Established in August 1990, Ballet Creole comprises both a professional ensemble of dancers and musicians, as well as a Professional School of Performing Arts. With an emphasis on the disciplines of the Caribbean and Africa, Ballet Creole focuses on traditional and contemporary dance while infusing music from around the world. Ballet Creole is at the forefront of Contemporary Afro-Caribbean dance and has been labeled as the forerunner of Blacks in Dance in Canada.
Ballet Creole was founded by Trinidadian-born dancer, choreographer, drummer and educator, Patrick Parson (Masters in Dance Ethnology, BFA in Dance). Combining traditional Caribbean and African aesthetics with the Katherine Dunham modern technique, he has produced a technically strong and versatile professional dance company unlike any other in Canada. Ballet Creole explores the power of drums and rhythms as a means of communicating between people and communities and aspires through the Arts to show their central philosophy that “Harmony in Diversity Creates a New Energy”
“Ballet Creole, is a vibrant company melding the vocabulary of modern and ballet with exuberant African and Caribbean dance styles.” Judy Stoffman; The Toronto Star
Ballet Creole consists of a professional ensemble of dancers and musicians that provide a culturally dynamic forum for professional artists. It is the first dance company of its kind, to offer a recognized Professional Training Program and School of Performing Arts to young, aspiring dancers in Canada and abroad. The company presents two, main-stage productions as part of their Annual Dance Season with exclusive performances held at Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre in Toronto. Signature pieces include dance works of the Artistic Director, Patrick Parson, Associate Choreographer, Gabby Kamino and other notable guest choreographers like Milton Myers(Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre) and Danny Grossman.
Ballet Creole is a non-profit charitable organization. In accordance with its constitution and is governed by a ten member Board of Directors.
OUR MISSION: Ballet Creole exists to create a dance legacy in Canada with the creolization of dance, we aspire to unite cultures through accessibility, education, and relevant archival projects.
Tribute to Dunham
Ballet Creole’s founder, Patrick Parson, continues to draw his inspiration from internationally renowned dancer/choreographer Katherine Dunham.
Dunham’s anthropological studies in Africa and the Caribbean yielded a dance technique that draws from classical ballet as well as traditional African/Caribbean movement, forging a cultural link between Africa and North America.
Dunham passed on Sunday at the Manhattan assisted living facility where she lived, said Charlotte Ottley, executive liaison for the organization that preserves her artistic estate.
Dunham was perhaps best known for bringing African and Caribbean influences to the European-dominated dance world. In the late 1930s, she established the nation's first self-supporting all-Black modern dance group.
Her dance company toured internationally from the 1940s to the '60s, visiting 57 nations on six continents. Her success was won in the face of widespread discrimination, a struggle Dunham championed by refusing to perform at segregated theaters.
For her endeavours, Dunham received 10 honorary doctorates, the Presidential Medal of the Arts, the Albert Schweitzer Prize at the Kennedy Center Honors, and membership in the French Legion of Honor, as well as major honors from Brazil and Haiti.
After 1967, Dunham lived most of each year in predominantly Black East St. Louis, Ill., where she struggled to bring the arts to a Mississippi River city of burned-out buildings and high crime.
She set up an eclectic compound of artists from around the globe, including Harry Belafonte. Among the free classes offered were dance, African hair braiding and woodcarving, conversational Creole, Spanish, French and Swahili and more traditional subjects such as aesthetics and social science.
Dunham also offered martial arts training in hopes of getting young, angry males off the street. Her purpose she said was to steer the residents of East St. Louis “into something more constructive than genocide.”
Government cuts and a lack of private funding forced her to scale back her programs in the 1980s. Despite a constant battle to pay bills, Dunham continued to operate a children’s dance workshop and a museum.
Plagued by arthritis and poverty in the latter part of her life, Dunham made headlines in 1962 when she went on a 47-day hunger strike to protest U.S. policy that repatriated Haitian refugees.
“It’s embarrassing to be an American,” Dunham said at the time.
Ballet Creole has been active on the Canadian dance scene since August 1990. Comprised of both a professional ensemble of dancers and drummers (the Company) and a School of Performing Arts (the School), Ballet Creole focuses on the process of “creolization”, a fusion of diverse traditional and contemporary Caribbean and African dance and music. On the Canadian landscape the result has been both innovative and dynamic.
For the past twenty years, under the artistic direction of dancer/choreographer/percussionist Patrick Anthony Parson, Ballet Creole has consistently provided a forum for choreographers, dancers and musicians to practice their art.
On stage, the exuberant dialogue between the drummers and dancers of Ballet Creole generates enthusiastic responses. As a fledgling company, Ballet Creole performed to an audience of 5,000 at the 1991 WOMAD Festival in Toronto, where the company "drew thunderous applause" for its performances in which the "energy and brilliance of Caribbean and contemporary African cultures are portrayed".
Ballet Creole held its first dance season in 1992 at the Winchester Street Theatre. The Company quickly established itself in the mainstream dance world through its participation in the CIBC 1992/93 Dance Season at the Premiere Dance Theatre, Harbourfront, where it performed to sell-out audiences with an extra show added to accommodate demand. Since 1994, the company has presented its annual dance season performances at Harbourfront's duMaurier and Premiere Dance (now known as Fleck Dance) Theatres in Toronto, as well as theatres in St.Catharines and Hamilton.
In the summer of 1993 Ballet Creole expanded its touring to the northern USA, appearing in Columbus, Ohio and Oswego, New York.
Through its daily classes and summer school programming, the Ballet Creole School of Performing Arts offers an innovative mix of Afrocentric percussion and contemporary African, Caribbean and modern dance for adults, children, beginners, amateurs, and professionals wishing to develop their technique and performance skills. An apprenticeship program is available in dance and music for professional level dancers and youth wishing to delve intensively in these art forms.
Ballet Creole is a non-profit charitable organization governed by a Board of Directors.
Origin of Name
“Ballet” is a specialized type of dance, originating in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century French courts, used in social settings and used by the people to tell their stories through movement. This dance form was further developed in England, Italy, and Russia as a concert dance form.
The term "creole", meaning "native to the locality", refers to people born and raised in the Caribbean, but of mixed European and African descent. The term also refers to the Creole language which developed in the African diaspora as a common language for inhabitants coming from so many different linguistic and cultural groups.
Similarly, the Ballet Creole repertoire reflects the multicultural fusion characteristic of Caribbean culture for centuries. Indeed, Ballet Creole represents the forging of a new language, a unique blending of dance traditions from the old world and the new world. For the past twenty years the Company has sought to bring forth old traditions, nurturing their evolution in this North American "new world" thereby establishing a dynamic new artistic tradition in Canada. The result is a continuous creation of new energy through dance.
About Creole Drummatix....
Tantalizing the senses through music, Creole Drummatix is an ensemble of world beat musicians offering a smorgasbord of music from the Caribbean, Latin America, and West Africa using the instruments of those regions as well as the languages. On stage, the exuberant dialogue between the drummers of Creole Drummatix has consistently elicited enthusiastic responses for its performances in which the energy and brilliance of Diasporic cultures are wonderfully portrayed.
Under the direction of well-known educator Patrick Parson, this ensemble of professional musicians creatively and effectively tailor their performances to their audiences: children, youth and adults.
To Book a Performance by Creole Drummatix:
Contact Patrick Parson: