The question, in general, was how ballet can make the transition into the next century, and the answers ranged from dance training to cultural diversity in a genre that is notoriously white.
Nearly 30 artistic directors from North America, Europe, Australia, China, and Russia met at Dance East's second such conference, entitled Rural Retreat: Ballet into the 21st Century January 7-9 in Hertfordshire, England.
Ashley Page, artistic director of the Scottish Ballet, said that dancers needed to be better and more thoroughly trained. "Schools have become like companies," he said, "which provides good experience for the students, but at the expense of properly completing their training. There are some people who cannot do the mazurka, the czardas, the polonaise."
Page also mentioned the dearth of interesting choreographers, which means that more companies are performing works by the same choreographers.
According to the Guardian, the artistic directors also discussed how to encourage ballet audiences, which tend to a traditionalist attitude toward dance, toward contemporary work. Monica Mason, director of the Royal Ballet, said "If an audience's viewpoint is allowed to narrow then the tendency is for it to keep on narrowing: and the only way to stop that is to keep on exposing them to new things as well as the things they love."
Dance East, a dance-advocacy agency based in Ipswich, works to build dance audiences, support dancers, and develop the art form in the east of England. Their work is accomplished through touring programs, artist residencies, education, and community outreach. Dance East's first Rural Retreat was held in January 2003.