Stage Talk Magazine, 29th September 2022

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“If you do get the chance, go and see this show.”

Double Bill: Say It Loud & Black Sun


By Will Amott

September 29th 2022

Cassa Pancho founded the British ballet company Ballet Black over 20 years ago. Since then the company has been nominated for and received numerous awards, collaborated on a ballet shoe range, and changed the ballet landscape in the UK.

Tonight at the Birmingham Rep, a double bill of shows was presented. In the first half, Say It Loud, a voiceover introduces to us the words that these performers hear regularly: the criticisms, the falsehoods, the micro (and macro) aggressions, and the praises too. It is candid, effective and affecting.

What Ballet Black means to people – negatively and more significantly, positively – is reflected through a series of dances  choreographed by artistic director Pancho and the dancers themselves. Seven unique chapters are set to a beautiful and varied soundtrack, from rap to calypso to gospel. The version of What A Wonderful World presented here gets you in your gut.

The eight incredible performers take a bow before the interval, and receive rapturous applause. They then return for South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma’s Black Sun in the second half, where the narrative is less explicit but the feeling is as profuse.  Electricity infuses the stage. The group remove their ballet slippers, they beat old buckets as drums, they chant and sing. I don’t follow what it means exactly, but I appreciate the dancers’ utter commitment – it is beautiful and compelling.

If you do get the chance, go and see this show. I’m no ballet expert, this is my first live experience of that world, but it far surpassed any of my expectations. Dynamic, contemporary, alternately witty and effectual, with fantastic lighting and costuming to boot.