Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Ballet Black Triumphant

Standard YouTube Licence

Ballet Black, Triple Bill: Michael Corder House of Dreams, Martin Lawrence Captured and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa Little Red Riding Hood Barbican Centre, 4 March 2017, 19:45

We have already been treated to an excellent lead review by Joanna Goodman who attended the Barbican on Friday, 3 March 2017 (see Joanne Goodman Sexy wolf stole the show!  5 March 2016). I saw the show the day after and these remarks are my recollections of, and reflexions upon, that evening.

I have to pick my words very carefully when I write about Ballet Black. That is not because I denigrate them. It is because they seem to get better and better every time I see them. When I say that I risk prompting a response from their artistic director and founder, Cassa Pancho: "But you always say that!" To which I reply "but it's true." So I shall say the same again at the risk of a similar reprimand from Cassa. Ballet Black danced on Saturday night better than I have ever seen them dance before.

I enjoyed all three pieces very much.

I was charmed particularly by Michael Corder's House of Dreams because of its score, its choreography and its costume designs. The music was by Debussy: Prélude (1st movement od the Suite Berganasque for piano), Des Pas sur la Neige (Preludes for piano, book one, No. 6), La Fille aux cheveux de lin (Preludes for piano, book one, No. 8) and Passepied (4th movement od the Suite Berganasque for piano) recorded by Pascal Rogé. The choreography was very pure and reminded me a lot of August Bournonville. There were two couples: Damien Johnson with Sayaka Ichikawa and Jacob Wye with Marie-Astrid France. The costumes which had been designed by Yukiko Tsukamoto were elegant: each man's shirt was the colour of his partner's skirt and her top the colour of his breaches. Altogether, a delightful start to the evening.

Martin Lawrence's Captured was quite different and, I think, intended to be unsettling. The music was from Shostakovich String Quartet No 11 in F minor Op 122. Shostakovich has written some delightfully tuneful compositions but this was not one of them. As Lawrence wrote in the programme notes, the piece was written at a time was "fragile and nervously agile". He added:
"There are real moments of restriction and tension within the choreography and music, which tug the four dancers through the space."
Those four dancers were José Alves, Isabela Coracy, Cira Robinson and Mthuthuzeli November. The company had danced Captured in 2012 which was just before I started to follow Ballet Black. Lawrence wrote that the piece had originally been made for Robinson but that the addition of the other three had allowed him to view the work with fresh eyes and thus breath new life into it.

The highlight of the evening was Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Red Riding Hood. I am a bit of s fan of Ochoa having enjoyed her Streetcar Named Desire for Scottish Ballet (see Scottish Ballet's Streetcar 4 April 2015) and, more recently, Reversible danced by the Cuban contemporary dance company (see Danza Contemporanea de Cuba at the Lowry 19 Feb 2017). She will also contribute to the Dutch National Ballet's Dutch Doubles next year. I can immediately think of two other Little Red Riding Hood ballets, the divertissement in the last act of The Sleeping Beauty and Ballet Cymru's (see Ballet Cymru's Summer Tour 22 May 2016). Ochoa's work was nothing like either of those previous works. As Joanna said on Sunday, it was "a non-violent interpretation, no one is eaten, shot or cut open as in various gothic versions." It did not stop it from being tremendous fun and November with his ropey, rogueish tail had us in stitches. But there were two other stars in my book - Robinson of course in her red outfit and whoever danced granny. The disguise was so good I really couldn't tell. I think it was Johnson but it could have been Wye. Whoever he was deserved a medal for his pointework.

At the curtain call November treated us to an impromptu gallop that drove us all to our feet. British audiences are very slow to stand up - though at least we don't flounce out of the auditorium during the reverence unlike some folk (see Attending the Ballet in Florida: Miami City Ballet's Program Three 6 March 2017) - but this time we gave them a standing ovation, and did we roar.

Ballet Black deserved that applause. They are a national treasure. I can't praise them enough. Yes, maybe Cassa is right. I shall have to be more circumspect in my next review. But only because the English language has run out of superlatives.

Ballet Black has announced future performances of this programme in North Finchley, Winchester, Worthing, Birmingham, Ipswich, Winchester and Nottingham. No appearances in the North have been mentioned just yet but we usually see them in Leeds in November. I do hope they get round to somewhere in Greater Manchester or Merseyside with this programme this year as they have a growing fanbase here.

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