BALLET BLACK AT THE ARTS THEATRE
‘Pendulum’, Ballet Black’s opener choreographed by Martin Lawrance, appears to have no music. All I could hear as two dancers executed an energetic pas de deux was the scrape of ballet shoes. It was a slightly panicky moment. Was there to be no music at all? Was this company, hot from the Barbican too cool for that? Yet almost imperceptibly Steve Reich’s sounds, ‘8 Mircrophones’ slipped into hearing. Practically not music at all - but a brilliant accompaniment to the agile modern performance. Simple expressive movements vary from passion to tenderness to turbulence through sequences of dance both familiar and exotic. The arrangement appears straightforward but it conceals some powerful - and thoughtful – insights. The moment it ends you wan to watch it again.
Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black is a rare and fleeting gift to Cambridge. To watch dancers with their strength and grace, feels like a minor miracle – to have them tour at all (and they do it exhaustingly – only two nights at each venue) makes them a privilege.
CLICK! By Sophie Laplane was a, fun follow-up. It opens with a joke. A voiceover tells us the suited flamboyant figure before us is so addicted to finger -snapping, he is sent to a psychiatrist. “Why do you do it?” asks the shrink “To keep the tigers away” he explains, “But there are no tigers for six thousand miles?”, “Yes, “ he replies, “ Powerful isn’t it?” With (real, this time) music arranged by Kennie Iglis CLICK! Explodes as a colourful sequence of be-suited finger snappers. We got ‘Snap your fingers and I’ll come running’ and ‘Static Click’ by the arranger and even ‘Just the Snap of your Fingers’, an upbeat sequence danced with expressive Fifties flamboyance to the music of The Mudlarks’ (anyone remember them?) Super – entertaining, sassy, samba- styled, this was pure enjoyment. The finale where they all fell over like ninepins summed up the fun.
‘Ingoma’ was a completely different matter. Composed as a special commission – a first for the Company - by Mthuthuzeli November, here was a devastatingly serious ballet for our time. The dancers are miners in South Africa . They manage almost the entire performance in rubber boots with lighted helmets. Underground they dance the breathtaking energy of their back- breaking work – yet render it into a sublime synergy of movement, artistically delightful even as it is humanly degrading. They run to exhaustion on the spot reflecting the oppressive conditions they work under.
The ballet echoes the 1940s’ strike of these miners, the impact on their anguished waiting wives, danced with classical precision by the women of the company, with as much grace as any corps de ballet from the nineteenth century genre. And lest we consider the suffering expressed here historical, ‘Ingoma’, with its beautiful African singing throughout reminds us that 34 striking miners were shot dead in 2014 at a mine in that very country. Brilliantly executed, realistically brutal yet tenderly evocative of the lives of these families, this is a piece which will stay in the repertoire – and in our imaginations, - for a long time.
Bravo Ballet Black.