Ballet Black (4 stars)
Reviewed at King’s Theatre, Edinburgh.
by Lucy Ribchester – 10 June 2019
Ballet Black’s intelligent triple bill showcases versatility and precision
Ballet Black’s triple bill seems to swell as the evening goes on, both in the size of the pieces and in their power. We start off with the clean purity of Martin Lawrance’s minimalist Pendulum, move through the playful psychedelic Click! by Sophie Laplane, and come to Ingoma, Mthuthuzeli November’s gorgeous, devastating ballet about the South African mine workers’ strike in 1946.
Ingoma is striking for its drama and its scope. In the programme notes November says he expected, as a young artist, to choreograph ‘a fun edgy and very modern piece’, but after a personal tragedy he reconsidered. Instead the ballet he has created is cinematic and brutal, presenting us with the huge stamping beats of underground miners, the rending, open-armed appeals of their families to the gods, and the fire of protest, all the while the dancers pouring their souls into the piece. A duet between one miner and his wife feels more poignant than any fairytale pas de deux, and every bit as graceful.
Duets in their various forms pop up throughout the programme. The most memorable in Sophie Laplane’s pop art Click! is set to The Mudlarks’ ‘Just the Snap of your Fingers’. With hands and feet turned and splayed at odd angles, Laplane responds to the music in a way that makes complete sense, and yet you have never seen anyone dancing to ’60s pop quite like this. Click! is funky and fresh and original, but one of the most glorious, fabulous things about it is seeing a woman dancing classically in a boxy sunflower-yellow trouser suit.
Martin Lawrance’s Pendulum by contrast is crisp and kinetic, breathtaking for its whip-speed, swivelling into tight puzzle knots, pacing itself perfectly, starting the evening with serious style and showing the technical precision of the company.