Belle of the ballet

Why Alanood AlThani is bringing the creative art of ballet to Qatar

For Alanood AlThani the love for ballet began from a young age. Struggling to find a centre in Qatar that matched international standards, the idea for Élevé Ballet Academy was born.

From a young age, Alanood AlThani found herself drawn to ballet and the creative form of expression it offers. While attempting to take her hobby to the next level, she struggled to find a centre in Qatar that offered the classes professionally and closer to those of international standards.

“That gave me the idea to start up my own centre where ballet could be taught to a high standard, I always thought to myself once I graduate and study business, I would open my own ballet academy.”

“When you’re doing ballet, it’s like you enter a different world — a sport and art form combined, on one hand you have a heightened awareness of yourself physically and the level of control you can exert on your muscles, and on the other, emotionally, you’re transported to another space.”

Alanood found herself drawn in particular to the Russian school of ballet. “While ballet may have started off in Italy, then gone to France, I felt that the Russians took the art and developed it with their own unique style — and that’s what I hope to do in Qatar.”

From incorporating cultural traditions while meticulously maintaining high standards, Alanood hopes that by adopting ballet more wholeheartedly, Qatar will at some point be able to offer something unique to the long tradition.

“I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who understood and valued our culture, and wanted to celebrate it. She helped me custom-make my uniform to ensure it was modest and in keeping with our traditions,” explains Alanood when asked about how she hopes to merge the country’s conservative society with the free-form expression art performances tend to offer.

Her quick adoption of a new uniform did not go unnoticed, and Alanood found herself in an unexpected position of inspiring other covered girls to join. “Parents would come up to me and thank me, but I was young at the time and didn’t really understand or realise the impact I was having.”

Like other fields, Alanood believes there’s still plenty of room to grow in its inclusivity and diversity, and hopes the Academy’s ethos of encouraging a more welcoming and inclusive environment will nurture that space further.

“People are more hesitant when approaching things that they’re not very familiar with, but once they see it’s not that scary, or that it can be approached in a way that is inclusive of their values, they’re more open to the idea. I’ve noticed a lot of acceptance from the locals here, and I see that Qatar has come a long way in its sports sector, and I hope that this is one that will continue to grow, ” she explains.

“Ballet for me was very calming, a form of meditation in a way, because you enter a state of flow, and stop clouding your mind with other thoughts.”

Opening a business however, was another can of worms and came with its own difficulties. From the registration, to finding qualified instructors — it was not all smooth sailing. Despite the challenges, Élevé Ballet Academy was born, and they started by offering classes to those aged 3-6 years.

Hoping to appeal not just to a more diverse audience, but also to those in a bigger age group, Alanood differs in her approach from most classical ballet thinkers, believing that there is no age limit.

“Yes, it would definitely help if people started young but it’s not necessary to enjoy and appreciate ballet. Anyone can do it and I hope to develop a programme at the academy for those of older ages who want to explore ballet. I want everyone to feel they can do it because they can.”

Asked what advice she’d give her younger self ahead of embarking this journey, Alanood reflects before saying, “actually, I would like my teenage self to advise me now.”

While most teenagers probably find themselves victim to some extent of peer pressure, Alanood feels that it was actually a time where she was more definite and firm in her choices. “When we’re younger we don’t really question the cultural impact of things, and when I was younger I would always kind of do my thing”.

“As I’m growing, I’m probably becoming more conscious of decisions, and I’d like to remind myself to keep on doing what I’m doing and not let differing opinions affect my personal beliefs and values.”

photos: Adriane de Souza

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