Press Archive

A modern Water story by Mark Donne

Mark Donne in relation to his piece ‘Mute’, a segment piece from wider film installation “Listening With Frontiersman” commissioned by Estuary Festival. Danced by Ballet Black senior artist, Cira Robinson.

Daily Maverick, 10th Dec 2019

Ingoma is really a dance about the strong women in mining communities. He could portray them because he knew their lives intimately through his mother.

Arts York, 30th Nov 2019

There are palpable parallels to Kafka’s Metamorphosis and similar dystopias voiced by the oppressed working classes, particularly in Thomas’s frantic sequence that speaks to transformation and exorcism.

ArtsPod, 26th Nov 2019

I highly recommend going to see Ballet Black. It’s unique, contemporary and addresses modern day issues, humorous, yet at points sad, empowering and inspiring to all. Overall, it was an outstanding performance.

Fairy Powered Productions, 16th Nov 2019

Ingoma is such a beautiful though poignant piece of work which has been well received by the appreciative audience. It raises awareness of South Africa’s historic milestone and the courageous stand the miners made to fight for their rights.

Critical Dance, 30th June 2019

Within this company, ballet is finding new roots as dancers move seamlessly from pointes to deep plie and from a classical jeté into an articulated roll in an exciting evolution of the form.

Mark Aspen Review, 26 June 2019

[Washa] The piece is a triumphant fusion of classical and modern dance into the millennia-old African culture, which realises November’s aim to cause the inner fire of the dancers to suffuse through their audience.

Dance Tabs, June 19th 2019

Sayaka Ichikawa delivered a sensational performance as Matilda, from the sensual embrace with her lover – an erotic effect that was doubly impressive when they were lying on a “bed” assimilated from the side-slats of wooden chairs – to the panic of their discovery and on through her degrading humiliation. It was an exceptional dramatic tour de force.

Morning Star, June 18th 2019

..November’s truly unforgettable solo most epitomises resistance. To insistent rhythmic chanting, and with a Zulu warrior’s endurance and physical prowess, he relentlessly lunges into high kicks with raised arms, followed by stamps and jumps from squats, beating the ground with his feet, his body an explosive star.

The Times, June 17th 2019

You can almost feel the weight of hardship and injustice in November’s choreography, while the pas de deux for him and Cira Robinson brings the miners’ suffering and frustration into tender and intimate focus. It’s a visceral piece of dance and all the dancers shine.

The Skinny, 14th June 2019

Ballet Black’s Triple Bill is an outstanding exploration and celebration of varying aspects of African culture and history. The passion and commitment the company have for creating work that opens ballet up to more diverse and under-represented audiences is obvious.

ScotsGay Arts, June 11th 2019

The applause at the end expressed not only our appreciation of the dancers’ technical mastery but also how deeply we were affected by what we had seen…Ballet Black were new to me: I will make sure I see them when next they come my way, and I urge you to do the same.

The Herald Scotland, 9th June 2019

The five dancers – three women, two men, all in sharp acid-bright suits – are across such shifts in mood as they hip-sway into a cool dude groove or couple up in contrasting duets where one pair has snap and crackle in their bones, the other is smooch-close and slippery-sensual with it.

Corr Blimey, June 9th 2019

Ballet Black, however, is raw movement of the utmost standard. Its polish comes from capable dancers; its aesthetic shifts from natural dusk to a blaze of tone in what is a remarkable evening, redefining the rules of ballet.

East Midlands Theatre, May 15th 2019

Through it all, though, the humanity, the aching sense of everyday grind, of struggle, of fight and exhaustion, is expressed with great depth of emotion by the whole company. The ensemble scenes are explosive, energetic but also aching in their sense of loss.

Seeing Dance, 13th May 2019

Taut drama: Ballet Black in The Suit and Ingoma… It ends with a sense of togetherness. As sweat pours from the dancers’ bodies, the message is that ‘we will not be beaten’. A fine company with a fine message.

Saffron Reporter, 7th May 2019

This is ballet that is so imaginative, fresh and alive, I would encourage people who think they don’t like dance to go and see it. People who do love dance won’t need any encouragement. They will adore it all the more.

Bristol (B24/7), 26th April 2019

The choreography was long and involved, and I can’t even imagine the physicality it takes to perform a piece like that. With every minute that passed, it felt like another layer of an onion was peeled off, revealing very raw emotions underneath. There was absolute beauty in their unity.

Seeing Dance, March 20th 2019

A duet between Sayaka Ichikawa, now in a drab blue dress and headscarf, and José Alves is painful in its intimacy. They stand close, foreheads touching, sharing their love, their breath and their fear, and dance in weaving, wrapping patterns…It was an evening when ballet has found an authentic black voice and it’s time to celebrate.

