West End Best Friend Review, 29th September 2022

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“Throughout both pieces, you are simply in awe of these beautiful dancing athletes.”

Double Bill: Say It Loud & Black Sun


By Sophie Eaton

September 29th 2022


Ballet Black is now celebrating 20 years; that’s 20 years of providing role models for young aspiring Black and Asian dancers.  The founder, Cassa Pancho, has provided an inclusive space for people of colour, even collaborating with Freed of London to create two brand new pointe shoes for Black and Asian dancers.

Whilst sitting in The REP Birmingham auditorium waiting for Ballet Black to start, it was hard not to notice the diverse and young audience.  This particular performance is split into two pieces.  The first is Say it Loud, choreographed by Pancho.  The voiceovers throughout this piece are a collection of social media comments, reviews and audience feedback.  It’s all verbatim, which perhaps makes it all the more shocking.  These voices comment on Ballet Black as a company, which then becomes the background noise for each dance. 

Each of the eight dancers in this performance are vibrant and full of energy, flawlessly moving as one and with endless expression.  Through their movement, we see their highs and lows both as professional dancers and as a person of colour. First alone and then finally together.  Themes are struck using minimal and almost oppressive lighting, while still moving along with the piece and becoming colourful and full of potential.  The wonderful lighting by David Plater means there really is no need for a set; the light moves with the dancers and enhances, but never distracts from their wonderful musicality and movement.  The choice of music works well and we hear from many Black artists including the timeless vocals of Etta James, a reminder perhaps that many Black artists are frequently heard in the arts but often not seen.  During Etta’s number, a wonderful sensual duet takes place.

The second piece About Black Sun is more story-driven.  Here we have texture with vocalisations and wonderful body percussion as an ensemble.  Mthuthuzeli November is the star of this particular piece, while the rest of the ensemble move together as he picks up his drumsticks to lead the dance through his own beat of the drum.  This second piece has so much passion and potential layered throughout and is truly a spectacular piece of art. It sometimes loses its way, however.  The performance is so emotionally driven that it can make the audience feel a little lost.  It’s clear there is a story though, without the programme accompanying the piece, you would be forgiven for being a little confused.  That said, this second part is full of gusto and is choreographed and directed by the extremely talented Gregory Maqoma.

Throughout both pieces, you are simply in awe of these beautiful dancing athletes.  The purpose and direction of each movement is breathtaking.  At the beginning of the show a voiceover asks: ‘Why do we love ballet?’ to which the same voice replies, ‘Because ballet loves us back’.  Ballet certainly loves this company, and its compelling basis is only one of the many, many reasons you must see this show.