Evening Standard, 26th February 2009

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Back to Ballet Black
by Sarah Frater
26 February 2009

Ballet Black is a text book start-up. Formed in 2001, the young company commissions new choreography to interesting music, and keeps sets and costumes simple which trims costs and flatters the dancers. It’s also a troupe for black and Asian dancers, which is a good idea as they are under-represented in the main ballet companies. But the really interesting thing about Ballet Black is that it’s so good at the former that you forget about the latter.

For its fourth visit to the Linbury, artistic director Cassa Pancho has put together a neo-classical programme that would shame bigger troupes. Top of the lot is Will Tuckett’s plotless Depouillement to Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello. It’s sadly pre-recorded (inevitable for a start-up) but the screechy sound-system can’t distract from the ingenious steps and felicitous partnering which are the best thing Tuckett has done in years. It also reveals improvements in the Ballet Black dancers, who in eight short years have gone from able to pretty good.

Also strong was Martin Lawrance’s Pendulum, a striking duet that careers between ideas of combat and intimacy, and Liam Scarlett’s Hinterland, which captures the sawing rawness of Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No 2.

Small criticisms include the occasional costume slip and the six slightly over-stretched dancers who are on stage rather too much.