Frankly My Dear UK, 13th Oct 2021

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Then or Now and The Waiting Game Review
By Alison Ruck
October 13, 2021


Delivering a seamless performance from start to finish, the BALLET BLACK double bill provides a diverse offering that all dance audiences can enjoy.

BALLET BLACK returns to Salford’s The Lowry, with a double bill of thrilling dance to captivate your senses.

Cassa Pancho’s professional British ballet company celebrates dancers of Black and Asian descent and is making a fundamental change in the diversity of classical British ballet – the company even created the first UK-made pointe shoes for BAME and Asian dancers.

This show treats audiences to not one but two pieces of thrilling dance. At about 35 minutes long, both works offer something completely contrasting, presenting a varied and modern performance of ballet and tailoring for both ballet connoisseurs and novices alike.

The opening work, named ‘Then and Now’, is choreographed by the Royal Ballet’s Olivier Award-winner, Will Tuckett. Exploring ideas of home and belonging, Tuckett perfectly blends classical ballet, poetry, and music to present an expressive and captivating performance that commands the senses.

The softly spoken poetry that soundtracks the visuals is contradicted by interludes from the piercing staccato of a solo violin. But all of this is just atmosphere as you find yourself zoning out the sound and becoming captured by the effortless movement of the eight dancers as they sweep across the stage with a variety of lifts, kicks and leaps combined effortlessly with classical on-pointe techniques.

The eight dancers perform as an ensemble throughout, having their moment to shine either in a solo or duet. Some sections of this work are quite difficult to understand in terms of its symbolism, but the dancing alone is encaptivating. A particular stand out section, best described as ‘Sending Love’, is where the entire company of dancers pass their love through various humorous and heartfelt phrases.

The second piece opens to a ticking metronome, beginning with existential, deep questions in the form of the solo dancers’ thoughts before becoming a more upbeat and quirkier piece than its predecessor. Choreographed by Olivier Award-winning choreographer Mthuthuzeli November, ‘The Waiting Game’ contemplates the purpose of life.

This piece follows a suited character stuck in the same routine. We hear their inner monologue combined with a range of upbeat, dramatic music. There’s a heavy focus on one prop throughout this final work: a door. The use of the door is executed particularly well. The clever use of lighting creates dramatic shadows, and, as it’s on wheels, the door becomes an extension of the company and almost like a character in itself, as the dancers move and push it around the stage.

November’s choreography is playful and much more contemporary: the piece reaches another level when following an energetic duet filled with excitable movement. The suited man finally makes it through the door, returning shortly after donning a gold glitter jacket.

The company deliver a seamless performance from start to finish. The double bill provides a diverse offering that all dance audiences can enjoy. The contrasting works offer different emotions, the first giving audiences a sense of calm with a classical ballet style. The latter offers a comical yet thought-provoking drama told through a blend of ballet and contemporary movements.

A must-see for dance fanatics and those who maybe want to try something new.