|The View from outside the Feathers|
Author Geoffrey Skelsey
Licence Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
The day before I left for Amsterdam while the Beast form the East was still stalking its lair I visited Ballet Black for a rehearsal of extracts from Arthur Pita's A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cathy Marston's The Suit which the company will present at the Barbican between 15 and 17 March 2018. Every performance of that show is now sold out but the company will take it on tour to Newbury, Hatfield, Bristol, Nottingham, Inverness, Dundee and Exeter in Spring and no doubt Leeds and other venues in the North in the Autumn (see the Performances page of Ballet Black's website).
Pita's Dream is already a favourite with audiences and critics. I raved about it in 2014 when I saw it no less than 4 times in London, Southport, Nottingham and Leeds (see Extra Special - Ballet Black at the Linbury 26 Feb 2014 27 Feb 2014 and the links to other reviews and articles). The Suit also promises much with music by Philip Feeney and designs by Jane Heather. As I don't want to spoil the anticipation of either ballet, all I will say at this stage is that Cira Robinson delighted me again as a regal Titania and Isabela Coracy as a playful Puck, Marston's work is dramatic and I was reminded of Jane Eyre and Rochester in the duet and the demons from Marston's work for Northern Ballet in the extract that was performed for us.
The rehearsal took place in Ballet Black's new studios at The Feathers Association in Lisson Grove. That's not a part of London that I know well and as Hull Trains delivered me to King's Cross with a couple of hours to spare I explored the neighbourhood. It is largely residential with few places to eat though I managed to find a cafe a few hundred yards from the studios that served some excellent Moroccan specialities for a very reasonable price. The Feathers is positioned on a bridge above the railway tracks leading to Marylebone station from which the above photo must have been taken.
The visit was a special event for Friends of the company. If you are not already a Friend, Thandie Newton, the company's patron, lists some of the benefits of membership:
"Internationally recognised for its vital message of giving black and Asian dancers the professional opportunities they merit based solely on their talent and dedication, Ballet Black continues to amaze. As a Friend, you will be making a valuable contribution to the sustainability of this small yet hugely significant company and will support its ongoing commitment to aspiring dancers and to its ever increasing and loyal audience. In return, Ballet Black will welcome you behind the scenes to watch Company rehearsals under the exceptional eye of Artistic Director, Cassa Pancho as well as with acclaimed guest choreographers. You will receive quarterly newsletters to keep you up-to-date about news, events and performances so you will never miss out."After the show, the company invited us for tea and biscuits in their office where the dancers joined us. It was very pleasant to see them all again. The only one I did not already know was Ebony Thomas who had impressed me in Leeds in November and I took the opportunity to introduce myself to him.
I am confident that this year's tour will be Ballet Black's most successful yet. I shall watch the show on Friday 16 after which there will be a post show talk. The next day there will be an open rehearsal and workshop as part of the Barbican OpenFest. According to the blurb:
"Cassa Pancho (Artistic Director of Ballet Black) will conduct a Ballet Class for all ages on the Barbican Freestage, prior to Ballet Black's open rehearsal and performance on Saturday evening in the Barbican Theatre. This workshop is free and open to all, no prior experience necessary."I can hardly wait.