Awards & Nominations

Founded in 2001 by Cassa Pancho MBE, Ballet Black was established with a transformative vision for classical ballet, encapsulated by Pancho’s powerful motto, ‘Change Not Trend.’ This ethos not only underpinned the company’s mission to showcase diversity on stage but also to affect change behind the scenes and within the audience demographic. Over the last two decades, Ballet Black has emerged as a pivotal force in altering the landscape of British ballet. It has performed in over 100 venues, amassing the most diverse audience in the U.K. for classical ballet. The company’s unique position has allowed it to present diverse narratives that resonate with contemporary audiences, making it the sole professional ballet company in the U.K. with a diverse cast equipped for such a revolutionary evolution in storytelling. Moreover, this unique positioning allows us to champion costume makers, writers, poets, and musicians in collaboration with our work. We do this by working with creatives who feel a sense of home and belonging when working with the company, enriching our productions and further diversifying the creative landscape.

Since its inception, Ballet Black has been a prolific commissioner of new and critically acclaimed ballets. Cassa Pancho has personally commissioned over 65 new works, actively supporting female choreographers from early stages of their careers, as well as identifying new and providing existing choreographic talent with an exceptional group of dancers and a platform to match. Ballet Black now firmly stands on its own right as an exceptional dance company. It is the first and only UK dance company to have won all three Critics Circle National Dance Company Awards, a testament to Cassa’s pioneering role in championing transformative change in the ballet industry. Over the past two decades, Cassa Pancho’s dedication has not only built a stellar reputation for Ballet Black (BB) but has also cultivated a diverse and appreciative audience.

Through Cassa’s exceptional eye for talent, she has identified, provided opportunities, and then supported and mentored the development of dancers to reach their full potential. The result of over two decades of her groundwork has been prestigious accolades, including the distinction of being the first black artists to receive Olivier Awards for Dance in both solo performance and choreography – Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production (Ingoma 2020, choreographed by Mthuthuzeli November) and Outstanding Achievement in Dance (Isabela Coracy as Nina Simone in Nina: By Whatever Means, 2024). Other recent triumphs also include a resounding success at the 2022 Ballet Black Theatre Awards, where Ballet Black swept all four dance-related categories, further enhancing their critical acclaim.

A year after launching Ballet Black, Pancho established the Ballet Black Junior School in 2002 to secure the future of ballet black dancers and make it accessible to children and families, especially in West London, who felt ballet was not an option for them. The school offers classes for children aged three to eighteen, providing both non-syllabus and Royal Academy of Dance Syllabus Examination classes in Shepherds Bush, Marylebone, and Stratford. Recognizing the importance of representation, the school ensures that students are taught by black and brown role models, including Pancho, company dancers, and other diverse teachers. The school is open to all children, promoting inclusivity and diversity in ballet education. The school has educated hundreds of children, including multigenerational families, with several students progressing to prestigious dance institutions like the Central School of Ballet, Rambert, and London Studio Centre.

The captivating artistry of Ballet Black’s dancers has resonated with audiences and critics alike. This success has not only elevated the company’s profile but has also provided other companies with the confidence and the impetus for change, enhancing the presence and desirability of dancers of colour within the ballet community. As a result, dancers of color are now highly sought after in ballet companies not only in the U.K. but around the world, indicating a significant shift towards inclusivity and diversity in the global ballet landscape.

In addition to her role at Ballet Black, Cassa Pancho is a sought-after advisor to both pre-vocational students and new graduates, offering guidance on which school might best suit their ambitions and which large-scale companies could assist in the next phase of their dance careers. This advisory role leverages her extensive experience and network within the dance community to support the next generation of talent.

Former company dancers have ascended to leadership roles in esteemed institutions such as the Yorkshire Ballet Seminars, Chance To Dance, ENB’s Ballet Futures Project, and the Royal Ballet School, and internationally at companies and schools such as Washington Ballet, extending the Ballet Black legacy to the next generation of dancers. Furthermore, the company has broadened access to dance through subsidised engagement programs within schools and in collaboration with community groups. It has also expanded its reach across the U.K. by touring in smaller venues and through its highly acclaimed digital initiatives, bringing high-quality classical ballet to those who might otherwise lack geographical or financial access. Additionally, Ballet Black plays a crucial role in advocating for broader societal change, as evidenced by transformative industry collaborations like the partnership with Freed of London to create the first U.K.-made pointe shoes and tights designed for Black, Asian, and culturally diverse dancers (2018). Cassa Pancho continues to take leadership roles in advising on the professional aspects of promoting and delivering EDI within the dance sector.

As Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black enters their third decade, the company, whose original mission was to become wonderfully obsolete, has evolved into one that remains an absolutely essential part of the dance landscape.

Read more about our progression over the past decade on our History page.
You can also read a more in-depth profile on our company founder and Artistic Director, Cassa Pancho MBE here.

Awards & Nominations

Olivier Award Nominations

  • 2024 (Winner) – Outstanding Achievement in Dance – Isabela Coracy for her performance as Nina in Nina: By Whatever Means part of Ballet Black: Pioneers at the Barbican Theatre
  • 2020 (Winner) – Best New Dance Production – Ingoma by Mthuthuzeli November for Ballet Black at the Barbican & Royal Opera House – Linbury Theatre
  • 2014 (Nominee) Outstanding Achievement in Dance, Arthur Pita for his work A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Black British Theatre Awards

  • 2023 – Best Dance Production or Performance Award winner: Isabela Coracy for her role as Nina in Nina: By Whatever Means
  • 2023 – Best Choreographer or Movement Director Award winner: Mthuthuzeli November for Nina: By What Ever Means.
  • 2022 – Best Dance Production Award, 20th Anniversary Double Bill – winner
  • 2022 – Best Solo Dance Performance, Cira Robinson – winner
  • 2022 – Best Use of Technology for the film EIGHTFOLD – winner
  • 2022 – Best Costume Designer (Jessica Cabassa) for Say It Loud – winner
  • 2020 – Best Dance Production Award,  Ingoma by Ballet Black – winner

South Bank Sky Arts Awards (Best Dance Production)

  • 2023 Dance Award nominee for Say It Loud (Cassa Pancho)
  • 2022 Dance Award nominee for Then Or Now (Will Tuckett)
  • 2020 Dance Award nominee for Ingoma (Mthuthuzeli November)
  • 2015 Dance Award nominee for A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Arthur Pita)

Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards

  • 2024 Best Mid-scale Company – shortlisted
  • 2023 Best Mid-scale Company – shortlisted
  • 2022 Inaugural Best Mid-scale Company – winner
  • 2019 Best Independent Company – shortlisted
  • 2018 Best Independent Company – shortlisted
  • 2014 Best Independent Company – shortlisted
  • 2012 Best Independent Company – winner
  • 2009 Outstanding Company 2009 – winner

Choreographic Nominations

  • 2022 – The Waiting Game by Mthuthuzeli November – shortlisted
  • 2018  – The Suit by Cathy Marston – winner Best Classical Choreography – winner
  • 2014  – A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Arthur Pita – shortlisted
  • 2012 –  Storyville by Christopher Hampson – shortlisted

Other Nominations

Critics Circle National Dance Awards – Dancer nominations

Best Female Dancer

  • 2022 – Cira Robinson – shortlisted

Outstanding Female (classical)

  • 2024 – Isabela Coracy as Nina Simone in Nina, By Whatever Means
  • 2013 – Cira Robinson – shortlisted
  • 2009 – Sara Kundi – shortlisted

Outstanding Male (classical)

  • 2018 – Jose Alves – Outstanding Male Classical Performance – winner

Emerging Artist Award

  • 2019 – Mthuthuzeli November (Choreographer, Ballet Black) – shortlisted

Lightning Design Award Nominations

  • 2018 – Knight of Illumination Award for Dance: David Plater for his design of Cathy Marston’s The Suit. – winner

Production Award Nominations

  • 2022 – UK Theatre Awards nomination for Achievement in Dance – Ballet Black for Will Tuckett’s Then Or Now.
  • 2018 – UK Theatre Awards nomination for Achievement in Dance – ‘Ballet Black for Cathy Marston’s The Suit, perfectly paired with Arthur Pita’s A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘.

Cassa Pancho received an MBE in the 2013 New Years Honours list for services to ballet and in 2018 Cassa was awarded the Freedom of the City of London. NDA’s

Cassa Pancho was also named in the Arts section of the annual list of 100 influential Black Britons in the ‘Black excellence: The Powerlist 2023’. The lists aim is to celebrate the achievements of the most influential people of African, African Caribbean and African American heritage in the UK.