The Independent, 30th March 2010

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Ballet Black, Linbury Studio Theatre, London
Reviewed by Zoe Anderson
Tuesday 30 March 2010

There’s a bright confidence about Ballet Black. The dancers are sleek and focused, the choreography new, while the whole enterprise has a sparky assurance.

Founded by Cassa Pancho in 2001, Ballet Black is there to provide role models. In Britain, there aren’t many classical dancers of black and Asian descent – though Carlos Acosta is Ballet Black’s patron. Pancho’s aims are to make ballet more culturally diverse, to reach out to a broader audience, and eventually to get black and Asian dancers into the mainstream.

The emphasis is on classical ballet, but also on new work. The latest, all-new programme has commissioned dances from a range of choreographers: from Christopher Hampson’s solid ballet background to hip-hop choreographer Robert Hylton.

With Da Gamba, contemporary choreographer Henri Oguike has made his first work on pointe. He brings the dancers on in lines and angles, his choreography a tidy response to his music, a Bach cello suite. The pointework has a percussive element, some stabbing footwork. It’s fluently danced, but the work lacks individuality.

And Thereafter… , by company ballet master Raymond Chai, is a rambling work that still manages to show off these dancers. The music is a mix of Arvo Pärt and Bach. The choreography is conventional, but Chai does gives his dancers material to get their teeth into. Sarah Kundi and Chantelle Gotobed rush into held positions on pointe, then sway within the position, making risky changes of balance.

Hylton’s Human Revolution puts Cira Robinson in soft slippers for a duet with Jazmon Voss. The dancers’ lines are sleek and sharp, with hints at Hylton’s hip-hop background in sudden bursts of jigging speed. It’s a quiet, focused duet, boldly danced.

Hampson’s Sextet is a full-company showcase to Paul Hindemith’s Kammermusik No. 1. The dancers charge through a series of short movements, athletic and sharp. Hampson puts blackouts between movements, even breaking into a duet for Robinson and Jade Hale-Christofi. It implies an ongoing relationship, time passing as they fold gently around each other. Hale-Christofi bounds through his solo in the finale, but the whole company give poised, lively performances.