Author Tom Morris (Talk)
Creative Commons Licence
Ballet Black, Triple Bill, Barbican, 19 March 2016
Since 2008, I have followed Ballet Black. Every year since then, I have attended their Linbury season at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Without fail, Ballet Black always continue to amaze, inspire and leave me with an effortless feeling of elation when I leave the auditorium post-performance. This year marks Ballet Black’s first season at the Barbican in The City, London while the Linbury undergoes refurbishment. The company executed a programme from commendable and accomplished choreographers, Arthur Pita, Christopher Marney and Christopher Hampson – each choreographer bringing something unique and palatable to the table.
Pita’s piece, Cristaux, began the show. After the curtain went up, Ballet Black company Senior Artist, Cira Robinson, melted across the stage with her fluid bourées. Robinson, adorned in a blinged-out eye-catching tutu designed by Yann Seabra, was the star of Pita’s choreographic celebration. Noticeable Balanchine influences ran throughout the piece, which were utterly beautiful to watch. Unfortunately, I, personally, feel Pita’s creation needed to bake a bit more. All the necessary ingredients are there for success, choreographic and dance talent. However, Pita’s goal by not always having the dancers match the music to Steve Reich’s Drumming Part III needed tightening up. For the fresh observer, this did not always translate. Crisper transitions, which can still be done subtlety, from rhythmic footwork to intentionally off-beat attack (which is much more difficult to rehearse than one would imagine) would help the metamorphosis of this piece into the jewel it is meant to be.
Next on the programme was To Begin, Begin by Christopher Marney. Telling a clear story throughout of which begins with a woman walking under a wave to later be found by her soul mate who transcends from above is satisfying to watch. Ballet Black Senior Company Artist, Sayaka Ichikawa, has attack, tenderness, elegance and overall artistry from top to bottom. Her partner, fellow company member and Senior Artist, Jacob Wye, was strong and a compliment to Ichikawa from beginning to end. Seeing many of Marney’s works on Ballet Black and Ballet Central here in London and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, he has a gift to tell a story that is effortless to follow letting you get lost in the moment and enjoy the theatrical experience at hand. Marney has a craft for creating beauty. One suggestion I have would be to see this talent, Marney, begin to take a few more risks. He has a powerhouse of technicians at his disposal in Ballet Black. Clean and elegant are Marney’s forté. Going beyond what Marney is naturally good at and pushing to that next level would be intriguing and a must see.
Concluding the Barbican programme was Storyville by Scottish Ballet Artistic Director, Christopher Hampson. Storyville was first created on Ballet Black in 2012. Since then, Hampson has expanded the piece. This has worked and was just as enjoyable to watch in 2016 as it was in 2012. It is difficult to pin point particular character’s in Hampson’s choreography as every company member on stage brought their talents to the table and delivered. Each company member standing out in their own right in their own character, shining like the soloists they are. I would like to point out the pairing of Senior Artists Cira Robinson and Damien Johnson was pure magic. Both dancers are originally American with American training behind them. Their American technique became more pronounced as they whirled and dazzled through Hampson’s enchaînements and partnerwork in unison. This is absolutely a good thing. For a brief moment, I thought I was in New York City at Lincoln Centre when Robinson and Johnson would take the stage together. Thank you Cassa Pancho and Christohper Hampson for brining these two artists together.
Overall, the programme is strong and very enjoyable to watch. Ballet Black is a company of eight strong links where not a single one falters with each pulling its own weight bringing their technical and artistic delights to each choreographic creation. Lighting design by David Plater complimented all three pieces in the company’s triple bill, simply beautiful and tasteful. I would also like to mention First Year Company Apprentice, Joshua Harriette, is definitely one to watch. Keep up the good work, Harriette. Your charisma shines through. I look forward to the company’s next performance, and hope all involved have received a well deserved break before the next show! Go and see this fantastic company and support them. Well done!