Ballet Black at 20- Double Feature

Reviewer's Rating

Say It Loud’ is a celebration of Ballet Black’s 20th anniversary. And they certainly have much to celebrate.

Choregraphed by Cassa Pancho and Ballet Black company artists, ‘Say It Loud’ builds layers upon layers of creative energy to reveal the strength of its foundations. The movements are simple at the start, reflective perhaps of the routines of ballet class. But they build and grow into something far more innovative and unique. A feeling of overflowing joy is coupled with frank soundbites of spoken word. Classical ballet repertoire flourishes into steps that defy genre labels. This is ballet that announces its achievements with justified confidence.

Each dancer brings something different to the stage. Whether that is the classical grace of Cira Robinson or the charisma of Mthuthuzeli November, a harmonious pas de deux or a powerful solo performed under search lights to Flowdan’s ‘Welcome to London,’ it is this gorgeous diversity that brings magic to the performance. Cassa’s soundtrack, with additional mixing by Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante, is outstandingly curated, bringing together orchestral pieces, A Capella, vocal recordings, Grime, gospel choir and remixes to produce a rich and celebratory aural environment.

The choreography builds to a wonderful, joyful conclusion. So many dance types merge – we are given classical ballet, contemporary, the Electric Slide, the Cupid Shuffle – all bringing us to the most uplifting of endings. It is no wonder that the audience feel compelled to dance along in their seats. ‘Say It Loud’ is a ballet prepared with love.

The second act is another new ballet: ‘Black Sun’ choregraphed by Gregory Maqoma. The opening scene feels a little like an ode to Giselle, a mythic woman floating in mesmerising pas de bourrées through a magical landscape. Then the piece proceeds to shift and splinter, an emotionally charged and frequently chaotic dance of light, dark, superstition, pain, the power of community. While this ballet lacks the cohesion and commitment of the first half of the evening, there is something wonderfully captivating about the way the dancers descend into a very real and visceral physicality. The women transform in style throughout, changing from their pointe shoes, to ballet flats, to bare feet, mirroring the mood and style of the performance.

A wonderful evening of ballet at its finest. A voice recording announces: ‘this is what ballet should look like.’ The warmth of the audience applause makes it known that yes, we wholeheartedly agree.