The Guardian, 27th February 2014

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Ballet Black – Linbury Studio Theatre, London
Director: Cassa Pancho
Reviewer: Judith Mackrell
Rating: 4*

Ballet Black review – ‘Arthur Pita’s rollercoaster of weirdness’ Pita’s rich retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is featured alongside fine commissions from Martin Lawrance and Christopher Marney

Arthur Pita and a tutu ballet? Ballet Black may have excellent form in the commissioning of new and surprising repertory, but surely even they didn’t expect tutus and pointe shoes from a choreographer who has created some of the most darkly deviant dance theatre on the UK stage.

Not that the tutus stay grand, or even very clean, for long. Pita’s Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream opens with the formal pomp and circumstance of a classical pas de six, danced to the dignified measures of Handel’s Sarabande. But true to its Shakespearean origins, the work’s leading couples are rapidly transported to a world of delirium by the mischievous magic of Puck. And true to Pita’s own imaginative style, that world proves to be a rollercoaster of weirdness and surprise.

Puck is a girl in a boy scout’s uniform, with a beard of flower petals sprouting from her chin. Helena and Hermia pair off together, as do Oberon and Lysander; while Titania and Bottom dance a lush duet to the lyrics of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. The soundtrack is excellent throughout – hot, sexy music played against a dark chaos of buzzing, dripping rainforest noise.

This is a delicious confection of a Dream, richly choreographed (in loving homage to Frederick Ashton) but subverted by a rude and surreal spirit of misrule. Even Pita’s spirit guide, Salvador Dalí, gets a cameo role.

It’s preceded by two other fine commissions. Martin Lawrance’s Limbo suspends three dancers in a choreography of abrupt muscular engagement and wary hesitance. Christopher Marney’s Two of a Kind frames one woman’s uncertainty within a cleverly mirrored and doubled quartet.

This is repertory that any large company would be happy to own. And the heroic Ballet Black have managed it on a shoestring.

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