Culture Whisper, 2nd Nov 2021

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Eightfold, a new film that showcases the talent of Ballet Black dancers.
By Teresa Guerreiro
2nd November 2021


Ballet Black, the small company for dancers of Black and Asian heritage, responded to lockdown by creating a collaborative film, Eightfold, which brings together eight dancers and as many choreographers in a series of short solos created via Zoom from places as far apart as South Africa, Leeds, New York, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and London.

Ballet Black director Cassa Pancho selected a series of themes which showcase, in her own words ‘the multifaceted aspects of joyous human emotion’ and paired each of her dancers with one choreographer. She then called on the film-maker Mark Donne to bring all that together into one diverse, yet coherent, film.

The result is Eightfold: eight dancers, eight choreographers, each pair responding to, or illustrating one of eight themes: Rage, Courage, Hope, Joy, Strength, Love, Passion, Power. For each Mark Donne has chosen a specific visual tint, while director of photography Mark Nutkins (Bridgerton) made use of the latest film technology, including drones, to light and frame each dancer in his or her own specific way.

So, for example, Rage, choreographed by Joy Alpuerto Ritter on music by Lih Qun Wong, is filmed in black-and-white with intimate close-ups of the very expressive dancer Ebony Thomas, who also voices a brief thematic text.

In Courage (pictured top) Marie-Astrid Mence performs Monique Jonas’s expansive choreography within the vast space of an empty studio, followed by a lit drone, all bathed in a deep green light.

Sayaka Ichikawa bounds across the studio in a multi-coloured, but predominantly red, costume and pointe shoes, giggling uncontrollably, rolling on the floor, her unconfined joy bursting out of the screen in Passion, choreographed by Northern Ballet’s South African-born soloist Mlindi Kulashe, to the jolly tune of Gaga Grego, by Kabantu.

And in perhaps the most affecting piece of the lot, Nina Simone’s hard-hitting and haunting Four Women provides the context for Power, danced with tremendous force by Ballet Black first lady, Cira Robinson, in a hazy studio bathed in an earthy tint. The choreography is by Royal Ballet soloist Joseph Sissens, who’s made no secret of his wish to explore his own origins and culture as a black British man.