missoula. Ballet Beyond Borders returns to Missoula with more dancers from more countries,

intense dance competition, a diplomacy conference and a gala finale on Saturday at the Dennison Theater.

Director Charlene Campbell Carey said this global cultural exchange will offer more than just ‘a beautiful girl in a tutu’.

“It’s about the role of the arts in global communication,” said Carey. “Artists are coming from seven different countries. There are film makers, ballerinas, hip-hop artists, diplomats, and academics, and they’re converging in Missoula for a week to create understanding across all borders and above all walls.”

Carey highlighted the diplomacy conference to be held at the University Center.

“The conference will be Saturday morning in the U.C. Ballroom that begins at 9:00 a.m. and concludes at 1:00 p.m.,” she said. “It’s a chance for many of our visitors to hear particular stories that are current and relevant to increase awareness on many topics. The first topic on Saturday morning will be called ‘Hidden Tears’. A producer, director and choreographer from Los Angeles is bringing her films and stories, and the topic is about human trafficking.”

What follows is unprecedented according to Carey.

“The next topic is called ‘There is Room for Everyone’, and that is being led by Sophie Rebecca, the first transgender dancer to have completed the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus in the United Kingdom,” she said. “She won our peace prize last year based on the video she submitted, and she’s talking about gender norms and how gender is basically irrelevant in many aspects of dance.”

Rebecca will also be an in-studio guest on Tuesday’s Talk Back program to help kick off the week of ballet Beyond Borders.

The Gala Finale will be Saturday evening starting at 6:00 p.m. with ticket prices ranging from $25 to $100 and are available from the Ballet Beyond Borders website.
Missoulian Guest column: Different cultures, one world

CHARLENE CAMPBELL-CAREY Dec 18, 2018 52f5-8917-54f07f57bde9.html
When you look at the headlines, it can be disheartening to see rising global tensions and deteriorating international relations. It’s times like these when I believe our responsibilities as global citizens and cultural ambassadors are arguably the most important functions that the arts play in our society.

When I opened Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre more than 20 years ago, I had dreamt of giving young pre-professional athletes the opportunity to see the world through dance. I also dreamt of bringing the world to Montana to foster cultural exchange.

Our students just returned from tours in China and Russia. As the only American dance organization represented at a dance festival in Kazan, we felt a great responsibility to put our nation and state’s best foot forward through our participation. The festival’s slogan was, “Music is the language of the people of the world.”

When I said I was going to Kazan, most people said they’d never heard of it. With well over a million people, it is the sixth-largest city in Russia, with a greater population than the entire state of Montana. Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan, a semi-autonomous region with two national languages: Russian and Tatar. It is situated where the Kazanka River meets the Volga and is about nine hours east of Moscow by car.

We were there for the First International Festival-Contest named after Alfia Avzalova, a famous Tatar singer who died in 2017. Even though we didn’t arrive until past midnight, Alfia Avzalova’s daughter, Sofia, and her husband, Ravil Nigmedzyanov, two of the chief festival organizers, came to the airport to meet us. Our attendance at the festival was 10 years in the making. Ravil and I met 10 years ago in Washington, D.C.

At the festival gala, highlights included RMBT’s unique brand of cowboy-ballet, championship Salish Kootenai fancy dancing from Louis Plant and hip-hop sensation Kasper. All of our performances took place before a backdrop of filmed Big Sky Country images. It seemed that the crowd had never experienced anything quite like it and offered rousing support.

As the festival drew to a conclusion, we marveled at the connections and shared experiences of people from Russia, India, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan and Montana. As our musical director, Karen Carreno, perfectly put it, “This is why we do this.”

We anticipate bringing the same spirit of enlightenment and cooperation to Ballet Beyond Borders 2019, which will take place Jan. 9–12 in Missoula. RMBT travels the world. In January, the world is coming to Montana.

We look forward to welcoming the international dancers with the same overwhelming hospitality and warmth they’ve shown us. When bodies move, minds soar. When cultural connections deepen, dance becomes a form of diplomacy that help foster the kind of understanding so desperately needed in our global community.