Ballet Black – review – Linbury Studio theatre
The Guardian, Friday 1 March 2013 14.27 GMT
by Judith Mackrell
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.
Like much of De Frutos’s work, it starts from a disconcertingly eccentric choice of music: a playlist of rhythmically woozy Hawaiian songs performed barbershop style. But it takes only seconds to be convinced of its theatrical and choreographic logic. Four dancers, in vibrant green and purple tunics, inhabit a tropical world. Some of the movement takes its cues from the songs’ lyrics, which range from sly references to sexy hula dances to a plangent, full-bodied lament. But these narrative elements are sustained on a structure of sharply inventive dance that steers its own buoyant course through the surf twang of the music.
The dancers look as stretched and easy in De Frutos’s choreography as they do in Robert Binet’s duet Egal. Predicated on two equal dance partners (a rare concept within a ballet context), Egal takes Binet into a stylish, androgynous vocabulary of art deco geometries and silvered pirouettes, and an interesting conceit that the two dancers, though equal, are like magnetic forces, unable to connect within the same space.
Evoking a distinct dance world in one short work is hard, and the goofily unravelling classical steps in Ludovic Ondiviela’s Dopamine (You Make My Levels Go Silly) doesn’t quite deliver the blissed-out comic passion its title implies.
Christopher Marney, by contrast, gets 45 minutes for War Letters, evoking the transience and vulnerability of wartime romance. Elements of this work feel fresh and alive: the awkwardly drilled army recruits; the gaggle of half-hardened, half-hopeful sweethearts; the duet between a shell-shocked soldier and his girlfriend, which showcases the natural acting talent of Cira Robinson. But there is too much irrelevant choreographic decoration, and War Letters ends up feeling less like a story than a showcase for Marney’s best moves.