Ballet Black – Linbury Studio Theatre, London
by Judith Mackrell
The Guardian, Thursday 25 March 2010
Henri Oguike’s new work for Ballet Black not only ranks as the best of the company’s recent acquisitions – it also makes its cast look very good.
Oguike has never created a classical ballet before, and it’s typical of Ballet Black’s intrepid commissioning style to have invited him to make a work. Yet in his setting of Bach’s Cello Suite in D minor, Oguike rises to the challenge with inquisitive playfulness. While he retains the solid base of his own language for Da Gamba, he stretches it into stiletto-sharp footwork and airily cantilevered extensions, which play beautifully to the strengths of his cast. Both the music and Oguike’s elegant conception of it cry out for moments of larger scale, but Ballet Black’s six hard-working dancers compensate impressively.
Christopher Hampson is a classical choreographer of long experience, but he, too, responds to the company with something new. His setting of Hindemith’s Kammermusic No 1 may be underworked in places, but the two middle duets are striking. Moulding the dancers through slow, sculpted embraces, the choreography possesses an undertow of sensuality that’s atypical for Hampson.
In between are two short works. Raymond Chai’s And Thereafter… creates a serviceable showcase for the dancers’ technique, but doesn’t justify its accompanying musical mish-mash of Pärt, Bach and electronic noise. Robert Hylton’s duet Human Revolution brings street dance into the mix, fast-forwarding the classical pas de deux into the urban world of vogueing. Its twitchily narcissistic manoeuvres are fun – and even if it doesn’t add up to more than the sum of its poses, it’s a very useful asset for the company and for their exemplary determination to bring ballet to a wider audience.