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The Stage, 27th February 2014

Ballet Black – Linbury Studio Theatre, London
Director: Cassa Pancho
Reviewer: Neil Norman

Cassa Pancho’s small but perfectly formed company of black and Asian dancers fits neatly onto the stage of the Linbury Studio, as the big beasts of classical ballet continue to roar above them on the main stage of the Royal Opera House. Her eight dancers perform tight, intimate and spirited pieces from a trio of hot-to-trot choreographers. Martin Lawrance’s Limbo is an intense three-hander with the statuesque Cira Robinson caught between two men who appear to be competing for her.

There is a real sense of entrapment as Lawrance ratchets up the tension through laser-sharp moves and silent dialogues between the three. Christopher Marney’s Two of a Kind is a more lyrical work of similar brevity with two duetting couples. The winding lifts and symmetrical joustings convey the tender playfulness of not-quite-new lovers although the canary yellow dresses of the women conjure portentous images of La jeune homme et la mort.

Star of the evening is unquestionably Arthur Pita’s A Dream within a Midsummer Night’s Dream which manages to be magical, funny, beautiful and anarchic while distilling the essence of Shakespeare’s most popular comedy into a heady post-classical concoction. Robinson is an imperious Titania, strong and supple until she collapses like melting wax after falling in love with Bottom, transformed by a Boy Scout Puck (Isabela Coracy) into an ass. Pita adds a dash of surrealism to the brew with Magritte’s gauze-wrapped faces and the mischievous appearance of Salvador Dali as Puck’s ‘assistant’. This one’s a keeper.