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Ballet Black - Spring Tour, 2012


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Cambridge Arts Theatre

Wednesday 13 June 2012

 

Despite this being Ballet Black’s eleventh year, I have to admit to not having seen them previously. And, on Wednesday night’s evidence, I suspect I’ve been missing the occasional treat. It proved a highly satisfactory evening, delivered by a company of just 7 dancers who, having begun this tour at the Linbury back in March, gave every sign of having completely absorbed the four dances on the programme. (There is one final performance, in Nottingham, on 19 June.)

 

The first half comprised three pieces set respectively for two, one, and four dancers. The title of the first, Jonathan Watkins’ “Together Alone,” was probably sufficient to suggest that it might have something to do with ‘connection’ or the lack of it, and so it proved. It was nicely put across by Sayaka Ichikawa and Damien Johnson but, as this oft-worked genre goes, it did not strike me as particularly memorable. This was followed by the solo “Running Silent,” with choreography by Jonathan Goddard, set to an interesting piece for solo cello. The dancer here was Kanika Carr, listed in the programme as a Second Year apprentice, who spent a good deal of time on the floor “twisted and pulled by outside influences.” That was, I think, a pity for, whilst taking her calls and again in the second half, she revealed a smile of Nunez proportions with an outgoing personality to match, and I would happily watch her again in something that made best use of such attributes.

 

So far, so OK – but things began to take off for me with Martin Lawrance’s “Captured” for two couples, set to a Shostakovich String Quartet of seven short movements. (I see that he is choreographing Scottish Ballet’s contribution to ‘Dance UK’ next month, and this was an excellent foretaste.) The ever-changing music allowed for lots of differing combinations of mood from Damien Johnson and Sarah Kundi, Joseph Poulton and Cira Robinson. And I have to declare Miss Kundi as my find of the night – tall and elegant, I was captured from her first jump!

 

The second half was Chris Hampson’s “Storyville,” the name of a once-notorious district of New Orleans, where a Madame Lulu White ran Mahogany Hall, one of the major ‘sporting houses’ in which the district specialised. The story begins in 1915, a couple of years before the US Navy managed to have the area closed-down, an event that had much to do with Jazz moving north to Chicago – but I digress.

 

The ballet is well-crafted chamber narrative for all seven dancers, in which a wide-eyed youngster is ensnared in a life of vice by glittering gifts, with love found and lost en-route to her inevitable, disastrous end. One could say that it’s all rather redolent of “Manon,” save that this ballet takes place entirely within Louisiana – and that Chris Hampson gets through the narrative arc in just some 35 minutes. A combination of silent movie-type storyboards and a well-chosen score – mostly from Weill’s “Threepenny Opera” – moves the action forwards in discrete sections, and with clarity. The focus is, naturally, largely on Cira Robinson’s Nola who, whilst possibly too mature for the part at the start, gradually takes it over and gives a compelling performance as the disintegrating girl towards the end. All in all, a most satisfactory piece of work from a company that I certainly hope to see again.

 

Courtesy of DanceTabs, there is a link to a Dave Morgan Gallery on "Storyville' from the original Linbury run, with the same cast that I saw:

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dancetabs/sets/72157629484919275/detail/

 

My goodness, I see that it has embedded as a Slideshow - a bonus!

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