The Stage, 1 March 2013

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The Stage, 1 March 2013
Ballet Black
Published Friday 1 March 2013 at 12:51 by Neil Norman

The award-winning company of black and Asian dancers founded by Cassa Pancho in 2001 comes storming back onto the Linbury stage with a toothsome quartet of works. A brace of duets, an amuse-yeux from dance jester Javier de Frutos and a full-blooded narrative contribute to an immensely varied and satisfying programme.

Christopher Marney’s War Letters is the most significant piece, initially inspired by letters discovered on a WWII battlefield. Combining Shostakovitch and Glenn Miller with an adroit musical sensibility, Marney conjures several moods – from a soldier’s dream of his girl back home to a London dance hall where the Blitz spirit keeps the horrors of war at bay, albeit temporarily, and the soul-wracking guilt of a woman uncertain of her love until it is too late. Danced with precision, warmth and character by all – especially Sayaka Ichikawa and newcomer Jacob Wye – this does justice to its subject matter with singular skill.

The two duets that open the programme are deliberately contrasted to illustrate the company’s mercurial techniques. Robed in an atmosphere of ethereal melancholy, Robert Binet’s Egal is a meeting of equals – in strength, character and energy – with Cira Robinson stalking the stage on point like a lethal flamingo while Jacob Wye attempts to get the better of her. Dopamine (you make my levels go silly) is, on the other hand, a sunny, funny, high-energy depiction of a fresh infatuation in which a couple take delight in mutual discovery as it accelerates to its inevitable conclusion. If De Frutos’ The One Played Twice is a one-joke piece, using Barbershop Hawaiian songs of spectacular cheesiness, it is playfully performed and contains two unusual upper-body solos performed with immaculate poise by Kanika Carr and Sarah Kundi.

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