The Guardian, 12th May 2022

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‘The rich abilities of the dancers are beautifully showcased in the double bill of Say It Loud and Black Sun’

Say It Loud and Black Sun Review


By Lyndsey Winship
Thu 12 May 2022

Over the past 21 years, Ballet Black have blazed many trails. The troupe of black and Asian dancers have proved an indie ballet company can thrive, attracting an impressive calibre of choreographers despite precarious funding. Their dancers have different body shapes; they have created bronze and brown pointe shoes, and chucked out their ballet tights. There’s even the fact that one of them is wearing glasses in tonight’s performance – a minor detail but something I’ve never seen before on a ballet stage.

This double bill is a well-deserved celebration of two decades in the business, doing things their way. The autobiographical Say It Loud doesn’t shy away from challenges the company has faced: the voiceover tells us of social media trolls, the constant questioning of their purpose, the demand for them to be spokespeople rather than just dancers. But artistic director Cassa Pancho, who created this piece with the performers, effects a graceful light touch. It’s wry, hopeful, determined, proud, indignant and – more than anything – joyful, dancing through a soundtrack from grime artist Flowdan to calypsonian Lord Kitchener to Etta James.

The second half of the bill, Black Sun from South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma, is a less straightforward piece, but better shows the rich abilities of the dancers, from the women’s opening bourrées on pointe, quivering with static electricity, to the stamp and swoop of the men, energy creeping through their bodies. Fiery Isabela Coracy especially comes into her own, and the expansive flow of Mthuthuzeli November’s movement is a pleasure to watch.

With some seat-vibrating bass courtesy of composer Michael “Mikey J” Asante, Black Sun opens in the grip of uncertainty and anxiety. What follows feels like a dance of journey and discovery, supposedly to face our protagonists’ ancestral roots, with November ultimately drumming and singing, harnessing the great power of the group. It takes the dancers far beyond the polite constraints of ballet and into more full-bodied, fully felt territory, showing Ballet Black pressing forward, still with the capacity to surprise.