Dance preview: Ballet Black
Triple bill from this award-winning neo-classical ballet company, featuring a dramatic tale of 1920s New Orleans
Date: 13 September 2016
Written by: Kelly Apter
It was during a trip to New Orleans that choreographer Christopher Hampson hit upon a name for the central character in Storyville, his 2012 work for Ballet Black. A popular acronym for the city, NOLA (short for New Orleans, Louisiana) became a woman living in the 1920s.
‘It’s the age old story of a simple country girl who goes to make a life for herself in the big city, but it doesn’t go quite according to plan,’ explains Hampson. ‘And two of the characters who have the biggest impact on Nola’s life are actually real people who lived in Storyville, which was a district in New Orleans in the early 20th century.’
Set to the music of Kurt Weill, including his famous song ‘Mack the Knife’, Storyville was a big hit with audiences and critics when it premiered in London four years ago – hence its place on the company’s UK tour. It’s one of three diverse works the award-winning Ballet Black are bringing to Glasgow this autumn, along with Arthur Pita’s duet Cristaux and Christopher Marney’s To Begin, Begin.
The UK’s only ballet company for dancers of black and Asian descent, Ballet Black has received criticism for being separatist. But as far as Hampson is concerned, it’s work is nothing short of essential.
‘I really do think that what Cassa Pancho the artistic director is doing is absolutely vital,’ he says. ‘Because what she constantly says is she’s waiting for the normalness of it all. It might be that we’re beginning to have ethnic diversity on stage, but until that’s mirrored in the audience I don’t think her job is done.’
Tramway, Glasgow, Fri 28 & Sat 29 Oct.