Sunday, 19 November 2017

Ballet Black post Johnson - Still a good performance but something was missing

Author Jynto
Reproduced with kind permission of the author

Ballet Black Dopamine (You make my levels go silly), Captured, Red Riding Hood 18 Nov 2017 Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre Leeds

If anyone is interested, the photo above is a model of a molecule of dihydroxyphenethylamine or dopamine. It appears above because I can't use a lovely photo of  José Alves and Marie-Astrid Mence in Michael Corder's House of Dreams that I received just after I had published my review of Ballet Black's triple bill in Nottingham and which I had been saving for my review of their performance in Leeds.

I should begin this post by congratulating Damien Johnson on joining the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in Washington DC. I wish him every success with that company. Damian was my Outstanding Male Dancer of last year. Ironically, the last time I saw Ballet Black coincided with Damien's tenth anniversary in the company (see All Hail to the Lone Star Dancer 23 June 2017). Had I known in June what I know now, I would have queued at the stage door to shake his hand as he was one of the most exciting dancers on the British stage. He is an American so I suppose it is only right that he will now delight audiences in his native country as he delighted us. I am told by David Murley who attended the Red Riding Hood workshop in February that Damien is a good teacher.  I had several opportunities to attend one of his classes.  I now feel like kicking myself for letting those opportunities slip.

I surmise that one immediate impact of Damien's departure is that the company no longer had a second man for House of Dreams.  It substituted Dopamine (you make my levels go silly) which is a duet. It was danced beautifully by Cira Robinson and José Alves. I had last seen it four years ago when José partnered Sayaka Ichikawa on a previous visit ti Leeds (see Ballet Black is still special 7 Nov 2013). The rest of the programme proceeded as advertised with Martin Lawrance's Captured and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Red Riding Hood.

It was a good performance. Ballet Black retains excellent experienced dancers and has a very promising recruit in Ebony Thomas.  Mthuthuzei November wowed us with his flirtatious virtuosity as he had wowed the Nottingham Playhouse and the London Barbican.  Sayaka was an excellent Red Riding Hood adding a soupcon of fun and naughtiness to her veneer of innocence. Grandma was as funny and dazzling on pointe as ever.  The cast danced their hearts out and they were rewarded with hearty applause.

Yet something was missing and that something was Damien.  Ballet Black has lost some fine dancers in the past such as Sarah Kundi and Kanika Carr who seemed irreplaceable at the time but it always recovered stronger than ever.  The company will no doubt get over the loss of Damian in time but he will be the hardest gap to fill.

This is Ballet Black's last performance in the North. They will appear in Portsmouth on the 21 which seems to be the last stop on their current tour. If you live or happen to be in Hampshire or Sussex on that day I urge you to see them.  They will then work on their 2018 season which will include a revival of Arthur Pita's A Dream Within a Midsummer Night's Dream. The company was recently nominated for the best creative artist in the Black British Entertainment Awards. They have recently achieved National Portfolio funding from the Arts Council England.  They are still a fine company and those like me who wish to support them can do so by subscribing as a Friend.

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