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Dance In Devon, 3rd May 2012

Ballet Black – Exeter Northcott Theatre – 03/05/12

Fleetingly gracing the Northcott’s stage on 3rd and 4th May 2012, with a 2 part premiere, Ballet Black’s vivid choreography experiments with the delicate paradoxes of the orchestrated and the discordant, spiralling into a destructive energy which is carried through into the second half through the narrative piece ‘Storyville’, all through the medium of contemporary ballet.

As an overarching struggle between control and emancipation, the motions of the pieces conveyed an interface between a dreamlike celebration of human relationships, evolution and a resistance which struck me as both internal and external. ‘We go through life as a single human being and from that place we make connections each with unique and contrasting characteristics’. The strength of these performances is instantly striking in the opening piece Together Alone, where the lighting design enhances their bold movements, fusing deliberately rough angular shapes with beautiful sweeping connections both Together and Alone.

In the solo performance ‘Running Silent’, there were moments of choreography which seemed to jar with the music, conveying a sense of struggle. Perhaps not an internal struggle as this seemed externalised through her movements which fluctuated between harmony with and fighting against the rapid Cello strokes. The routine signified a reluctance to conformity, and perhaps this reflects the routine’s genderless centre; as it ‘can be performed by a man or a woman’.

I found ‘Captured’ the most emotive piece, although the relationships needed better clarity. The exploration of the interpersonal and intrapersonal space was playfully anamorphic, with physicality which swung from delicate to fierce. The choreography cleverly seized the would-be menacing quality of the music and made it enticing. ‘Captured’ was captivating.

The evening’s entertainment was a show of two halves, from 1 half where the relationships conveyed needed focusing, to a Ballet of Brechtian influence using Placards to parade these affairs and incidentally featuring music from Brecht’s Threepenny Opera It still carries forward themes of control, passion and violence are blurred through legato and with minimal props, a bracelet becomes a handcuff and a necklace becomes a collar. Inspired by the diverse ethnicities and rich cultural history of New Orleans, the ballet tango’s with the dream world where death is both ominous and seductive. The piece makes the trashy sophisticated, and the colloquial poetic, but this is also linked to my dislike of the lead dancer’s tacky costume. Fortunately the quality of the dancing draws focus from this awkward aesthetic, and perhaps can be interpreted as further celebrating the cultural identity which the piece explores.

Charlotte Monk-Chipman