Ballet Black review – Shakespeare in tutus for enchanting double bill
by Sanjoy Roy – Sun 18 Mar 2018
Arthur Pita’s take on Shakespeare and ballet is paired with Cathy Marston’s masterful adaptation of a Can Themba short story in this inspired programme
Watch any Ballet Black performance and you notice how racially and socially mixed the audience is compared with most ballet shows. But if the company, founded in 2001, still has a mission to change the face of ballet, artistically it has always been refreshingly unfettered – as its terrifically engaging current programme attests.
Cathy Marston’s The Suit masterfully transposes its source (a short story by Can Themba) from words into dance. The plot is deceptively simple: a man discovers his wife has a lover, whom he drives away but whose presence – symbolised by an empty suit – still haunts the marriage.
Marston dramatises the story without judging her characters. Cira Robinson and José Alves are superb as the central couple, caught between burning emotions and exacting steps. A five-strong chorus serve variously as private witnesses, public judges, personal projections and – most choreographically – as turbulent repercussions given physical form. The taut score is a remarkably seamless collage of music by no fewer than nine composers, and the scenes switch fluently between domestic and social worlds. Though the ending tips towards melodrama, the work is consummately crafted, and achieves its effects with an astonishing economy of means.
A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream is Arthur Pita’s impishly perverse take on both Shakespeare and ballet. A grandiloquent balletic fanfare for three couples in tights and tutus is rudely interrupted by a puckish, outrageously cross-dressed boy scout, whose fairy dust liberates the classical partners into a magic realm of improprietous couplings and unbound eroticism. Helena, snorting a line of glitter, gets gleefully off with Hermia; Oberon falls for the swooningly romantic vision of Lysander, trailing veils; Pita plays his favourite cabaret songs. We are enchanted – and seduced.