Métissage in White Plains

by Mary Alice Franklin, ArtsNews Editor

Photo: Ballet des Amériques dancer in front of ArtsWestchester’s building in White Plains (photo courtesy of Ballet des Amériques)

“If you take care of the world and build a healing and healthy community with your art, you as an individual will be alright as well, and you will find your peace.” Ballet des Amériques Artistic Director Carole Alexis describes this as part of her artistic philosophy. It’s also how she describes her dance company’s new digs. “Feeling at home and at peace is crucially important for artists, and this is what we have found in our new space in White Plains.”

Previously based in Port Chester, the dance company recently relocated to the heart of downtown White Plains, occupying almost an entire floor of ArtsWestchester’s building at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue. The historic landmark building is a cultural hub for artists and creative businesses, nestled among popular stores and restaurants.

Alexis took her first steps as a student dancer in a similar “multi-disciplinary artistic environment,” Service Municipal d’Action Culturelle in Fort-de-France, Martinique, which she says informed her creative approach. 

“For our students to come to class and pass by the art gallery on the main floor, and know that they are in a building dedicated to culture and the arts is an experience that puts them in the right frame of mind for the work they are about to do in our studios.”

In the new studio space, Ballet des Amériques, which is gradually transitioning its name to Carole Alexis Ballet Theatre, plans to continue creating and rehearsing work with its professional adult dancers in addition to running the dance education program for its pre-professional ballet conservatory.  

“We are well positioned to expand our student body in our new facility. Our prime objective now is to let the public know that we are here, ready to train and educate children and teens from ages of four through 18 in quality programs for both boys and girls.” 

In the future, she hopes to hold dance performances in the building as well. 

“White Plains is thriving, and there is a great cultural component to this success – one to which we are eager to contribute.” Alexis explains that the City’s “size, urban character, diversity of people who live there and central location” are all elements that were attractive to her when considering the move. Plus, she says, the taxi drivers often speak French and Creole, which makes her feel right at home.

With a mixed European, African and Caribbean heritage, education, training and professional experience, Alexis’s work is “rooted in classical ballet and in traditions of the African diaspora while being open to the world and its various traditions in music and dance.” 

As such, she says that her approach to choreography is informed by “métissage,” or the mix of cultures. For her, this means that the blending of cultures is her starting point, from which she works from within to create something new, as opposed to something that is imposed on her from the outside. 

“My objective is to reinvigorate ‘ballet’ by presenting dances with musical, emotional, social and political appeal. I believe that dance and the arts should be brought directly to all people. I believe that art melds with societal reflection and should grapple with universal themes.”

A version of this article first appeared in the March 2022 issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.​​​​

About Mary Alice Franklin

Mary Alice Franklin is ArtsWestchester’s Communications Manager and Editor of ArtsNews. She has a Bachelors in English and Masters in Publishing, and has been published in Paste Magazine, HuffPost, Art Zealous, Art Times, and more.

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