International Dance Day

April 29, 2012

In 1982 the International Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute, UNESCO, created International Dance Day. This celebration is held every year on April 29th to honor the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), the creator of modern ballet.

Every year a message from a well-known dance personality is circulated throughout the world. The intention of International Dance Day and the Message is to unite the field of Dance by celebrating this art form and reveling in its universality, to cross all political, cultural and ethnic barriers and bring people together in peace and friendship with a common language.

The International Dance Committee of ITI collaborates with World Dance Alliance and the International Dance Council to promote this event.

2012 International Dance Day Message
by Sidi Larbi Cherkaou

Cherkaou delivered his address on April 25th, 2012 at a celebration at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

"Celebrate the never-ending choreography of life

Through time, through the ages, what endures is mostly art. Art seems to be everything humankind leaves to its heirs – whether through buildings or books or paintings or music. Or movement, or dance. In that sense, I think of dance as the most current, the most up-to-date history lesson, as it is in a constant relationship with its most recent past and can only happen in the present.

Dance also, somehow, does not acknowledge borders in the same way as many other arts. Even when certain styles try to limit themselves or work within a frame; the movement of life, its choreography and its need for flux: these take over very quickly, allowing certain styles to mingle with other. Everything engages with everything, naturally, and dance settles only in the space it belongs to — that of the ever-changing present.

I believe that dance may be one of the most honest forms of expression for us to cherish: because when people dance, whether in a ballet performance, a hip-hop battle, an underground contemporary show or just in a discotheque, cutting loose, there are seldom any lies deployed, any masks worn. People reflect each other constantly, but when they dance, perhaps what they reflect most is that moment of honesty.

By moving like other people, by moving with other people and by watching them move, we can best feel their emotions, think their thoughts and connect to their energy. It is, perhaps, then that we can get to know and understand them clearly.

I like to think of a dance performance as a celebration of co-existence, a way to give and make space and time for each other. We tend to forget this, but the underlying beauty in a performance is that it is primarily the convergence of a mass of people, seated one next to the other, all sharing the same moment. There is nothing private about it; a performance is an extremely social experience. All of us assembled for this ritual, which is our bond with the performance, our bond with the same present.
And so, in 2012, I wish everyone lots of dance. Not to forget all their problems of 2011, but on the contrary, to tackle them creatively, to dance around them, to find a way to engage with each other and the world, to engage with life as part of its never-ending choreography. Dance to find honesty and to transmit, to reflect and to celebrate it."



Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s debut as a choreographer was in 1999 with Andrew Wale’s ‘contemporary musical’ Anonymous Society.  Since then he has made more than 15 fully-fledged choreographic pieces and picked up a slew of awards. 

While Cherkaoui’s initial pieces were made as a core member of the Belgian collective, Les Ballets C de la B – Rien de Rien (2000), Foi (2003) and Tempus Fugit (2004) – he also undertook parallel projects that both expanded and consolidated his artist vision: Ook (2000) was born from a workshop for mentally disabled actors held by Theater Stap with choreographer Nienke Reehorst; D’avant (2002) from an encounter with longstanding artistic partner Damien Jalet and Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola and Luc Dunberry of Sasha Waltz & Guests company, and zero degrees (2005) with friend and choreographer Akram Khan. He has worked with a variety of theatres, opera houses and ballet companies but from 2004 until the end of 2009, Cherkaoui’s base was in Antwerp where he was Associate Artist at Het Toneelhuis, the theatre that produced Myth (2007) and Origine (2008).

In 2008 Cherkaoui premiered Sutra as associate artist at Sadler’s Wells, the awardwinning collaboration with Antony Gormley and the Shaolin monks. After his first commissioned piece in North America, Orbo Novo (for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet) and a series of duets such as Faun and Dunas, with flamenco danseuse Maria Pagés, he launched his own company Eastman in 2010. Spring 2010 saw him reunited with co-choreographer Damien Jalet and Antony Gormley to make Babel (words), the third part of a triptych that began with Foi and Myth. That same year he created Rein, as well as Bound. 2011 saw the creation of TeZukA, as well as Labyrinth for Dutch National Ballet. Babel (words) recently triumphed at the 2011 Laurence Olivier Awards, winning best new dance production and outstanding achievement in dance for Antony Gormley. In January 2012, Cherkaoui was awarded Best Male Performer at the Critics’ Circle National Awards for Dunas.

Click here for the Press Release.

Previous International Dance Day Celebrations: