“Ballet Black is a professional ballet company for international dancers of black and Asian descent. Our ultimate goal is to see a fundamental change in the number of black and Asian dancers in mainstream ballet companies, making that vision wonderfully unnecessary.”
I have been looking forward to seeing Ballet Black perform since learning that they had been programmed into DanceXchange’s spring season 2017. Out of all the companies’ performances this season, I knew that theirs would resonate with me the most. As somebody of mixed Caribbean heritage who trained in contemporary dance at an elite level, I often found it difficult to navigate myself authentically and comfortably amongst peers, teachers and professional choreographers; this was especially true during pre-training.
It was only after being introduced to companies such as Alvin Ailey and Ballet Black that I felt less isolated and I was able to raise my own expectations of achievement. During my training, I remember having Ballet Black posters plastered all over my bedroom walls and re-reading several of Cassa Pancho’s (founder and artistic director) interviews, which served as daily inspirational reminders that I did belong in the dance world and I wasn’t alone.
I was thrilled to learn that both nights of Ballet Black’s performances were sold out and it was also great to see a more ethnic and generationally diverse audience than usual. However, it is evident that some institutions still have a significant way to go with regards to sincerely and genuinely caring and holding themselves responsible, as well as accountable, for programming much more of a variety of performances that are accessible for diverse and younger audiences; it’s not enough to be tick-boxing or ignoring these issues altogether. What was supposed to be a triple bill materialised into an astounding double
What was supposed to be a triple bill materialised into an astounding double bill.This was due to Sayaka Ichikawa sustaining a serious concussion just before the show, however, despite only having 20 minutes notice the company were able to pull together and smash the performance out of the water. Kudos all around! The first piece, Captured (2012) , the most classical and traditional of the two pieces performed on the night, was greatly entertaining showcasing the quartet of dancers’ finely tuned technical skills, agility and strength (both physically and in character).
Think 180-degree leg extensions, grand and daring leaps, and enough pirouettes to make your eyes pop and mouth drop. There were moments of striking linearity as extended appendages swept through the air which were juxtaposed with more contorted and curved spirals of the torso; more reflective of modern and contemporary dance influences. The choreography was exciting to watch, surprising and often satisfyingly unpredictable. In addition, the dancers’ physical strength and energy
The choreography was exciting to watch, surprising and often satisfyingly unpredictable. In addition, the dancers’ physical strength and energy was sky high, whilst the two female performers smashed all antiquated expectations and preconceptions of the petite and fragile white female archetype the two male performers also stunned me with their seemingly effortless strength, articulation and phenomenal sweeping breadth of movement. I was entranced, to say the least.
The second and last piece of the night, Red Riding Hood, was quite something. Certainly not for the immature, faint hearted or boring. Imagine something along the lines of ballet hip-hop contemporary dance meets dark fantasy panto a side of sexy undertones with a generous sprinkling of swag. Although the narrative explores the original themes of the story: deception, deceit, curiosity, innocence and vulnerability, this depiction is unlike the childhood fairytale/folklore versions we all know.
Instead, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, the choreographer has produced a piece which is more reminiscent of the stories gritty origins. To complement the stylistic quality and vibes of the piece were Yann Seabra’s ingeniously bold, imaginative and futuristic costume designs accompanied with a range of simple yet effective props, an exciting musical compilation and dramatic lighting design.
Be sure to stay tune and don’t forget to book your tickets next year!