Bachtrack, 20th March 2019

Ballet Black: Pendulum / CLICK! / INGOMA at the Barbican By Graham Watts, 20 March 2019 Opening its eighteenth season (how is that possible?), Cassa Pancho’s chamber ballet ensemble has now clocked up 45 original commissions and last year’s newbie, The Suit by Cathy Marston, garnered two gongs in the…

DanceTabs, 19th March 2019

As founder Cassa Pancho noted in a post-show talk at the company’s recent triple bill at the Barbican, “it’s not just about redressing the lack of diverse bodies on stage but also the stories that are being told. It’s about changing the very gatekeepers of ballet.”

British Theatre Guide, 18th March 2019

Not only do the dancers dance, they also sing, of hope, of redemption and delivery from hardship. Gestures are supplicating, hands in prayer. The womenfolk in grey dresses and headscarves are a mighty force, too, fists at the ready in impassioned solos and group dance. Revolution is in the air. The air turns red.

STRAND, March 18th 2019

The triple bill contained an ideal balance of exhilarating works, between abstraction and narration, drama and comedy, grief and glee. The company, packed with brilliant dancers and role models for the next generation, has undeniably reached an exciting stage of maturity with its own impactful voice.

Financial Times, March 18th 2019

José Alves’s powerful solo which conveys his increasing fury and frustration with deceptively simple means: running on the spot or smacking angrily against his rubber boots. There is a mournful soliloquy for Sayaka Ichikawa who represents the grieving womenfolk of the mining community, standing downstage, pounding a rhythm with her clenched fists against the fourth wall.

The Wee Review, 18th March 2019

As Ingoma comes to an end, the company’s power as a unit is palpable. The sweat pouring off their bodies is testament to the passion they have for their art, as is the applause from the audience. Ballet Black is certainly a dance company to look out for.

The Times, 18th March 2019

For me the pinnacle on press night was a heartfelt, physically full-throttle solo from Isabela Coracy followed by a tremulously sensitive one from Sayaka Ichikawa.

The Guardian, 18th March 2019

…in the outpouring of grief there is distress and pride, helplessness and yet a fierce energy for the fight. The dancers dig deep to serve November’s heartfelt work.

The Wonderful World of Dance, March 17th 2019

Ingoma demonstrates not only the individual physicality of each dancer, but their strength as an assembly. The company move as one beast, sweeping across the shadowy space, pick-axes above their heads and fists held high.

Seen & Heard International, 17th March 2019

Of the people who didn’t stay [for the post-show talk], more than a few stopped on their way out to pose excitedly for photographs and selfies against the background of the dancers of Ballet Black in their sleek, sharp, larger-than-life poster.

Lucy Writers Platform – 23rd December 2018

Once again, never hindered by the smaller size of their company, Ballet Black has proved themselves to be one of the true and best innovators in the dance world. If there was ever any worry that ballet has become so antiquated that it risks making itself irrelevant or obsolete, Cassa Pancho’s brilliant troupe will restore your faith in the longevity of one of theatre’s oldest surviving traditions.

Exeunt Magazine, 19th November 2018

Even before the ballet started I was already seeing the effect of an all-PoC cast. I saw more black and Asian audience members than I have ever seen before at a ballet. It was exhilarating and also threw every other ballet audience I have been a part of into stark contrast.

British Theatre Guide, 19th November 2018

It was a pleasure to see some of the female dancers performing in Freed’s new pointe shoe colours, created in collaboration with the company and marking a significant step towards increased diversity in ballet.

The Reviews Hub, November 18th 2018

The diversity of the two pieces demonstrate that ballet can be anything it wants to be: classical, powerful, seductive, edgy, contemporary or even laugh out loud funny and Ballet Black does them all justice. Who knew Shakespeare could be such incredible fun?

Culture Calling, 6th November 2018

Ballet Black is a dance company with a difference. For starters, they have recently collaborated on a new brown satin ballet shoe, which – unbelievably – wasn’t available for dancers of colour until now. And aside from their cultural impact as an award-winning, neo-classical ballet company made up of international dancers of black and Asian descent, their performances are completely mesmerising.

The British Theatre Guide, October 30th 2018

In a touring double bill of drama and wit, Ballet Black (founded in 2001), a company of seven, punches above its weight. Having reviewed the company three consecutive years in a row, I missed this bill at the Barbican in March and, lo, here’s a lucky chance to catch up with it in Kingston.

