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Assemblée Internationale

Assemblée Internationale 2023: Centering on Anti-Black Racism

The international ballet training community will come together once again for Assemblée Internationale (AI), April 30-May 6, 2023 in Toronto.


Established by Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) in 2009, Assemblée Internationale is an Olympic-calibre gathering of pre-professional dancers and artistic directors from training schools and organizations around the world. A unique and dynamic global event, Assemblée Internationale empowers young artists to develop as leaders and create meaningful connections with their peers. Collaboration is the essential and central value of each version of the festival.


The imperative for systemic change at every level of society is abundantly clear. Assemblée Internationale 2023 (AI23) is an opportunity for leaders of the global ballet training community to come together to examine our accountability in advancing equity, create the change needed in our beloved art form and lead by example for society at large. To strengthen the language of ballet and make it more relevant and powerful, the delivery and the creative process of ballet must resonate with and reflect the full diversity of our society. Therefore, AI23 will be centred on anti-Black racism.


This version of the festival will be more student-centred than ever before. Students have agency in the development and design of AI23, highlighting capacity to lead evolution within the artform – how it is practiced, delivered, and how it manifests in society.

Participating Schools and Performances

In May 2023, the AI23 festival will welcome more than 30 schools and organizations to Toronto.


Blended cast performances created by Canadian and international guest choreographers will celebrate the rich artistry of young dancers. Assemblée Internationale is a powerful opportunity to witness the talent and voices of this next generation of artists. AI23 is the fourth iteration of this week-long event. First held in 2009 with 12 participating schools, the festival was held again in 2013 and last in 2017, involving 21 schools and organizations.

Key Dates and Activities

By centering on anti-Black racism, conversations may further lead to discussions about the definition of “excellence in ballet”, gender roles and body types, responsibilities of “gatekeepers of ballet”, etc.


With recognition that the seven days of the festival won’t be enough to cover the depth required of these discussions and explorations, we are approaching the festival in three phases.


  1. Pre-Festival

    • Learning Sessions: A series of online panels, keynotes, discussions and education activities will be presented to participating organizations in the lead up to AI23.

    • Performance Component: In addition, students from participating schools will engage in online workshops with artists and choreographers Jera Wolfe, Esie Mensah and Rob Binet.

  2. In-person programming will take place April 30-May 6, 2023 in Toronto, Canada. During the week of the AI23 festival in Toronto, student participants will engage in collaborative rehearsals and performances, working with renowned choreographers, teachers, coaches and—through the Creative Lab—with their peers.

  3. Post-Festival: The cycle of this initiative will conclude with a debrief after the in-person festival, with a clear call to action and established timelines so that AI23 will provide the momentum for systemic evolution.

AI23 Student Think Tank Group

A diverse international student group has been key to the work, ideation and planning for AI23.


The following young leaders, representing their organizations from around the world, are bringing the student voice to AI23 planning:

  • Hannah Howell, The Ailey School

  • Sydnie Holmes, Boston Ballet School

  • Olivia Bourk, Canada’s National Ballet School

  • Kaleb Bland, Dance Institute of Washington

  • Perla Pace, Dutch National Ballet Academy

  • Rilee Scott, New Zealand School of Dance

  • Caspar Lench, The Royal Ballet School

  • Kallum Connor Morris, The School of the Hamburg Ballet


AI23 Student Think Tank Alumni:

  • Sarah Moreno, Canada’s National Ballet School

  • Olmo Verbeeck Martínez, Dutch National Ballet Academy

  • Ishan Mahabir-Stokes, The Royal Ballet School

AI23 Learning Sessions

Leading up to the Festival from October 2022 to April 2023, a series of online panels, keynotes, discussions and education opportunities will be presented with and for participating organizations.


These Learning Sessions are open only to AI23 participants around the world.


For Participants: Each of the eight AI23 Learning Sessions are opportunities to learn, be challenged and grow. Engage fully, listen actively, note your learning and thoughts, and consider where to go from here. Click below to access a PDF tool with questions and prompts that can guide you with each speaker.

Tool for Active Learning and Listening (ENG)     (Spanish)


Read below to learn about upcoming sessions and stay tuned for information about future learning sessions.

Session 1: Milagros Phillips

Race Literacy and Healing 101: A Foundation for Change. Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Featured Speaker:


Milagros Phillips, AKA the Race Healer, is a keynote speaker, TEDx presenter, five-time author, certified coach, and recipient of the 2021 NEW THOUGHT WALDEN AWARD for Interfaith/Intercultural Understanding. Forbes has named her one of Today’s Innovative Leaders. Milagros has spent 35 years consulting, designing, and facilitating strategic race literacy and racial healing programs to enhance Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives. Milagros has touched thousands of lives with her signature Race Demystified program, a compassionate approach to healing from racial conditioning; she delivers life-transforming experiences using history, science, research, and storytelling. Milagros is a columnist with and serves on American Ballet Theater (ABT) R.I.S.E. Her latest book, Cracking the Healer's Code-A prescriptions for Healing Racism & Finding Wholeness, is a finalist of the 2022 Book Excellence Award.


Race Literacy and Healing 101: A Foundation for Change


This is not a regular diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) program. This unique program has a global perspective, is founded on the awareness of the one human family, and is a foundation for transformation. Race Literacy 101 is designed to educate and empower all Assemblée Internationale 2023 participants, providing a framework from which the entire conference can grow. This program draws on the history that we never learned in school, science, research and storytelling. It provides context for our current crisis and introduces essential practices for healing from racial conditioning. It helps participants understand the context of their racial biases, how racial trauma gets passed on and how racial conditioning affects their relationships and their audiences.


