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Ballet Black - Then Or Now, The Waiting Game - Autumn Tour 2021

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Ballet Black's Autumn Tour opened at The Lowry last night with 2 world premieres.  The sense of anticipation was high before the evening started and our anticipation was more than realised with the performance.


The evening opened with Will Tuckett's Then or Now.  The score is a mix of the poems of Adrienne Rich with Heinrich von Bieber's Passacaglia for Solo Violin (as played/recorded by Daniel Pioro with some of his own improvisations).  It really was very effective. The costumes were simple and black or grey) and suited the piece admirably


Will Tuckett's choreography is fluid and articulate with the 8 dancers in a mix of ensemble, duets, solos etc.  At the end my friend commented that for him the movements did not always match the intent of the words but for me that did not matter.  I thought that often the movement matched the cadence of the words and I thought it worked really well.  It goes without saying that the dancers were superb.


For me Then Or Now was both thoughtful and satisfying and I would love to see it again.


After the interval we had a real treat with Mthuthuzeli November's second work for the company - The Waiting Game.  I hadn't read the programme before hand.  It is joyous and infectious and almost nonsense.  There is a man in a suit contemplating his life (accompanied by some spoken word - "I wake up. Brush my teeth. Open a door. ...) and six dancers in what I thought looked loosely based on deconstructed pierrot costumes appeared.  The prop looked like a small wardrobe and could be lit from within and used as an entrance and exit.  The pierrots (if I can call them such) followed the man around and manipulated him.  I didn't have a clue what was going on but it was ENORMOUS FUN and I just loved it!!!  The choreography had quite a contemporary feel to it and I found it very attractive to watch.  There were a number of laugh-out-loud moments!  Reading the programme when I got home I saw that Mthuthuzeli had been inspired by Samuel Beckett and the Theatre of the Absurd.  It's another one that I would just LOVE to see again!!


This evening was so satisfying and uplifting and my car and I floated all the way home.


Please go and see this wonderful company if you get the chance - you will not be sorry!



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  • 2 weeks later...

I saw this double bill last night in York. The underlying themes of the two ballets by Tuckett and November are quite profound (how we should relate to each other in a period of turmoil; the existential issues of why we are here and who we are) yet the impact is not heavy but, overall, entertaining.

The Waiting Game starts off quizzically but ends up a riot- very like Alvin Ailey, as a friend who saw it in Salford told me. The audience, often sedate in York, loved it, we all showed our appreciation by clapping rhythmically in time to the music. The use of words in the earlier section (spoken on tape by the dancers) as a backdrop works more effectively than usual.

The dancers are excellent as always, not least Mthuthuzeli November himself, the star of his own ballet.

The printed programme is very good value.

Well worth catching at the Linbury. And watching tonight on Channel 4, as Joan Hopton advised us.

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Siphe November was promoted to principal at National Ballet of Canada in June 2021, aged 22.


There is a documentary movie about Siphe’s amazing story ‘Beyond Moving’ which I am waiting to see.   Trailer here …


For me this Chroma excerpt is revealing of his talent … he has such natural movement, poise and finds still moments in Wayne McGregor’s choreography, when the other dancers look forced.  


Video to accompany article in Nuvo magazine



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Was I the only one to see Ballet Black at The Linbury?


No matter. I love this company. Always innovative and spontaneous, they are never less than watchable and this double bill was no exception.

I’d agree with most of Jan’s review from The Lowry in October, the only point of divergence being what was, to me, the excessive use of the spoken word, particularly in the Tucket piece, and I can understand why the poems of Adrienne Rich were used but  the moving power of the words necessarily distracted from both the beauty of the Bieber score and, more particularly, the haunting eloquence of the movement which, frankly, more than spoke for itself.


The second work, by Mthuthuzeli November, was a piece of sheer, unabashed enjoyment, a happy confluence of words, music and joyfully executed dance. 

As I have come to expect from Ballet Black, this was an original, beautifully danced and highly satisfying programme, my only reservation being that I would love to see Then or Now without the spoken narrative.

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Indeed not - I was there too.

For me the first piece a bit too wordy, and often the words a distraction to the dance (or vice versa), so whilst it had its moments, it wasn't one of their (nor Will Tucket's) finest. Beautiful readings though

Really enjoyed the 2nd half - there the words were tending to abstration and flowed into the score, and there was a lot of interesting choreography in it.


I would have gone a second time, but my darn leg was giving me jip, so had to pass sadly.

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