Ballet Black – Linbury Studio Theatre
Director: Cassa Pancho
Reviewer: Judith Mackrell
Ballet Black review – Mark Bruce’s mashup of gods and savages
The Dracula choreographer’s strange and sinuous Second Coming mixes Elgar and Tom Waits in a programme featuring Kit Holder and Will Tuckett
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.
Bruce is a singular voice in British dance. There’s a near-deranged eclecticism in his choices of music and in the mix of myth, fairytale and mysticism from which he creates his own dark stories. Second Coming, with its layering of Shostakovich, Tom Waits and Elgar, and its bewildering mashup of gods, savages, sacrificial deaths and resurrections, is no exception.
But if the materials are chaotic, Bruce and the excellent designer Dorothee Brodrück make a virtue of that, creating such striking imagery and surreally unexpected connections that we’re happy to go along for the ride.
Equally happy are the dancers, who tirelessly double up roles between the sinister, carnivalesque court of the Ruler, with its glitter of masks and pointe work, and the world of shuffling, superstitious savages outside. Outstanding are Cira Robinson and Josa Alvez as the Ruler’s Son and his lover. Their long duet builds to a rapt intimacy, deploying a vocabulary of strange, sinuous, creaturely shapes that are unlike anything I’ve seen – from Bruce or from these dancers.
By contrast, Kit Holder’s To Fetch a Pail of Water looks distinctly thin. A deconstruction of the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme, its shards of narrative duet are set to a musical mix of electronic and swing. Yet while Holder knows how to make his dancers look attractive, he gives them no compelling personality. And the programme is much better balanced by the revival of Will Tuckett’s Depouillement; mysteriously poised between musical and dramatic logic, and a fine showcase for Robinson’s fierce lyricism.