Monday, 20 May 2013

Why Ballet Black Is special

In "Ballet Black's Appeal" 12 March 2013, I wrote:
"I have yet to see Ballet Black on the stage but I fell in love with the company just by watching this film of Depouillage by Jade Hale-Christofi and Sarah Kundi on YouTube:"
I could not say so at the time but that clip of Depouillage reminded me of another pas de deux.  In 1969 I attended a special gala to mark Sir Fred Ashton's retirement as principal choreographer to the Royal Ballet.  One of the works presented at that gala was the pas de deux was from Marguerite & Armand.   It was danced by the late Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn.   

I saw Fonteyn a number of times and even dined with her in a manner of speaking when she visited my Inn one Grand Night. She was exquisite and I have never seen her like again. Nor had I ever expected to.  But I was reminded of Fonteyn by Sarah Kundi when I first saw Depouillage on YouTube.  Am I flattering Kundi extravagantly? I don't think so. Take a look at this YouTube clip of Marguerite and Armand and then another look at Depouillage. See what I mean?  

When I actually saw Kundi on stage for the first time in a Quadruple Bill at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre on Saturday 18 May the resemblance to the prima ballerina assoluta was quite uncanny.   She danced in two of the four short ballets: "Dopamine (you make my levels go silly)" with Jazmon Voss and as one of the girl friends left back home in Christopher Marney's "War Letters".

Dopamine was a pas de deux choreographed by Ludovik Ondiviela to the music of Fabio d'Andrea. It demonstrated the virtuosity of both Kundi and Voss.  Next was "The One Played Twice" by Javier de Frutos - a charming suite of dances to a barbershop harmony. The dancers were Sayaka Ichikawa, Damien Johnson, Cira Robinson and Jacob Wye.  I loved Javier de Frutos's green and purple costumes. Finally there was Egal danced by Kanika Carr and Jose Alves choreographed by Robert Biner to a strong percussive score.  

Though I had trekked down to London specifically to see Kundi I was bowled over by the other dancers. Each and every one of them is a star.

War Letters, which took up the whole of the second act, brought all the dancers together.  It opened with the voice of Kwame Kwei Amah reading the words of a soldier's letter to his sweetheart rejoicing at their love. The mood changed with a poignant pas de deux between a wounded, gassed or shell shocked soldier in pyjamas and his lover who arrived with smiles and left with a broken. Next came a dance to the music of Glenn Miller. Four soldiers met four girls on the dance floor. Three of the girls were asked to dance but the fourth was ignored. She tried to attract the boys' attention but to no avail. The second reading came from Thandie Newton comparing throwing off a lover to the loss of a heavy coat - but then regretting the loss of warmth. This analogy was taken up by the choreographer as the boys tried to lend her their overcoats. The scene ended with the girl shrouded with the soldiers' coats.  Finally, there was the voice of the wartime radio presenter John Snagge announcing "Victory in Europe". The last scene is of the artists together which I reproduced in my previous post. Home came the boys nursing their injuries. This was not the first ballet on the horror of war but I still found it a very moving work.

According to the company's website Cassa Pancho started Ballet Black to provide opportunities for aspiring Black and Asian dancers. That may still be its mission even though dancers of all races are now establishing themselves in other companies but it is certainly not the main reason for watching the company.  See Ballet Black because it is very, very good.

We in the North will have an opportunity to watch Ballet Black in November when it comes to the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds between 6 and 7 Nov 2013.  Do go and watch them. They really are unmissable.

See also
"'Dépouillement' - another beautiful Pas de Deux by Kundi and Christofi" 22 May 2013

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