The Skinny, 14th June 2019

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Ballet Black: Triple Bill featuring INGOMA @ Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
Live Review by Lynn Rusk | 14 Jun 2019

Ballet Black’s Triple Bill is an outstanding exploration and celebration of varying aspects of African culture and history

Ballet Black, Britain’s most diverse and daring ballet company, presents this Triple Bill as part of their 18th season. The company, which represents black and Asian dancers, stages three contrasting pieces in this show which combines elements of contemporary movement, classical ballet and storytelling.

Opening is Pendulum, a short piece choreographed by Martin Lawrance. Performed by Mthuthuzeli November and Sayaka Ichiwaka, this duet is executed with a very limited musical accompaniment, which leaves the entire narration in the hands of the dancers. It swings between combat and moments of very close partnership. It’s stunning to see the sheer strength and agility of both dancers, as they effortlessly perform multiple pirouettes and execute beautifully intimate moments of pas de deux.

Next up is Click! This is a more upbeat and quirky piece by Sophie Laplane, former dancer and choreographer-in-residence at Scottish Ballet. Led by Isabela Coracy, five dancers dressed in colourful suits move to musical clicks and Coracy’s finger snaps. This piece has a retro feel to it and conveys the versatility of each of the dancers. The different pieces of music drive the mood in varying directions: Laplane’s vision behind this piece is to explore how things can change with just a click of the fingers.

The finale of this triple bill is INGOMA, a piece inspired by the African Mine Workers strike in 1946. This is Ballet Black dancer Mthuthuzeli November’s choreographic debut, and is the first piece to ever be commissioned within the company. In this piece, the dancers swap their ballet shoes for wellies and wear head torches.

Jose Alves represents the weariness of the striking miners in a series of stamps and steps to a relentless beat. Dressed in traditional attire, Sayaka Ichikawa portrays a miner’s wife and performs a solemn duet with Alves. Peter Johnson’s score contains a Xhosan version of Our Father, lending a human voice to the performance. November’s choreography consists of a number of different styles, from tribal slap dancing to delicate pointe work.

Ballet Black’s Triple Bill is an outstanding exploration and celebration of varying aspects of African culture and history. The passion and commitment the company have for creating work that opens ballet up to more diverse and under-represented audiences is obvious. The standing ovation from the audience is testament to how much this is appreciated, and to the sheer skill of this company.