Ballet Black – Linbury Studio Theatre
Director: Cassa Pancho
Reviewer: Lyndsey Winship
Britain’s first black and Asian ballet company starts the season with an interesting triple bill that doesn’t take the easy route
Now in its 14th year, Ballet Black made its name as Britain’s first ballet company for black and Asian dancers, but has built its reputation as a small ensemble with a commitment to new choreography that punches above its weight.
For this season’s triple bill, they’ve commissioned man of the moment Mark Bruce, who had a hit last year with his show Dracula. Bruce brings a bit of his gothic style to Ballet Black as they take a dark, surreal turn in Second Coming, a piece simmering with superstition and religion, saviours and manipulators (and even an immaculate conception).
Damien Johnson plays ringmaster, with Kanika Carr in sky-blue tailcoat and red pointe shoes as his hula hooping assistant-cum-angel Gabriel. Bruce isn’t known for ballet, but he makes use of the dancers’ natural vocabulary, while transporting us to a shadowy world using only props, light and music (Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan, Elgar’s Cello Concerto). It takes a while, but it does slowly suck you in.
A revival of Will Tuckett’s Depouillement, responding closely to the music of Ravel, gives us the night’s highlight: Cira Robinson, a dancer with an endlessly expressive quality from her toes to the tips of her long fingers, stepping out to the sound of a single cello. There’s also Kit Holder’s enigmatic nursery rhyme rewrite, To Fetch A Pail Of Water?, which has Jack and Jill getting jiggy in a short piece that switches between classical and contemporary shapes and distance and intimacy.
On opening night, it feels as though the dancers are still settling into the stage and the work, proving it is always a challenge to be constantly shifting styles. But this is a company that doesn’t take the obvious or easy route — and that’s exactly what makes it interesting.