Ballet Flanders was founded in 1969 by Belgian choreographer Jeanne Brabants. Since the start her goal was always to bring a rich and diverse repertoire to Flanders and to create new works. After Brabants five artistic directors take on the reins: Valery Panov, Robert Denvers, Kathryn Bennetts, Assis Carreiro and since 2015 Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Each of them offers a specific individual artistic interpretation of what ballet can be, but they’re connected through a desire to show a highly diverse programme.
Guided by Cherkaoui, the company welcomes a number of very versatile dancers and focuses on creating and presenting a repertoire that goes beyond borders - literally and figuratively. The diversified but simultaneously unified identity is a foundation for Cherkaoui’s choreographic work and artistic programming. He creates his own work, but takes on other masterpieces as well, like choreographies from modern dance history by Maurice Béjart or Martha Graham, contemporary classical work from eg. Alexander Ekman and Édouard Lock, and neo-classical pieces by big names like William Forsythe and Benjamin Millepied. Dance theatre gets a renewed place in the spotlight, welcoming work from Pina Bausch and Meryl Tankard, among others. Cherkaoui also continues the tradition of the annual full length piece, with spectaculair ballets like Faust (Jean-Christophe Maillot) and Giselle (Akram Khan). Last but not least, Cherkaoui emphasises the importance of contemporary dance. By inviting choreographers like Crystal Pite, Andonis Foniadakis, Ohad Naharin and Hofesh Shechter, he strengthens the diversity within Ballet Flanders even more.
After the merger between Ballet Flanders and Opera Vlaanderen, Cherkaoui searches for synergy between both houses, and both art forms. Requiem in 2016 was a first production in collaboration with the choir of Opera Vlaanderen. Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, choreographed by Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet, was a large-scale collaboration between opera and ballet - a tradition which will be continued in coming years.
Ballet Flanders has been celebrated with prestigious awards like ‘Best Foreign Dance Company’ and ‘Outstanding Achievement in Dance’ (by Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards in 2009), ‘Outstanding Company’ (National Dance Awards in 2013), ‘Company of the Year’ (by Dance Europe Critics Awards in 2015). Recently they have been touring with various productions, visiting cities like Amsterdam, New York, Sint-Petersburg, Venetië and Madrid. Because of its diverse repertoire, Ballet Flanders is a beloved guest at established festivals, contemporary art centers and historic opera houses.