London Evening Standard, 27th February 2014

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Ballet Black – Linbury Studio Theatre, London
Director: Cassa Pancho
Reviewer: Lyndsey Winship
Rating: 3*

Mixed Bill/Ballet Black, Linbury Studio – dance review

It’s midsummer madness in Arthur Pita’s latest piece, which gives us possibly the first lesbian kiss in ballet

Kudos to choreographer Arthur Pita for giving us possibly the first lesbian kiss in ballet. His new piece for Ballet Black, A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream, also offers up mambo in pointe shoes, Bottom and Titania getting it on to the sounds of Barbra Streisand and a female Puck in a boy scout uniform and stick-on beard.

Such midsummer madness is a daring departure for Ballet Black, the chamber company of black and Asian dancers that usually tends towards tasteful contemporary ballet. The choice reflects director Cassa Pancho’s ongoing commitment to new choreography, which is admirable, even if the results are sometimes uneven.

This programme opens with two short works, firstly Martin Lawrance’s Limbo, which showcases the petite but steely-strong Cira Robinson. Less dynamic than some of Lawrance’s previous pieces, this one’s obtuse angles and firm landings match the deliberate strokes of Paul Hindemith’s viola sonata with a weightiness that suggests pulling the heaven-bound back to earth.

Then there’s Two of a Kind from Christopher Marney, best known as a performer with Matthew Bourne. Marney’s own choreography has a classical sensibility — although it’s at its best when he throws in contemporary motifs, such as sudden scissoring arms or a full back bend into a walkover. There’s an “it’s complicated” love story hidden inside this pleasant quartet but there’s not quite enough character development for it to cut through.

Pita’s A Dream Within… suffers a little from the same lack of personality (Isabela Coracy’s Puck excepted). In its series of Shakespeare-inspired scenes, set to singers ranging from Eartha Kitt to Antony and the Johnsons, the steps break out of the classical mould but the dancers find it harder to do so. The performance gathers momentum as it goes but this one needs exuberance and abandon from the off. There’s the makings of something good here but, to use the technical term, it needs oomph.

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