This 1.5-hour seminar will cover:

  • The 5 dimensions of racial conditioning

  • Where racism lives in your body

  • How racial conditioning derails conversations

  • Lesser-known ancient and modern laws that affect our relations

  • How historic trauma impacts implicit and explicit bias

  • The groundwork for healing and transformation

Session 2: Theresa Ruth Howard

Examining the Shifting Landscape of Dance, and Discovering your Personal Constellation. Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Featured Speaker:

Hailed “a force for change” by The New York Times, Theresa Ruth Howard is a writer, diversity strategist, former ballet dancer and the founder and curator of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet ( MoBBallet has been a pioneer in the efforts to create cultural reform that supports the diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism in the field of ballet and the classical arts through education and advocacy, and has expanded the perception of ballet (who it is for and who participates) by re-sorting history with our digital archives.


As an advocate, her background as a dancer (Dance Theater of Harlem and Armitage Gone! Dance) and dance educator make her uniquely qualified to target, address and facilitate much needed cultural shifts in ballet leadership. She is an international diversity strategist whose innovative philosophy and approach to the as made her a sought-after speaker, consultant and coach to artistic, executive, and school directors and Board members of ballet, opera, academic institutions and service organizations including: The Royal Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera America, National Association of Teachers of Singing and American Guild of Musical Artist.


In 2018, she was a member of the Design and Facilitation Team of The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet, a three-year initiative which assembled a cohort of 21 North American Ballet companies. In addition to curating MoBBallet, Howard collaborated with Peggy Olislaeger in the curation of the Dutch National Ballet’s (DNB) bi-annual conference Positioning Ballet (2017/2019), which convened over 40 European and international companies. In 2019 she was invited to curate their Black Achievement Month photo exhibition paying homage to the legacy of Black Ballet artists who have danced with the company since 1961. In 2019 she was tapped to Howard curate The Royal Opera House’s inaugural Young Talent Festival Symposium, “Exposure, Access and Opportunity: Exploring the Cultural Barriers to Ballet Training.”


This work led to founding the Cultural Competence and Equity Coalition (C2EC) a membership-based organization that supports the embodiment of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism and Cultural Competence (I.DE.A.&CC) and works to transform the cultural norms within the classical arts. C²EC is a learning community providing the support, education, and advocacy organizations, leaders, artists, and creators need to reimagine and reshape the culture and the standards of classical arts. Members include: The Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet and more.


As a journalist Ms. Howard, has contributed to The Source, Pointe, Ex- pressions (Italy), and Tanz (Germany), and Opera America Magazines. Currently she is a contributing writer for Dance Magazine. Former New York Times Lead Dance Critic Alastair Macaulay cites her as “One of the most valuable writers on dance today… Theresa Ruth Howard has written some of the most provocative pieces on ballet today”. Her life motto is: “The only way to make the world a better place, is to be better people in it!”


Session Description:


In dance, we refer to the process of training as a pipeline, which refers to the universal pathway that prepares students’ arrival at a singular outlet: “a professional career”. Unfortunately, it does not envision a multiplicity of outlets that might accommodate a multiplicity of students. Join Theresa Ruth Howard as she takes students down the winding road of her own career(s) as a former ballet dancer, dance educator, journalist, diversity strategist and founder of MoBBallet (Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet), proving that all pipelines and pathways are not straight, and often lead to unexpected but exciting places. She will present her philosophy for incorporating one’s full self into their artist by embracing her theories of "Finding your Fit" and discovering your "The Personal Constellation”. In addition, students will be invited to examine where they fit in the shifting cultural landscape of dance by examining the concepts of active citizenship, activating your activism, and understanding the responsibility that comes with personal agency.


Photo Credit Eva Harris

Session 3: Benoit Swan Pouffer

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Featured Speaker:

Benoit Swan Pouffer is the Artistic Director of Rambert and an internationally renowned dance artist and company leader. Born and trained in Paris, he moved to New York where he spent seven years as a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He went on to become the Artistic Director of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, a post he held for 10 years. His tenure at the helm of the company was described by the New York Times as “a New York success story”, gaining wide acclaim for introducing a new generation of international choreographers to US audiences, being the first there to commission work from artists including Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Alexander Ekman, Crystal Pite and Hofesh Shechter.


As a choreographer Benoit has made dance for companies around the world including Ailey2 and Rambert’s early career ensemble Rambert2, feature films, music videos, and Broadway shows. Recently, he directed Note To Self for Rambert, the last of a 2021 series of innovative livestreamed dance works performed, filmed and broadcast in real time on Rambert Home Studio to fans around the world. Alongside directing and choreographing Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby for Rambert in 2022, Benoit will also be the movement director for Max Webster’s Henry V at the Donmar Warehouse. His ability to blend artistically stimulating content with commercially popular work has led to critical acclaim.

More Upcoming Events

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12 Feb


Toronto Auditions

The Professional Ballet-Academic Program offers full-time Olympic-calibre dance training, academic instruction and residence—all on the same campus located in Toronto. Auditions are an exciting opportunity to experience a class with NBS’ world-renowned teachers. Take the leap and register today for an audition!

30 Apr


Assemblée Internationale 2023 Performances

The international ballet training community will come together once again for Assemblée Internationale (AI), April 30-May 6, 2023 in Toronto.

25 May


Spring Showcase

Since 1959, Spring Showcase has been an annual performance tradition at Canada’s National Ballet School – completely unique in its opportunity to witness the next generation of leading ballet artists as they develop and explore the full spectrum of this rapidly-evolving art form.

03 Jun


NBS Block Party

Canada’s National Ballet School’s (NBS) Block Party, an open house with a festival feel, brought together people from across the Greater Toronto Area for a day of family-friendly activities and performances to celebrate the power of dance and community.

02 Jun


NBS Sharing Dance Day 2022

An interactive celebration of movement and music