Friday, 7 November 2014

Ballet Black at Home in Leeds

Ballet Black Limbo Two of a Kind Dream Highlights 26 Feb 2014 from Wizard Video Productions Ltd on Vimeo.

Ballet Black may be based in London but when they come to Leeds we welcome that company as one of our own. It packs the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre.  We applaud the dancers until our hands are sore.  They clearly feel at home in Leeds for they dance here better than anywhere else.  The ambiance helps.  The theatre forms part of the complex of offices and studios in which Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre and the Northern Ballet Academy are based.  It is designed for dance and I can attest from personal experience that it is a great stage on which to dance. The seats are very close to the stage which makes it possible to catch detail that would be missed in a bigger auditorium.

I had already seen this triple bill three times - at the Linbury (Extra Special - Ballet Black at the Linbury 26 Feb 2014 27 Feb 2014, Southport (What could be more thrilling than a Ride on a Roller Coaster? A performance by Ballet Black! 23 May 2014) and Nottingham (Best Ever - Ballet Black at the Nottingham Playhouse 3 July 2014) - but when I saw it for a fourth time last night it still seemed fresh. I discovered  new things in each of the ballets.  In previous performances I had not really understood Limbo although I had always admired the dancing.  Yesterday the choreography and the music started to make sense. Exasperatingly because Ballet Black will have a new programme when it returns to the Linbury in February. Yesterday was almost the last opportunity to see Limbo for some time. Two of a Kind remains my favourite work for its soaring lifts and expression of joy to a beautiful score but I love Arthur Pita's A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream too.

Some important things have happened to Ballet Black since I last saw the programme at Nottingham in July. They have been nominated for the Best Independent Company award of the National Dance Awards and Pita's Dream as the best classical choreography. They have created their first children's ballet Dogs Don't Do Ballet (see Woof 12 Oct 2014). They have recruited Marie-Astrid Mence whom I had described as an adorable Anna in Dogs.  Last night she danced a spirited Helena in Dream.  She is a dancer to watch.

Everyone danced well last night.  I was a fan of Isabela Coracy even before I saw her dance last year (see Ballet Black's New Dancers 24 Sept 2013).  Every time I see her she impresses me more.  The same is true of Christopher Renfurm who joined the company at about the same time last year. Great in character roles but also in the pas de deux in Two of a Kind.   Jose Alves and Jacob Wye are always exciting to watch and Kanika Carr is charming.  I have only met her briefly once but I am sure she is enormous fun in real life. She seems to get her head stuck in things: a butterfly net last night and a French horn in Dogs. Damien Johnson and Cira Robinson are magnificent. Johnson dominates the stage, particularly in Two of a Kind and the opening and closing scenes of Dream. Robinson is a a ballerina in the traditional sense, a classical dancer of the highest calibre.

After its second performance in Leeds tonight the company moves on to Watford and Winchester.  If you live anywhere near those towns do go to see the show.

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