Ballet Black double bill: The Suit and A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream
Review by Joy Sable – 5 Stars
This small company is dancing to break down prejudice
Ballet Black may be a small company — there are only seven dancers — but its influence is far greater than its size. Calling itself Britain’s “most diverse and daring ballet company”, it offers opportunities to black and Asian dancers that they might otherwise not have.
Increasing numbers of black and mixed-race dancers have made a name for themselves in ballet — Carlos Acosta, Francesca Hayward, Misty Copeland and Precious Adams immediately spring to mind. Times are changing, albeit slowly, and the Ballet Black dancers show children from different ethnic backgrounds that ballet is something they can seriously consider as a career.
The company opened its autumn tour at the Theatre Royal Stratford East with an enjoyable double bill: Cathy Marston’s The Suit and Arthur Pita’s A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The Suit is a moving interpretation of love and infidelity in a South African township, based on a fable by Can Themba. It shows the dancers at their best — technically assured, with fine acting skills. The lifts are intricate and exciting, and the story never lags. It is an excellent showcase for this talented band of dancers.
The evening concluded with Arthur Pita’s comic take on Shakespeare’s play. It is more of a dance theatre piece than pure ballet — there’s a lot of ooh-ing and aah-ing by the cast at various points, but it is hugely entertaining and very funny. The costumes are pretty and the lighting, by David Plater, is particularly effective. Do not expect the famous Mendelssohn music which usually accompanies balletic interpretations of the celebrated story; instead, we have an intriguing mix of Eartha Kitt, Barbra Streisand and a touch of Handel thrown in. It’s different, it’s lively, and the audience loved it.