Thursday, 17 May 2018

Ballet Black's Standing Ovation at the Nottingham Playhouse

Anish Kapoor's Sky Mirror outside Nottingham Playhouse
Author  Superhasn
Licence reproduced with kind permission of the copyright owner
Source Wikipedia

Ballet Black  Double Bill (The Suit and A Dream within a Midsummer Night's Dream) 16 May 2018 19:30 Nottingham Playhouse

Ballet Black received a well deserved standing ovation last night.  Such appreciation is commonplace in many parts of the world but not in this country - at least not outside political party conferences.  There were whoops and cheers from the audience as well as claps.  Ballet Black are obviously doing something right.

Yesterday's performance was very polished.  As I said in my review of the company's performance  at the Barbican, I had been worried that Damian Johnson might be irreplaceable but José Alves has performed the male lead roles in both The Suit and A Dream within A Midsummer Night's Dream admirably.  Like Johnson he dances with authority but he does so in his own way and just as impressively.

I particularly admired his performance as Philemon in The Suit.  Returning home to pick up his briefcase he finds his wife in bed with Simon. His countenance is like a book. First the disbelief.  "Is this actually happening?" The the shock as he collapses to the floor. The surge of anger that leads to the cruel humiliation of Matilda.  The role of Philemon was created for Alves and it is hard to imagine anyone else dancing it as well.

The wife was danced by Cira Robinson who is truly a ballerina in the traditional sense  and I think this is her finest role.  It would be impertinent of me to compliment her on her virtuosity or her dramatic skills for, as I say, she is a ballerina.  What do I mean by that?  The best way of putting it is that in most performances the artists portray their character but a truly fine artist - a ballerina - can become that character.  And so it was last night as Tilly was pushed beyond endurance.  My body shook as that beautiful woman in a simple blue dress convulsed and then hung still. Tears were welling up uncontrollably even though I knew she would snap back smiling and full or life for the curtsy just seconds away.

Seeing The Suit for a second time I noticed some interesting touches that I had missed before like dancers representing mirrors, wash basins or items of furniture.  By focusing on details such as old lady crossing the street and bumping into passers by, Marston seemed to conjure a crowd.  Mthuthuzeli November danced Simon, the owner of the suit. The rest of the company danced the chorus, commuters and passers by.

The Suit was a chilling but compelling work that left our emotions raw.  Pita's Dream applied the balm.  Yesterday must have been the sixth or maybe seventh time that I had seen that work and it never fails to charm me.   I always find something new.   Whereas The Suit focuses on Philemon and Tilly, everyone has an important role in Dream.  Robinson was Titania, of course, and Alves became Obron. Isabela Coracy amused us as Puck in her scouts uniform and green beard liberally scattering her glitter and dragging dancers by their legs around the stage. Sayaka Ichikawa and Marie-Astrid Mence charmed us as Helena and Hermia. Their Demetrius and Lysander were November and Ebony Thomas. Grunting and swaggering small wonder the girls preferred each other. November also played the one role that Shakespeare never envisaged, namely Salvador Dali in the quest for his missing moustache.

Ballet Black are about to visit Scotland where I took my first ballet class and was introduced to what is now Scottish Ballet.  One of their venues is Dundee Repertory Theatre which is just 12 miles from St Andrews where there is a Dance Club of over 100 members that I helped to found nearly 50 years ago (see St Andrews University Dance Club's 50th Anniversary Gala 5 May 2018). Should any of those students still be in town on 6 June 2018 I strongly recommend their crossing the Tay to see this show.

Fifty years after that first class at St Andrews, I attended class with the undergraduates of Ballet West (see Visiting Taynuilt 4 May 2018). A few days before my visit Scottish Ballet held a workshop at Taynuilt when they visited Oban to dance Highland Fling. Taynuilt is quite a trek from any of the venues where Ballet Black are to perform but I do hope that at least a few of the excellent young men and women I met last month can make it to Dundee, Inverness or Glasgow.

My next opportunity to see Ballet Black will be on 19 Nov when they will return to The Lowry.  They can expect a very warm welcome there

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