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ADAD 31st January 2007

ROH2 presents Ballet Black – 31 January – 3 February 2007
Royal Opera House, Linbury Theatre
Reviewed by Francis Angol

The stealth of a gazelle poised with the grace and elegance of a Nubian spirit is the only way one can describe the amazing opening of Ballet Black’s current season of works by four choreographers.

Audiences were enthralled with the return of this flagship ballet company to the Linbury with four works that demonstrated the skill and professional delivery of the performers and thus the company.

The works, a revival of Antonia Franceschi’s Shift, Trip….Catch, set to a live cello score specially composed and performed by Zoe Martley; Bawren Tavaziva’s 2004 Place Prize finalist work, Umdlalo KaSisi is transformed into a classical ballet, fused with traditional African movement drawing its inspiration from the death of a loved one, and accompanied by his own musical composition; Liam Scarlett’s brand new work Hinterland – inspired by the music of Shostakovich, and Taniec, a classical trio choreographed by company ballet Master Raymond Chai.

The main high points of the evening were to see the company perform Hinterland and Shift, Trip….Catch. Hinterland, one of two ensemble piece of the night gave the company the opportunity to showcase its talent. Never the less both works really allowed the performers to illustrate the skill of their art, allowing audiences to really appreciate and acknowledge the depth of quality in technique and style.

In the first piece, Taniec, dancer Hugo Cortes leaps on stage with an overwhelming rush of creative energy that is projected far back into the upper galleries of the Linbury Theatre of the Royal Opera House. The work was captivating in its fluidity and elegance of particular note was Chantelle Gotobed the only female in the trio. She held the piece together and engaged the audience with a strong performance.

Umdalalo KaSisi, in contrast, was an emotive piece where one felt the pain of loss juxtaposed with hope that can come through the coming together of people. This ensemble piece was performed well with a powerful music score that had an African sensibility. One would have liked to see this piece performed with a stronger ballet signature rather than too much of a contemporary dance placement.

Shift, Trip….Catch, was an exciting and enjoyable combination which came to life in a frenzied second half which was marked by powerful dancing from Damien Johnson, So-Yeon Kim and Monica Stephenson.

Ballet Black does not receive any regular sponsorship but relies on the generosity of its supporters and the dedication of its company members. Artistic Director Cassa Pancho, who herself trained at the Royal Academy of Dance founded BB in 2001, a year later the BB school and in 2004, the BB Association Programme, which currently has over one hundred members.

The company is now housed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The company continues to inspire young aspiring dancers by offering open classes, training side by side with company members.

Cassa views BB as a vehicle to showcase the skills and talents of black and Asian dancers working in the field of classical ballet, producing role models and setting standards for future generations.

The Linbury Theatre was well suited for the staging of the evening’s presentation and was very well attended. The audience in a sense represented the nature of the company’s work – diversity hand in hand with ethnicity in an all embracing mode of entertainment that was delivered with precision. The crowd, an equal balance of the gender spectrum consisted of a wide range of age groups made up of what appeared to be an amalgamation of friends, families, staunch supporters and interested individuals from the general public. This was a most pleasing spectacle to see a company of this nature making ballet accessible to a new and wider audience – well done Ballet Black.

Overall a most enjoyable and entertaining evening’s performance that proved to be good value for money. This company is one with a grounded philosophy with crowd pulling skills through its work and hopefully will have a great and long future.