BalletMet 2 and OSU Dance partner for a unique performance highlighting protest through dance

By Sarah Irvin Clark

(Columbus, OH) BalletMet 2 and the Ohio State University Department of Dance have partnered to study and closely recreate two seminal pieces by Martha Graham and George Balanchine that highlight themes of protest. This is the second year of this DaNCe2U partnership for both groups and the theme of this year is #peace&strife; the first year focused on mental health.

The combined group of dancers will conduct performances at the four OSU branch campuses and Kenyon and Ohio University throughout the fall of 2021 and into 2022.

Martha Graham’s Steps in the Street: Devastation – Homelessness – Exile depicts the aftermath of violence and serves as Graham’s response to the rise of fascism in Europe and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War during the 1930s. The choreography reflects the painful chaos and tragedy of these conflicts while also illustrating the isolation and desolation that war leaves in its wake. George Balanchine’s The Four Temperamentsis inspired by the medieval belief that human beings are made up of four different humors that determine a person’s temperament. Ballanchine was passionate about moving away from the norms of classical ballet and pushing the boundaries within the institution.

BalletMet 2 is a Dance Academy performing company under the co-direction of BalletMet’s Artistic Director Edwaard Liang and associate Director Ambre Emory-Maier. The combined BalletMet-OSU dance group students have been taught these dances as they were notated years ago through labanotation. Labanotation is a system, like a musical score, that notates specific movements and details aligning with the choreographer’s original intentions for the movement and the piece.  In addition, the dancers will receive further guidance from repetitéur experts from the Martha Graham Trust and The George Balanchine Trust. These are specific dance coaches who are well versed in the technique of the dances and have verified that the authenticity of the performances has closely matched the choreographers’ intent.

“There are not many dance companies in the world who can stage dances from Labanotation,” said BalletMet 2 Associate Director Ambre Emory-Maier. “It’s important for our dancers to have this rigorous experience with different movement styles.”

Both pieces explore themes of protest, and the companies will lead a panel discussion after each performance to explore how these protests are manifested and illuminated through movement and dance. Graham’s Steps in the Street, created on the verge of World War II, addresses the ideas and dissention of a global climate of power and strife. The dance examines another way for audiences to understand how we can all be critical citizens in today’s diverse world. Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments was a protest of the underlying classicism present in ballet. Ballet’s roots are from royal, elitist environments in Europe. Balanchine experimented with choreography in a way that protested the art’s elitist traditions and expectations.

“These dances illustrate strong themes of dissension, the choreographers questioning and reacting to the world around them,” said Ambre Emory-Maier. “We wanted to show how we can use art to ignite dialogue around strong political topics, both of war and class consciousness.” 

This collaboration and program have been made possible through an Arts and Humanities grant from The Ohio State University, Ohio State Energy Partners (OSEP), Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme (GAHDT) and Ratner grants.


Renowned for its versatility and innovative repertory, BalletMet ranks among the nation’s largest ballet companies.

Since its inception in 1978, BalletMet has made the commission and performance of new works a core organizational priority, with more than 150 World Premieres and hundreds of Company Premieres performed throughout its history. BalletMet stages 60 to 70 performances each year at home and on tour. In the past, the company toured 28 U.S. states and internationally to Russia, Poland, Egypt, Spain and Canada.

BalletMet’s Academy has also been recognized as an institution of local and national stature. It offers hundreds of classes to roughly 1,500 students, ages 3 to 95, each year. Students in our Intensive and Trainee Programs gain invaluable training and experience.

BalletMet developed DanceReach, a series of educational, community engagement and access programs serving nearly 30,000 people annually. The DanceReach program offers up to 60 scholarships each year to talented youth, many from minority and underserved groups, who could not otherwise participate in dance training.

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