The Stage, 6th March 2017

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Ballet Black review at Barbican, London – ‘an inventive, witty Red Riding Hood’

Review by Anna Winter – Mar 6, 2017

While some of the pieces in Ballet Black’s latest triple bill are underwhelming, others are inspired.

The neoclassical reveries in Michael Corder’s House of Dreams are the forgettable sort. To a selection of Debussy’s Preludes, four dancers engage in three pas de deux and a group finale. Even in abstract choreography, phrases of movement between dancing bodies can make patterns of thought visible. Conversations sing through physical geometry.

Here, Corder pegs prettified movement to the music, with the melancholic sections an on-the-nose combination of sinking steps and stricken face-covering.

Sayaka Ichikawa and Marie Astrid Mence have a compelling peppiness, but both men are relegated to the role of underpowered porteurs. The finale is a trifle messy, with knotted footwork and clumsy patterning.

Michael Lawrance’s Captured is an initially more engaging affair as two couples dance uneasy staccato duets to Shostakovich’s string quartet no. 11. Cira Robinson’s sleek energy commands the stage, but the overall sense of drama begins to sag.

The whole company gets a chance to sparkle in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Red Riding Hood, a clever and witty re-imagining of the fairytale in which Riding Hood’s innocence is compromised by a sexy wolf-man with the slouching swagger of a cowboy. It’s crude in the best way, as the lupine lothario plays with his long ropey ‘tail’ and lassoes a trio of swooning she-wolves. Mthuthuzeli November is perfect as the slinky seducer, while Cira Robinson’s Riding Hood journeys from bewildered naivety, knee-trembling sensual surrender to a final act of bold defiance.