Francisco Serrano and artists of The Royal Ballet in See Us!!, The Royal Ballet ©2022 ROH. Photographed by Andrej Uspenski
Francisco Serrano and artists of The Royal Ballet in See Us!!, The Royal Ballet ©2022 ROH. Photographed by Andrej Uspenski

Rhythm in Resilience: The Royal Opera House celebrates Black History Month

The Royal Opera House presents a new program and festival to celebrate Black History Month 2023

ByLucy Wolstenholme (Learning Communications Officer)
Monday 2 October 2023, 2pm

This Black History Month the Royal Opera House proudly presents an exciting festival of events to celebrate Black excellence in the arts. Rhythm in Resilience, a new festival curated by Joseph Toonga – The Royal Ballet’s Choreographic Residency – includes a variety of performances and events throughout October. This festival is designed to acknowledge and commemorate the past and future contributions of black creatives and performers in the theatre.

The Rhythm in Resilience festival will take place from 1 October and includes:

The premiere of a new short film by Harrison Emmanuel that features choreography by Joseph Toonga with Royal Ballet dancers, Marcelino Sambé, Joseph Sissens, Marianna Tsembenhoi and Francisco Serrano.

A special edition of Draft Works, taking place on Thursday 5 October; an evening of new ideas featuring a range of freelance creatives and artists from The Royal Ballet and other national companies, such as Miguel Altunaga, Hannah Joseph, Winnie Dias, Kloe Dean, Otis Cameron-Carr and Rebecca Myles Stewart.

An Insight Event, Ballet and the Black Experience, which will be held on Wednesday 18 October. This event is co-created by Joseph Toonga and Kenneth Tharp and features dancers from The Royal Ballet coming together with fellow creatives to perform excerpts of their work and share their thoughts on finding ways to ensure diversity is given an equal space and stage on which to thrive.

More activities, performances and events celebrating Black History Month will be hosted throughout October, including:

The Family Sunday events on 1 October and 22 October feature family-friendly performances of Born to Exist (choreographed by Joseph Toonga) and Elemental Journeys (presented by the Infinite Connections Dance Company). The Infinite Connections Dance Company is made up of a group of 10 to 15-year-old ballet dancers from global majority heritage.

A Live at Lunch event on Friday 27 October, featuring a performance by Black British Ballet Project. Island Movements tells the story of Windrush and explores the impact of this generation’s experiences on their families, communities and society. It aims to radically reimagine what Black British Ballet could be for a new generation: powerful, relevant and rooted in their experiences and culture.

As the Royal Opera House celebrates the incredible work that the black community has had in the industry and beyond, this month is also an opportunity to reflect on diversity in the arts. Thinking about the steps the Royal Opera House is taking, as well as considering the steps to take next, is an important part of how the theatre can grow and support a new generation of talent.

I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to present this new festival. It's a chance to celebrate, discuss, and showcase the incredible contributions that black and brown artists have brought to the Royal Opera House and beyond. Furthermore, it provides us with the opportunity to gain deeper insights into the experiences of some of our company members while allowing their voices to shape our future.

Joseph Toonga, The Royal Ballet’s Emerging Choreographer

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