Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Ballet Black's Best Performance Yet

There are nights in the theatre when  magic happens. Several things come together. A receptive audience, The last night of a successful run.  An intimate auditorium. Whether consciously or not the dancers pull out all the stops and give the performances of their lives. That happened last Saturday in The Linbury when Ballet Black danced brilliantly. I have never seen them perform better. Though they always dance well, it is possible that I will never again see them dance as well as they did on Saturday night. As I tweeted after the show:
The performance opened with Jacob Wye and Kanika Carr as Jack and Jill in Kit Holder's "To Fetch a Pail of Water". Except there was no pail and no water.  As the choreographer wrote in the programme:
"I am intrigued by why Jack and Jill are said to have gone up the hill - surely not to look for water?"
They fell perhaps but not physically. Coyly dressed as 1950s teenagers - Carr in a tartan skirt like an American co-ed - this was a sweet story (well I thought so though Holder refers to a dark coded meaning in his notes) - of lost innocence. It was an interesting choice of music: Mother McKnight, Nostalgic Oblong and Skyward Bruise Descent by Clark.

The next piece was Depouillement by Will Tuckett. It was a YouTube video of an earlier version of  that work which had attracted me to Ballet Black long before I saw them on the stage (see Ballet Black's Appeal 13 March 2013). The piece I saw on Saturday seemed to be different from the one that I knew from YouTube but no less beautiful. Damien Johnson and Cira Robinson who had danced Depouillement in 2009 are thanked by Tuckett for teaching the work to Jose Alves and Isabella Coracy and Christopher Renfurm and Marie-Astrid Mence. Alves, Coracy and Renfurm were already high in my pantheon of dancers and they have risen even higher in my esteem after Saturday's performance but the it was the performance of Mence that most surprised and delighted me. I suppose I had continued to think of her as Anna in Dogs don't do Ballet but she is a strong and expressive classical dancer. I should not have been so surprised as I had seen her on YouTube but I have every right to be delighted.

After Despouillement there was an interval. "Aren't they wonderful" I said to Joshua Royal whom I had seen with MurleyDance. He agreed. The audience was happy and chattering. David Nixon had taught me to recognize what he called "the best sound in the world" (see the last paragraph of Like meeting an old friend after so many years 4 Jan 2015).

For me the best part of the show was Mark Bruce's Second Coming. This is a complex, mysterious and beautiful work with many layers on meaning that I have not a hope of understanding upon a first viewing. I am sure I will understand it better after I have seen it a few times on tour. My initial impression was that of an initiation ritual of some magical rite perhaps from Brazil, or maybe New Orleans or even Haiti. Carr brandished a hoop through which each of the dancers passed - some, apparently. not altogether willingly. There was a powerful and slightly disturbing dance of a man in a lion's mask In a Q&A in the programme notes Mark Bruce writes:
"I read the Second Coming by William Butler Yeats (1855-1939) and it speaks of a creature with a man's head and a lion's body coming out of the desert."
There was a lovely bit where Damien Johnson bearing a mandolin seemed to be dancing just for me. I was sitting in the first seat in the front row and our eyes seemed to meet though I didn't think that was possible as I couldn't make out faces in the audience on the one occasion I was on the stage (sse The Time of my Life 28 June 2014). Strangely it was for he told me so when the audience met the cast in the bar of the Linbury after the show.

There was a pas de deux to Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor which had me reaching or a tissue. Partly it was the memory of Jacqueline du Pré but mainly it was the fluidity and delicacy of Cira Robinson's dancing. She is a wonderful dancer. A true ballerina in the strict sense of the word. I exchanged a few words with her too after the show and she is as gracious off the stage as she is when dancing. There were some spectacular turns and jumps which must have been fun to dance, I suggested.  "Yes, so dramatic and different from everything else we have dome before" came the reply.

The company is taking a break for a few days. The American dancers are going home and I believe that at least some of the English dancers are visiting America. They will be back in Leeds on the 18 and 19 April with Dogs don'r do Ballet where they are now part of our ballet family (see Ballet Black at Home in Leeds 7 Nov 2014). Though they have not yet announced details of their tour on their website they will doubtless take this mixed bill on tour. When they do, be sure to see it.

Further Reading
10 Feb 2015    John Ross, Ballet Black Triple Bill, London, Feb 2015 BalletcoForum
27 Feb 2014  Extra Special - Ballet Black at the Linbury 26 Feb 201

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