Ballet Black, Linbury Studio, Covent Garden, review
Henri Oguike’s new work was the highlight of Ballet Black’s ambitious programme at the Linbury Studio, Covent Garden. Rating
By Sarah Crompton – 29 Mar 2010
The talented choreographer Henri Oguike has built his reputation with contemporary companies who dance barefoot. So he has never made a work for girls en pointe before, and you can see the intoxication of his discovery in the new piece he has made for the beautifully shod Ballet Black.
Set to Yo Yo Ma’s recording of Bach’s Cello Suite in D minor, Da Gamba is a wonderfully intelligent work. You feel it is driven by a sense of inquiry both about the mechanics of dancing and of music as Oguike plays around with the differences in shape and movement that different uses of the feet can make. Hung on a structure of repeated motifs – a lift where the girl’s leg is loosely hooked over the man’s arm, a flat-palmed meeting of hands – he creates a formal dance of great variety, turning on the contrasts between the conventionally balletic and the distorted positions of contemporary work.
I loved the moment where the girls used their blocked shoes as tap shoes, beating their toes and heels fiercely on the floor – and the section where all six dancers stand silhouetted in a frieze of attitudes, each man gently placing his cheek on his ballerina’s arched hands.
It makes the company look fleet and fantastic. Just how good it is, is revealed by the rest of this popular company’s ambitious programme of four world premieres. The next work up is And Thereafter by Raymond Chai. He is the company’s ballet master and clearly excellent at that job since its standards have risen consistently. However, as a choreographer his ideas are twee and dull. The piece feels long even though it is short.
Robert Hylton’s Human Revolution also outstays its welcome, but the way he melds his own score with strutting poses and ultra-rapid turns creates an interesting mood, at once relaxed and slightly aggressive, and it is mesmerically danced by Cira Robinson and Jazmon Voss.
The experienced Christopher Hampson closes the bill with Sextet to Paul Hindemith’s Kammermusik
No 1. He closely matches the mood of each of its six sections from the propulsive to the tentative to the picture he creates on stage. So it opens with the company racing like athletes and, in a satisfying central section, the same couple develop a relationship in three short scenes, kissing as the music makes a little “ping”.
It is attractive more than memorable, but its bright orange, red and black costumes and galloping ending showcase the company’s talents effectively and make an enjoyable close to the night.