The Norwich Eye, October 28th 2018

Ballet Black remind us powerfully that in these times of increasing division and intolerance talent knows no boundaries of race or gender. They show us that we need to challenge those who seek to thwart ambition on false grounds of race, gender or orientation and they help us to celebrate the joyous talent and skills of this group of dancers…

The Jewish Chronicle, October 19th 2018

Ballet Black may be a small company — there are only seven dancers — but its influence is far greater than its size…Times are changing, albeit slowly, and the Ballet Black dancers show children from different ethnic backgrounds that ballet is something they can seriously consider as a career.

The Morning Star, October 17th 2018

It’s a production which typifies what Ballet Black is all about. Founded to provide roles for black and Asian dancers, it blends traditional ballet’s exacting discipline and contemporary dance’s inventiveness with virtuosity and elegance.

The Scotsman, 12th June 2018

In a flurry of glitter, he turns Shakespeare’s romantic comedy on its head, with same-sex relationships and a cracking soundtrack, although it’s the beauty of Titania and Bottom’s duet that’s most striking of all.

Bachtrack, 9th June 2018

While Coracy gives a show-stealing performance, the rest of the cast are also extremely funny. Their burlesque manner is smattered with audible gasps, loud snores, squeals and over-the-top facial expressions.

The Press and Journal, 7th June 2018

Monday night’s double bill from Ballet Black was a game changer, an evening of dance that raised standards to an impressive new high and left the audience whooping and yelling for more.

SeeingDance, 23rd March 2018
There is a very special buzz that accompanies Ballet Black performances. The Barbican Theatre was packed, the audience reflected London’s multicultural mix, arriving with every intention of enjoying a good night out, and the company did not disappoint.
DanceTabs, 21st March 2018
Another year and another terrific bill from Ballet Black, mixing two strong and sophisticated works from much sought after international choreographers....Clever Cassa Pancho, the Ballet Black director, for putting on one of the company’s finest nights.
The Times, 20th March 2018
Classy popular entertainment is certainly what Ballet Black’s artistic director Cassa Pancho delivers in the company’s latest touring programme, a well-contrasted double bill that offers drama and some altogether glorious romantic fun.
Exeunt Magazine, 19th March 2018
A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream, though, that had me repeatedly reaching out and excitably squeezing my companion’s hand. Arthur Pita’s playful, joyous, hilarious and unashamedly queer love letter to the world of Shakespeare’s fairies is also a teasing sext to the benchmarks of ballet.
Financial Times, 19th March 2018
The major UK ballet squads are all considerably more diverse than they were when Cassa Pancho founded her troupe 17 years ago and the pointe shoe manufacturers have re-thought their idea of “flesh-coloured”, but Ballet Black still has a key role to play: attracting new, atypical audiences and commissioning clever small-scale works (40 so far).
British Theatre Guide, 18th March 2018
You can’t not like this celebration of romantic possibilities with its witty choreography that eventually resolves back into Handelian classicism. The company dance it with style and affection. It’s a treat.
The Reviews Hub, 17th March 2018
It’s time to forget everything you think you know about ballet, put aside any pre-existing notions about form, classical styling and storytelling because Ballet Black are redefining its contemporary relevance.
The Upcoming, 17th March 2018
Ballet Black’s performances are exemplary, truly magnificent and accomplished dance pieces. With enduring, graceful, and passionate dances, this company have proved once again that neither race nor colour has any place in the arts.
Broadway World, 16th March 2018
Pita's interpretation of Shakespeare's Dream is a colourful, engaging and lively work. Its status as a signature within the repertoire is no surprise given the joy it delivers from beginning to end, showcasing the company at their mesmerising best.
Broadway World, 11th November 2017

Red is such a fun piece demonstrating how the company can deliver both light and shade in equal measure as well as nailing the characterisation. Hopefully this will live long in their expanding repertoire.

The Independent, 13th March 2017

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s new work Little Red Riding Hood utilises the symbolism of adolescent sexual awakening to create a heroine that resists victimhood and embraces defiance.

DanceTabs, 11th March 2017

In terms of fully delivering on its promise [House of Dreams] is the success of the night and really underlines the classical chops of the company – nothing ropey here.

Plays To See, 7th March 2017

This was an altogether outstanding evening: an admirably varied and testing, showcase for the all-round talents of this remarkable company. The sense of a special occasion was reflected in the buzz among the audience at the end amid a desire for a return visit before long.

The Evening Standard, 6th March 2017

Ballet Black are a rare commodity in the dance world. Not because they’re a ballet company made up exclusively of black and Asian dancers – although that’s inspiring in itself – but because they’re a small-scale chamber ballet company with a mission to commission new work, operating without any of the infrastructure bigger companies take for granted.

