I Love Manchester, 1st November 2023

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Ballet Black: Pioneers

By Mahak Khan

Wed 1st Nov 2023


Now in their 21st year, Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black presented award-winning choreographers, Will Tuckett and Mthuthuzeli November in a double bill of new and original work in Ballet Black: Pioneers at The Lowry.

Will Tuckett’s Then Or Now, created in 2020, blends classical ballet, music and the poetry of Adrienne Rich to ask the question: in times like these, where do we each belong?

Ballet Black: Pioneers

The first half of the show was called Then and Now.

It was choreographed by William Tuckett.

During the first half, each dancer got to recite a poem by Adrienne Rich.

It followed a range of events during World War Two and explored their impact on people and society through the eyes of individuals.

There were only chairs as props as the dancers sat down before they joined the performance.

Despite heavy storytelling, the dance was light and elegant and held a purpose.

Themes and meaning throughout this section appeared hard to see or connect but even to the untrained eye the skill of the performers shone through.

Using poems for the first half of the dance gave the dance perspective.

They all moved along to the words rather than the music and I found it very fascinating.

It was something I hadn’t seen before and I found to like it very much.

Nina: By Whatever Means

The second dance was called “Nina: By Whatever Means”. It is choreographed by Mthuthuzeli November.

Nina is played by Isabela Coracy, who smashes it out of the park.

It follows the life of Nina Simone as she navigates through her life and career.

It starts with an appearance of Nina at a jazz festival and then we go back in time from the beginning where we see her go from Unice Waymon to Nina Simone.

Amazing Costume Changes

There were many costume changes for this one and they had more props.

This added to the performance as they were very much dancing.

The piano played a very prominent part in this section as Nina Simone was a jazz singer and pianist (Who played Nina Simone), encapsulating the energy of Nina Simone.

When we started getting to the end of the performance, she carried on giving plenty of energy and got the audience clapping along.

It felt like her performance was as if we were watching just her in her element.

Black Ballet: Pioneers is a different take on ballet and it brings words to life through movement and dance.