Why East London is the new home of ballet

Top class ballet will leap in to the lives of East Londoners waiting for their trains at the Canning Town station.

The new home of the English National Ballet on the neighbouring City Island development is partially translucent – letting passengers catch a glimpse of performers in action.

It is part of a move to open up culture to East London. The 93,000 sq ft building has seven full-size studios with viewing galleries for the public who are free to walk in and watch rehearsals. Mayor Sadiq Khan toured the complex at its official opening on Friday (13 September).

Artistic director Tamara Rojo said, “Our new home is a space where everyone can feel welcome, where we can increase our engagement with our local community, and where people of all ages and from all backgrounds can enjoy our art form.

Best ballet centre in the world

“I truly believe that this is the best ballet centre in the world, which will transform the way ballet is created and open up the creative process to our audience.”

The building replaces the ENB’s old home in Kensington and the new development was funded using £1 million of public money. As part of the deal, the ENB is developing a skills programme that will provide training, apprenticeships, volunteering and learning opportunities for 4,000 Londoners over the next three years.

Mayor Khan said, “By enabling the community to practise alongside internationally-renowned professional dancers, these new spectacular studios not only showcase our capital as a world leader for ballet, but help improve the lives and wellbeing of Londoners from all backgrounds.”

ENB’s work in the local community has already seen Dance for Parkinson’s taster sessions held in Waltham Forest, Newham, Redbridge and Havering, and its Dancing East programme runs weekly ballet classes for over 50s in five community centres in Tower Hamlets.

And that’s not all

The ballet is another significant milestone in the drive to bring more cultural institutions to the East. The City Island site is also home to the London Film School while more dance comes to the East Bank cultural quarter on the Olympic Park. In 2022 when Sadler’s Wells East opens the capital’s only mid-sized dance theatre supported by studios specialising in cutting edge and urban dance.

The Mayor added, “It shows the positive impact that culture can have on our communities and, with work on East Bank already underway, is the latest step towards creating a global cultural powerhouse in East London. This sends a clear message to the world that London is open to talent and creativity and always will be.”

For more information on community activities and professional productions go to the English National Ballet’s website.

Pictured: Tamara Rojo, Deputy Mayor for Culture Justine Simons and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at the opening of English National Ballet’s new building © Laurent Liotardo

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