Ballet Confessions: Mary Ellen Beaudreau

Mary Ellen, age 8.

Mary Ellen, age 8.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a rehearsal for the upcoming project, Ballet Confessions, a dance, music, and art installation about the physical and psychological effects of the ballet world, by Mary Ellen Beaudreau. The creative process was beautiful to watch, a manifestation of art stemming from self-reflection, on life, post-ballet.

Since the age of four Mary Ellen has dedicated her life to ballet, dancing with San Francisco Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theater and then delving into modern dance at The Juilliard School and performing with Pilobolus Dance Theater. 

Dancers, in the public mind, are impossible athletes: we see them execute the classics with intense perfection, but rarely hear them speak outside of the imaginary narratives like Black Swan or Center Stage. Even rarer, is to witness creative expression from dancers once they've outgrown the competitive demands of the ballet industry. 

Ballet Confessions is the first thing I can call my own.
Arabesque at the barre, age 13.

Arabesque at the barre, age 13.

First Tutu, age 15.

First Tutu, age 15.

Ballet Confessions inverts the world of ballet on it’s head: the music (warbled Romeo & Juliet), the props (piles of "dead" pointe shoes and a giant tutu), the movements (hands instead of feet). It studies the arc typical to most dancers: stereotype, discovery, euphoria, obsession, destruction, and then; renewal.

It began in 2012 at a SITI Company theater workshop, when she happened to run into two ex-ballerinas. They began a dialogue about their time in the insular world of ballet, trading stories like old war veterans. Mary Ellen recorded them speaking, and went on to give voice to six other ballet dancers, ranging from thirteen to seventy-five years old.

The Juilliard School, Age 22. Photo: Norbert De La Cruz III

The Juilliard School, Age 22. Photo: Norbert De La Cruz III

In some ways, the ballet world is a mirror of the real world. Females are treated as objects, and the men are favored and told to be stronger rather than thinner. We’re all born with innate creativity, but then forced to mold ourselves into the shapes society provides us with. 

What happens when the mold we've been conforming to for so many years, breaks? What happens when our world changes, when we lose something close that we've held onto for so long? How do we move forward?

Ballet Confessions is a beautiful inspiration for how creation can be birthed from destruction and reflection. It examines how the rigid world of ballet constricts art to an impeccable form, and what happens to the body and self once free of the constriction. It’s a metaphor for anyone who has dared to fall in love, tried to conform to expectations, or has been betrayed.

See more at www.balletconfessions.com and find out more about the project here.

Mary Ellen Beaudreau, native of Rhode Island, graduated with a BFA in dance from The Juilliard School and danced with Pilobolus Dance Theater, North Carolina Dance Theater, San Francisco Ballet and RUBBERBANDance Company.  Mary Ellen’s choreographic works have been presented at North Carolina Dance Theatre in Charlotte, NC, Fort Wayne Ballet in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Judson Church in New York, NY, One Arm Red in Brooklyn, NY, and the Shapiro Theater at Columbia University in New York, NY.  Mary Ellen continues to perform, teach and choreograph in dance and theater productions in New York City and presents dance lecture demonstrations in public schools in the Northeast that focus on collaboration through the arts. This is Mary Ellen’s first solo show and she will be attending Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London in the fall 2014 to attain a MA in Choreography.

Mary Ellen Beaudreau, native of Rhode Island, graduated with a BFA in dance from The Juilliard School and danced with Pilobolus Dance Theater, North Carolina Dance Theater, San Francisco Ballet and RUBBERBANDance Company.  Mary Ellen’s choreographic works have been presented at North Carolina Dance Theatre in Charlotte, NC, Fort Wayne Ballet in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Judson Church in New York, NY, One Arm Red in Brooklyn, NY, and the Shapiro Theater at Columbia University in New York, NY.  Mary Ellen continues to perform, teach and choreograph in dance and theater productions in New York City and presents dance lecture demonstrations in public schools in the Northeast that focus on collaboration through the arts. This is Mary Ellen’s first solo show and she will be attending Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London in the fall 2014 to attain a MA in Choreography.