REVIEW - Black Ballet - bringing the genre to a wider audience - The Bromsgrove Standard

REVIEW - Black Ballet - bringing the genre to a wider audience

Bromsgrove Editorial 14th Jun, 2024 Updated: 14th Jun, 2024   0

The Ballet Black Dance Company is exactly what it says on the tin – a dance company made up of young and aspiring Black and Asian dancers.

Founded by Cassa Pancho MBE in 2001, this ensemble of just nine performers has firmly established itself at the forefront of the dance Movement in the UK and beyond.

This was evident in the enthusiastic almost capacity audience at last night’s performance – rarely have I seen such a diverse mix in terms of race, gender and age.

The Company is touring its double-bill under the title ‘HEROES’ and first-up is the appropriately titled ‘If At First’ by choreographer Sophie Laplane.

This piece is a series of vignettes, from solo to pas-de-deux to full ensemble, with each exploring a different notion of heroism.

‘If At First’ explores quiet, unsung-heroes and how easily the ‘crown’ of a hero can be tarnished or taken away.

From the start, this is a piece that draws you in – the stillness of the ensemble contrasting starkly with soloist Taraja Hudson’s fluid yet-precise movements. In contrast to classical ballet, where the performance must appear to be effortless, the muscles and sinews of every extension were visible and breathtakingly visceral.

Enhanced by clever lighting design by David Plater, each movement seemed to stretch further both physically and emotionally. Especially exciting was the ‘en pointe’ work in pointe shoes designed by Pancho to match the skin

tones of the dancers, so there was no distinguishing where the foot finished and shoe began.

Jessica Cabassa’s simple costumes worn by the whole cast echoed the genderfluidity of the piece. If At First is perfect fusion of dance styles, with a soundtrack that encompasses both classical and specially-composed contemporary music, brought

together by Tom Harrold. Particularly moving were the two ‘Mother and Son’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Woman’ pas-de-deux sections.

The second piece of this double bill -‘The Waiting Game’ by Mthuthuzeli November – takes a more complex theme, dealing as it does with the key questions of our existence – the whys and wherefores, what are we here for and how things can change in an instant.

The first part explores how the thoughts that clutter our heads can become – overwhelming and confusing, stopping us from progressing. The use of a lit, mobile ‘cupboard’, in which the main character ‘The Man’ (superbly executed by Ebony

Thomas) tries to hide away and out of which the ‘Figments of His Imagination’ come tumbling, was an inspired idea.

A t times a magician’s box where people disappear, it then became a wardrobe in the second section when the piece steps into semi-realism, backstage in a theatre dressing room as a dance troupe get ready to perform.

‘The Man’ is filled with self-doubt about whether he can go on, but is coaxed through his fears by the others, eventually leading a jazz routine in sparkly jackets. Whilst the first part of this piece was emotionally engaging, I found the ‘jazz hands’ section, though unquestionably well-performed, less compelling.

For me, ‘The Waiting Game’ was as complex and difficult as the theme itself and it felt slightly disconnected and disjointed

at times.

This may be symptomatic of the choreography having stopped and re-started several times due to the Pandemic so that, in an example of life imitating art, the passage of time explored in the piece influenced the choreography itself.

Ballet Black are a joyous, highly talented and passionate ensemble who are doing much to bring dance to a wider audience.

Get a ticket for elsewhere on the tour if you can.


Reviewed by Johannah Dyer

Euan Rose Reviews.

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