The Times, 6th March 2017

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s new take on Red Riding Hood is the kind of ambitious one-act storytelling creation that gives Ballet Black its distinctive advantage in the independent dance scene. The piece has a vibrant atmosphere, dynamic choreography, deliciously entertaining music, standout performances and a sense of dark fun. And it’s almost a runaway success.

Financial Times, 6th March 2017

Pancho’s company takes classical dance to a new, diverse audience in places not visited by the larger troupes (Worthing, anyone?) and routinely commissions new work., 6th March 2017

…when she encounters the Wolf – a strutting, wiggling, undulating seduction machine, played superbly by Mthuthuzeli November, whose excessively long rope tail is put to all manner of use.

The Stage, 6th March 2017

Mthuthuzeli November is perfect as the slinky seducer, while Cira Robinson’s Riding Hood journeys from bewildered naivety, knee-trembling sensual surrender to a final act of bold defiance.

The Guardian, 5th March 2017

Little Red Riding Hood is a riot of a dance…This eclectic triple bill draws inspiration from Debussy and Shostakovich before concluding with a funny, gutsy spin on a fairytale.

Seeing Dance, 4th March 2017

The eight Ballet Black dancers are some of Britain’s hardest workers and this programme shows them at their best: accomplished, versatile and great communicators. Their audiences too are growing. A poll at the after show talk showed a considerable number of first timers, satisfied customers that will hopefully broaden the appeal of ballet.

British Theatre Guide, 4th March 2017

The innuendos come thick and fast. How come she has only one flower when the saucy burlesque girls have two each? And grandmother is played en travesti by José Alves on pointe. The facts of life confuse, but isn’t a bad boy with that hip-hop rolling gait irresistible; does she love it!

Broadway World, 4th March 2017

And so Pancho lands another successful evening’s programme. There is enough here for traditionalists and contemporary fans alike to be satisfied, as well as material strong enough to showcase these elegant yet athletic dancers to the best of their great abilities.

The List, 13 September 2016

‘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.’

The Observer, 15th February 2015

Ballet Black triple bill – an erotic Jack and Jill meet voodoo pirates. Works by Kit Holder, Will Tuckett and Mark Bruce showcase the company’s considerable range, 13th February 2015

It has become the norm for each Ballet Black season to showcase a new one-act ballet that utilises all its dancers (once just six, now grown to eight), which is building a distinctive repertory of substantial works by some of the best choreographers around.

Evening Standard, 12th February 2015

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.

The Guardian, 12th February 2015

It’s typical of Ballet Black that this clever, enterprising company should be the first to commission a work from Mark Bruce, in the wake of his award-winning production of Dracula. Typical, too, that the result, Second Coming, shows us such new things about choreographer and dancers alike.

The Huffington Post, 5th August 2014

While ballet has a long way to go in addressing these issues, there are plenty of dancers in the contemporary realm who are actively working to change the white-washed, body oppressive world of ballet. Behold, 17 ballet icons who are changing the face of dance

The Stage, 27th February 2014

Star of the evening is unquestionably Arthur Pita’s A Dream within a Midsummer Night’s Dream which manages to be magical, funny, beautiful and anarchic while distilling the essence of Shakespeare’s most popular comedy into a heady post-classical concoction.

London Evening Standard, 27th February 2014

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.

The Independent, 27th February 2014

Arthur Pita’s A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream shows Ballet Black’s dancers at their most classical – then gleefully twists that upside down in a burst of Shakespeare-inspired mayhem. The company have never looked better.

The Observer, 2nd March 2014

Ballet Black review – old­school charm, new­age wit
BB’s new mixed programme at the Royal Opera House shows off the company’s considerable strength and range

The Scotsman, 12 Nov 2013

IN TWELVE short years, Ballet Black has made quite a name for itself, winning prestigious awards and forging an enviable link with the Royal Opera House. What it hasn’t done however, is visit Scotland – until now.

3080641-5, 6th March 2013

Sitting within sweat sniffing distance, I still couldn’t consider these dancers as human beings not too unlike myself. Their lean lengthy limbs, sheathed in firm hairless, healthy flesh, musculature prominent. A faint outline of occasionally provoked nipples being one of the only features reminding you that these dancers have real bodily functions and juices.

