Saturday, 27 June 2015

Exactly my cup of tea

Authior Xavier Snelgrove
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Ballet Black, Nottingham Playhouse, 26 June 2015

Unless I am very much mistaken, the opening bars of Mark Bruce's Second Coming are a quotation from Bizet's Carmen. I was reminded of The Car Man which I saw on Wednesday. I enjoyed that show very much even though New Adventures' style of theatrical dance is not quite my cup of tea (see Motoring 25 June 2015). "Ah" I thought to myself as the ballet began, "this is exactly my cup of tea." Ballet Black are as classical as any company in the world. They are heirs to a tradition to which David Bintley paid homage in The King Dances which I saw on Saturday (see A Special Ballet for a Special Day 23 June 2015). But they are also pioneers and their work is fresh and new. That's why Ballet Black is a national treasure. That's why I love them so.

Ballet Black danced the mixed programme that I saw at The Linbury on Valentine's day (see Ballet Black's Best Performance Yet 17 Feb 2015) but it was quite a different show. The opening ballet was Kit Holder's To Fetch a Pail of Water. In February it was danced by Jacob Wye and Kanika Carr. I wrote that "this was a sweet story ...... of lost innocence." Well yesterday those roles were danced by Damien Johnson and Cira Robinson's who are two of the company's senior artists. They bring gravitas and the darkness to which Holder referred in his programme notes was much easier to notice. This is a text book example of how a change of cast can change a ballet. Now both casts are great and I hope that there will be still be nights when Wye and Carr dance that piece as well as others when we see Johnson and Robinson.

Will Tuckett's Depouillement is one of the most beautiful ballets that any company has in its repertoire. Yesterday it was danced by Alves, Carr, Coracy, Mence, Renfurm and Wye. All of them danced well but my eyes were on Coracy and Renfurm. They were very shrewd hires (see Ballet Black's New Dancers  24 Sept 2013) and they have both blossomed in the company. Coracy was a wonderful Puck in her scout's uniform in Arthur Pita's Dream and Remfurm was an unforgettable Miss Polly. Yesterday they both danced like angels. So did all the others, by the way, but there are sometimes days when individual performers shine and yesterday those two were brilliant.

If my eyes were on Renfurm and Coracy in Depouillement they were on Carr in Bruce's Second Coming. With tiny wings protruding from her costume she danced "the angel" - though not one of the heavenly variety who knows how to make Yorkshire pudding  (see Sapphire 15 March 2015 and Jonathan Watkins if you are looking for one of those). Her role is the linchpin of the work. She entered with the hoop through which she made all the initiates pass at the start and end of the ballet. She produced the dagger which the ruler wielded with such menace. One of Carr's strengths is her face which is so expressive. She can convey any emotion though it is mainly charm and wit. She is the company's great character dancer. As in February the highlight of that piece was Johnson's pas de deux with Robinson to Elgar's Cello Concerto. Its beauty brought tears to my eyes then and I had to struggle to hold them back now. Johnson and Robinson are two wonderful dancers.

I spotted Cassa Pancho, the company's artistic director, in the auditorium just before the second part of the show. "Interesting casting" she said anticipating what I was about to say. "Inspired" I replied and I congratulated her on the show, particularly on Renfurm and Coracy. "But you say that every time" said Pancho. "But then you always produce something special and something new." Although I hate to hurt dancers and choreographers' feelings I am no insincere flatterer. Gita won't let me be such. Slightly stung by the accusation or inference of flattery I was not the first to rise to my feet at the curtain call. Now I am not saying that New Adventures and Inala didn't deserve that compliment from their audiences though I did not join in either but Ballet Black definitely did, and I was there on my feet with the best of them.

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