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Ballet Co.Laboratory Innovates While Prioritizing Artists During Global Pandemic

New works air March 20 – 21, 2021 on any streaming device. 

Ballet Co.Laboratory Innovates While Prioritizing Artists During Global Pandemic

At the beginning of 2020, Ballet Co.Laboratory (BCL) was gearing up for the highly anticipated world premiere of a new rock ballet based on the life of Freddie Mercury, their school enrollment was growing rapidly, and the organization was developing strategic plans to move their art form forward. Like most of the nation, that all came to a grinding halt on March 13, as the company dancers and staff of Ballet Co.Laboratory clustered around a small laptop to watch the governor announce the first statewide stay-at-home order in response to COVID-19.

"As we temporarily closed our doors that day, it felt like the darkest moment in our organization's history, there was just so much unknown," said BCL Managing Director Rachel Koep, "but little did we know, it was actually the start of a new digital era for our organization." Within a week, the faculty and staff of Ballet Co.Laboratory had created a full roster of online programming, which to date has offered more than 418 Zoom dance classes - and the organization didn't stop there. Over the course of the last year, Ballet Co.Laboratory has continued to innovate and prioritize artists in every decision as they worked to navigate the most challenging time the performing arts have ever seen.

While arts organizations across the country cancelled their 2020/21 performance seasons, leaving numerous artists out of work, Ballet Co.Laboratory looked beyond the conventional to prepare a full season featuring both outdoor performances and dance productions made specifically for film. So far this season, the organization has offered five virtual outreach events, performed outdoors in the neighborhoods of Saint Paul in partnership with Tiny Balcony Concerts, hosted a unique drive-in style fundraising performance, created a new full-length holiday ballet for film, and has kept 32 professional artists employed during a global pandemic.

"I am so grateful to Ballet Co.Laboratory for placing their focus on artists throughout this pandemic," company dancer Rosa Prigan said. "It would have been easy to just close the doors and wait it out. But that would have left us [the professional artists of Ballet Co.Laboratory] without a paycheck and no performance opportunities to share with our community."

Thanks to a generous grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Ballet Co.Laboratory is currently working to financially and artistically support four local, emerging BIPOC choreographers as they create new works of classical and contemporary ballet for the company dancers and students of BCL. These new works will be featured in BCL's two-day virtual emerging choreography festival titled Laboratory II, which will air March 20 - 21, 2021 on any streaming device.

"Ballet Co.Laboratory's mission includes breaking down the barriers found in the art form. This year, being physically together indoors has become a barrier. In an attempt to hold true to our core beliefs, BCL has worked tirelessly to create safe environments and opportunities for our dancers to work and share their artistry," shares BCL Artistic Director Zoé Henrot. "We knew there were ways to support our artists, students, and community during this pandemic...we just had to think beyond the mirror."

Tickets are available for purchase online at balletcolaboratory.org/season or by contacting Ballet Co.Laboratory at 651.313.3967.


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