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Dance pioneer honoured by Queen

TEAM EFFORT: Some of the dancers from Ballet Black

THE FOUNDER of Britain’s first ballet company for ethnic minority dancers has been recognised in the New Year’s Honours list.

Cassa Pancho, founder and artistic director of Ballet Black, was given an MBE for services to ballet.

Upon hearing the news of her accolade, Pancho expressed her astonishment, but was unwilling to take all the plaudits.

“I am delighted and very surprised to receive this honour,” she said. “I don't really see it as a solo achievement, but rather an acknowledgment of what Ballet Black has achieved over the past twelve years.”

The London-born pioneer who began dancing aged six added: “It has always been very much a team effort.”

Pancho, of British and Trinidadian heritage, founded the company as a 21 year old in 2001, after contemplating why there were so few black and Asian dancers in the classical dance industry.

OPPORTUNITIES

The company began, according to its official history, “as a way to provide dancers and students of black and Asian descent with inspiring opportunities in classical ballet.”

Also honoured were the stars of Team GB who achieved spectacular success at this summer’s London Olympics.

Long-distance runner Mo Farah and heptathlete Jessica Ennis were both made Commanders of the British Empire (CBE).

Ennis broke her own national record and set three personal bests in the heptathlon en route to capturing gold, while Farah crossed the finish line first in the 5,000m and 10,000m, claiming two golds.

Flyweight Nicola Adams, the first woman ever to win an Olympic boxing gold medal, was also honoured, receiving an MBE.

Winning three bouts in total, the 30-year-old from Leeds defeated China’s Ren Cancan in the final, 16-7.

Super-heavyweight gold medallist Anthony Joshua got onto the list with an MBE after being crowned Britain’s first super-heavyweight Olympic champion since Audley Harrison in 2000.
Gymnastics silver and bronze medallist Louis Smith, who recently won BBC 1’s hit dance contest Strictly Come Dancing was also given an MBE.

Away from sport, Jamaican-born playwright Patricia Cumper, former director of Talawa Theatre Company, has been honoured for services to British theatre.

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