A huge banner depicting a sultry Carmen, placards of critiques, displays of photographs and the soft swish of embroidered silk dresses punctuated the buzz of conversation at Sunday"s official home-coming for Ballet Internationale. A daring, five-week tour of China behind them, BI"s dancers and production staff patiently answered questions, posed for photographs, and unabashedly stated that BI returned a changed company. Board members, supporters, ticket holders, public officials and BI administrative staff members who stayed in the U.S. basked in the joys of success at the invitation-only party at Clowes Pavilion at the Indianapolis Art Museum.
"It"s hard to express the emotions of walking to a subway in Beijing and seeing a poster of Ballet Internationale," said Dorothy Ilgen, executive director of the Indiana Arts Commission, who had to attend a rehearsal because no tickets were available for the regular performances. "The reaction was warm," explained board member Ron Block, who traveled to Beijing on his first trip to China. "The population is muted, polite, nice. That"s their manner. Performances were well-attended. You could see only a scattered empty seat here and there in the theater. "Classical ballet is currently finding enormous popularity in China," Block added. He described Chinese audiences as placing sports stars and artists on the same plane. The Beijing Times review of Jan. 22 stated, "It"s like a feast for Beijing ballet fans this week ... Ballet Internationale, the world-famous ballet company from America, brings two wonderful performances ..." The Beijing Stardaily Jan. 22 headline announced, "1001 Nights Presents Visual Feast." The opening paragraph stated, "When thinking of classical ballet, people are liable to think of Swan Lake, with its pure classical dance. But from Jan. 20-27, Ballet Internationale, from America, brought A Thousand & One Nights and Carmen to Beijing for the first time." "China has now seen that every member of Ballet Internationale is a master of their craft, and a true credit to classical ballet in America," stated Eldar Aliev, BI"s artistic director, while praising the company at Sunday"s party. "The significance of the China tour is immeasurable. Every time Ballet Internationale is presented with the opportunity to act as ambassadors of the arts, ambassadors of dance, ambassadors of classical ballet in America, we not only bring our artistry to the world, but we also bring our hopes and dreams Ö The cultural exchange that occurs transcends diplomacy, negotiation and tourism - a connection is made at the highest level, it is a connection of the human spirit. The more Ballet Internationale can tour, the more these connections can be made, and the closer our world will become." "It was scary," recalled board member Myra Selby, when the idea of a five-week tour was proposed over two years ago. "But we agreed, if we don"t do this, what are we all about? It gives us renewed vigor."