Founded in 2005 by Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan, BalletX has produced over 100 world premiere ballets by nearly 60 choreographers, a record “few companies can match,” according to The New York Times. Under Cox’s leadership, BalletX has been hailed as an “epicenter of creation” (Dance Magazine) and “place of choreographic innovation” (The New Yorker), putting Philadelphia on the map as an international destination for contemporary ballet.
We sat down with Christine Cox, Artistic & Executive Director of BalletX, to learn about the dance community in Philadelphia and how over the last 17 seasons, BalletX has come to find a home in Philadelphia.
Q: Why did you and co-founder Matthew Neenan create BalletX?
A: To experiment, explore and expand the vocabulary of classical ballet. If you don’t think about the future of something, it doesn’t have an opportunity to grow. Ballet often looks backwards but we wanted to look at the future.
Q: What impact has BalletX had on the Philadelphia community and what role do you hope to play as you begin your 17th season?
A: I hope our impact is broad, positive, and brings joy and memories to our community. I’ve seen four generations of people at our shows and I think that BalletX is bigger than I ever thought it could be. Bringing generations together to experience something that happens at a moment in time, it’s about the exchange of the audience and artist.
We are deeply invested in artists, and we want to be a place where artists can come and create new ballets, compositions, set designs and lighting designs. We are a company that spreads its tentacles where artists can come and create their dreams, grow, and develop with us as a company.
Q: How does BalletX engage with the community? How do these relationships shape BalletX?
A: BalletX is deeply embedded in the community, we love Philadelphia. We believe that the arts exist because of the communities, so how could we not give back? We started doing pop up performances a few years ago because I wanted someone just walking down the street to experience a performance. It can be tricky to get folks to come into a theater especially if the arts haven’t been part of their life, so I thought, let’s bring the arts into the communities and create opportunities to touch their lives. We believe in the power of the positive impact it can have on communities.
“I love this city because it supports the arts and that helps develop cities in ways that only the arts can.”
Q: How does BalletX in general impact the arts & culture scene in Philadelphia?
A: BalletX is deeply rooted in the Philadelphia arts community, and we believe in the power of dance impacting communities. We strive to be dancing out on the streets, where we build partnerships and inspire folks to fall in love with dance. I was born and raised in Philadelphia, and I love this city because it supports the arts and that helps develop cities in ways that only the arts can.
BalletX has a strong footprint in the city, in the sense that people who know about us, really love us. They’re passionate about our work, they wear their BalletX t-shirts all over the globe, proudly representing this city.
Q: Does the company or company members give back to the city in any way?
A: Our way of giving back is performing in different parts of the city and through our Dance eXchange program. We work with over 300 3rd and 4th graders, in four different schools for 20 weeks, twice a week. We go into the schools and our artists teach these kids how to dance. This program is extremely rewarding for us and to hear a student come up to me and say “dance is my very favorite part of the day” makes our jobs so much more special.
Our dancers move here and now call Philadelphia home. They perform with open hearts all across the city and I’m sure they’re great citizens because they’re great people. Whether it’s picking up trash, being a good neighbor, or performing for friends in the middle of City Hall, these dancers are great citizens of Philadelphia.
Q: How does BalletX collaborate with other arts & culture organizations within the city?
A: BalletX loves collaborating. We collaborate with the Wilma Theater, the Mann Center and we partner and perform in their theaters. We collaborate with artists in Philadelphia, and we believe in the power of collaboration. We partner with City Hall, schools, community art centers, and libraries. We believe that by partnering together as a city, we can make our impact stronger as a nation.
Q: How does BalletX take the culture of Philadelphia out into other cities or vice versa – does BalletX bring culture from other cities into Philadelphia?
A: BalletX is about exchange and collaboration in the arts. When we tour to different places, we bring the essence of Philadelphia to those places. Diversity of thought, of people and energy. We bring the world to Philadelphia through our collaborations and partners. We bring choreographers, artists, costume designers, lighting designs, set designers, dramateurs, from all over the world. We’re always rooted in Philadelphia and take that wherever we go.
Content Courtesy of BalletX, Philadelphia’s contemporary ballet, which is getting ready for its Fall 2022 season. For more information and to buy tickets, check out BalletX’s website.