London Dance, 4 March 2013

A whistle-stop trip to Russia immediately after this show has allowed the rare luxury of the overall scope and flavour of an ambitious quadruple bill of new work to simmer in my consciousness before writing this review. To begin with let’s consider the rarity of that brief statement – a “quadruple bill of new work”: We may not experience such a programme that often

Metro, 4 Mar 2013

The opening half of the show is fun-time for the dancers, a trio of short works giving them a chance to shine. Ludovic Ondiviela’s frothy love duet Dopamine (You Make My Levels Go Silly) is the pick, a hyperactive fizz of first love, but Robert Binet’s Egal and The One Played Twice by Javier de Frutos aren’t far behind, the pure joy of dance spilling out from every step.

Independent, 1st March 2013

Ballet Black, the award-winning company founded to provide role models for black and Asian ballet dancers, is now 12 years old. It has established its own identity, which is as much about new work as it is about the colour of the dancers’ skin. It’s a small, sparky company with plenty of ambition and swagger.

The Stage, 1 March 2013

The award-winning company of black and Asian dancers founded by Cassa Pancho in 2001 comes storming back onto the Linbury stage with a toothsome quartet of works. A brace of duets, an amuse-yeux from dance jester Javier de Frutos and a full-blooded narrative contribute to an immensely varied and satisfying programme.

The Independent, 09 March 2013

There should be no need for a company called Ballet Black, just as there should be no need for all-female political party shortlists. But there is, and for two reasons: to offer a platform for classically trained dancers of colour, particularly women, conspicuously absent from Britain’s big ballet companies; and to provide role models for a rising generation of talented kids. But in the 12 years of Ballet Black’s existence, it has found itself a third raison d’être. It’s hard to think of another small company that even comes close to its turnover of new work.

The Guardian, 1st March 2013

Ballet Black may struggle against an inexplicable lack of state funding, yet it continues to make a heroic investment in new choreography. This season its adventurous policies pay dividends with Javier de Frutos’s new piece, The One Played Twice.

dream-slider, 1st May 2012

My admiration for Cassa Pancho and her company knows no bounds. Embarking on its eleventh year, Ballet Black opened its 2012 season with four world premieres by “Premier League” choreographers with these – now traditional – curtain-raising performances at The Royal Opera House. This season at Covent Garden is longer than in previous years and the company has doubled its performance dates for the year, which will also see it venture overseas, in a first visit to Italy…

The Independent, 2nd March 2012

Ballet Black, Linbury Studio Theatre, London Zoë Anderson Now eleven years old, Ballet Black has a confidence and spark. Initially founded to promote black dancers in classical ballet, the company has become an end in itself. This is a taut evening of new work by rising and established choreographers, fluently…

The Guardian, 2nd March 2012

Ballet Black – review Royal Opera House, London by Judith Mackrell Sex and corruption … Storyville, performed by Black Ballet at the Royal Opera House Ballet Black may have been founded as a platform for black and Asian classical dancers, but you have to love it, too, for the opportunities…

Photo by Bill Cooper
Evening Standard, 2nd March 2012

Short Dance Works/Ballet Black – review by Clifford Bishop – 02 March 2012 Now over ten years old, Ballet Black showcases four energetic and inspired new dances at the Royal opera House Six decades after George Balanchine first cast the black dancer Arthur Mitchell opposite a white ballerina, and in…

The Observer, 4th March 2012

Ballet Black – review Linbury Studio theatre, London by Luke Jennings, The Observer, Sunday 4 March 2012 Creating repertoire for a chamber ballet company is tricky. How do you ring the changes, given sparse resources and a mere handful of dancers? Ballet Black, now in their 11th year, have had…

The Guardian, 25th March 2010

“Oguike has never created a classical ballet before, and it’s typical of Ballet Black’s intrepid commissioning style to have invited him to make a work.”

The Sunday Times, 11th February 2007

“…Cassa Pancho is a dance person with a mission — in her case, as the founder (in 2001) of Ballet Black, to establish more role models for young black and Asian dancers in classical ballet in Britain…”

The Independent on Sunday, 4th February 2007

“…The sight of gorgeous Monica Stephenson strutting her Balanchine style in a tiny white bikini, or tall Damien Johnson streaking out in a series of diagonal jumps of radiant poise and finish – leaves such qualms looking quite absurd…”

Evening Standard, 1st February 2007

“…For all this, credit to Pancho, and credit to her six young dancers who have poise and enthusiasm and allure. At the Linbury they showed a tenacity you do not always see in heritage troupes, and although very much fledglings, they had the commitment of old pros… ”

The Guardian, 2nd February 2007

“…as the choreography flexes its emotional muscle, with a crackle of combative dance, the electricity on stage promises a brave future for this company…”

ADAD, 31st January 2007

“…The stealth of a gazelle poised with the grace and elegance of a Nubian spirit is the only way one can describe the amazing opening of Ballet Black’s current season of works by four choreographers…”