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Spotlight on Creative Innovation: Rana’s School of Ballet

As part of July’s Theatre and Dance NI newsletter, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the ways individuals and organisations are innovating during this time. Here’s how Rana’s School of Ballet has been adapting.

‘Rana’s School of Ballet’ was founded by the former prima ballerina of Istanbul Opera Ballet, Rana O’Brien, in 1998. It began with a handful of students in West Belfast and has grown into a much-loved institution with nearly 200 students in multiple class locations across the city.

The ethos of the School has always been to bring the community together. Just as the students and parents immediately welcomed Rana with open arms from Turkey, the School has served to establish a strong sense of support and togetherness which students often refer to as their “ballet family”.

With COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown measures, unsurprisingly the ‘ballet family’ stuck together to find alternatives – “the show must go on”! Against all odds and through many giggles, over 100 students were able to continue their ballet classes over 28 virtual classes to keep fit and keep exercise fresh in their minds. It wasn’t without some difficulties, of course, teaching ‘legs’ rather than ‘whole bodies’ became the norm due the constrictions of available home-space and through pretending to leap the students learnt a bit of acting too!

It doesn’t stop here; Rana’s School of Ballet are currently working on a UNIQUE and EXCITING summer project – “Till We Meet Again”. A video story with a new choreography documenting the unprecedented times we have been living through, celebrating the positive attitude and spirit their community has displayed.

Thanks to modern technology and their partnership with external professionals (including London based production company, Telescope and pianist / composer Nolwenn Collet), it promises to be a cutting-edge and cathartic project. Students will learn their dance virtually through twice weekly sessions for 3 weeks, record their performance and send it to Rana. The rest is “magic” using the latest post-production technologies. The final film will be uploaded to the school’s YouTube channel. You can find out more about Rana’s School of Ballet on https://www.ranasschoolofballet.com/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-mp3zoPIms&list=PLVfcdjIH5OgMHoHUnHE8aIqFd8KgG2BcT.