Ballet Beyond Borders returns to Missoula Jan. 8-11

Dance meets global diplomacy during Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre’s event

On Stage

The Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre brings Ballet Beyond Borders back to Montana with the Grand Prix Dance Challenge and Global Diplomacy Conference slated for Jan. 8-11 in Missoula.

This marks the fifth global dance festival hosted by Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre and follows on the heels of a highly successful premiere of Ballet Beyond Borders in Los Angeles and Westchester, CA, this past August.

“Ballet Beyond Borders has been such a success in Missoula that we were invited to bring the festival to Los Angeles and Westchester earlier this year,” says Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre artistic director and Ballet Beyond Borders president Charlene Campbell Carey.

“We’re thrilled to be back home, bringing the world to Missoula for four days of world-class dance competition and diplomatic exchanges that are at the heart of our mission.”

The four-day event kicks off Jan. 8 with international and Montana dancers joining the Missoula Writing Collaborative in visiting schools in Missoula and on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The festival wraps up with a Gala Finale on Jan. 11, at the University of Montana’s Dennison Theatre.

In addition to the dance challenge, Ballet Beyond Borders will feature substantive discussions on the role of dance in global diplomacy. All events are free and open to the public with the exception of the Gala Finale (tickets for the Gala are available at

Ballet Beyond Borders 2020: Featured Guest Stars

Ballet Beyond Borders 2020 will feature four inspiring individuals who have overcome incredible challenges while pursuing excellence in the performing arts. Their stories are both uplifting and unifying and highlight how dance breaks down barriers and fosters cultural diplomacy.

Ballet Beyond Borders guest artist Roman Baca.
Ballet Beyond Borders guest artist Roman Baca with members of Exit12 Dance Company, comprised of dancers and veterans.

Roman Baca: A U.S. Marine, Baca served in Iraq in 2007 as a machine gunner and fire team leader. While looking for insurgents and intelligence, he also became immersed in humanitarian work, bringing water and school supplies to those in need. Home from Iraq in 2007, he found himself having a tough time transitioning to civilian life.

At the urging of his wife, Baca return to his roots in dance and cofounded Exit12 Dance Company. He had trained at the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory in Connecticut and spent a few years as a freelance dancer before feeling compelled, like his grandfather had, to serve his country. Ten years later, Baca is a Fulbright Fellow in London, working to educate audiences about the realities of war through dance.

He will speak at the Ballet Beyond Borders diplomacy conference, and to veterans and individuals at risk or identified and suffering from PTSD.

Award-winning Cuban dancer Lizt Alfonso was included on the BBC’s list of the 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world in 2018.
Award-winning Cuban dancer Lizt Alfonso was included on the BBC’s list of the 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world in 2018.

Lizt Alfonso: This Cuban dancer has earned multiple awards and recognition. She was included on the BBC’s list of the 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world in 2018; received an International Spotlight Award from the USA President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, presented in 2016 at the White House by then First Lady Michelle Obama; and was named an ambassador of the Cuban Artist Fund of New York.

At the age of 23, she founded Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, which has become a popular and prestigious company in the dance and musical world.  Lizt will teach, serve on the jury and discuss the vision of her unique school during the diplomacy conference.

Sophie Rebecca: This British ballet dancer was the first openly transgender person to train at the Royal Academy of Dance’s courses for female dancers. The academy changed its policy in 2013 and no longer insists that students taking these courses must have been born female.

Rebecca is an articulate representative of the transgender community and will share her journey to womanhood and how dance has played an important role. She will speak at the diplomacy conference, moderate a panel discussion at the film festival, and perform.

Ahmad Joudeh, who grew up in a Palestinian refuge camp, is the subject of a 2016 documentary, “Dance or Die.”
Ahmad Joudeh, who grew up in a Palestinian refuge camp, is the subject of a 2016 documentary, “Dance or Die.”

Ahmad Joudeh: Currently a dancer with the Netherlands Dance Theater, Joudeh grew up in Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus. His mother is Syrian and his father is Palestinian; while his father did not approve of his interest in dance, Joudeh persisted. From 2007 until 2016, he lived in Damascus, studying dance, and teaching ballet to support himself, and also sharing the art form with orphaned and disabled children free of charge.

A 2016 documentary about Joudeh called “Dance or Die” depicts him dancing in the ruins of the camp where he had grown up, and visiting his family’s former home in Palmyra, as well as the ancient Roman theater of Palmyra (both have since been destroyed).  Joudeh also takes the filmmakers to his dance studio in Damascus, where some of his young students talk about their lives, and what dance means to them.

All four of these important artists, along with a dozen other BBB leaders, will be part of discussions and informal meetings with BBB attendees, present their stories during the diplomacy conference, teach master classes, and share their experiences with the BBB and Montana community.

“Their stories of hardship, war, alienation and loss of country, paired with struggle and perseverance, provide inspiration to the global humanity we all share,” says Campbell Carey.

Learn more about the festival at or call Rocky Mountain Ballet Theatre at 406-549-5155.