The Evening Standard, 6th March 2017

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Ballet Black, dance review: Company on a mission dazzle with seductive twist on a fairy tale

Monday 6 March 2017 09:07

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.

It’s laudable, but it’s also frustrating, because for all their excellent qualities, you can see they could be even better with more resources, more rehearsal time, more stage time. It’s no coincidence that the strongest piece tonight is an old one, Martin Lawrance’s Captured from 2012, where they’ve had time to really embody the movement, to lean in to the emotions and give it some bite. Lawrance plays to the dancers’ strengths and it’s a great showcase for the excellent Cira Robinson, stretching out classical lines, an arabesque leg and arm in opposite directions, pulling against each other.

A new piece, Michael Corder’s House of Dreams is more traditionally classical: sweet and bright duets set to Debussy miniatures. But the dancers don’t quite match the light, delicate touch of the piano.

The finale is Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s quirky take on Red Riding Hood. The central conceit is a clever one, that Red Riding Hood’s encounter with the Wolf is a willing seduction, rather than an ambush; a young woman’s sexual awakening. Limbs entwined, he still wants to devour her, just in a different sense.

Of course, this slinky, no-good, leather-clad cad of a Wolf discards Red once he’s had his way. The bastard. But the cheeky and charming Mthuthuzeli November who plays him really makes the most of the part. There’s certainly some filler around the core of the piece, but there’s also inventive use of minimal staging and some comic flair. A mixed mixed bill, but plenty to enjoy.