Dance is often referred to as the performing art that provides a form of communication when words are no longer enough. However, this double bill from Ballet Black is performed to a soundtrack of poetry, spoken word performance, and songs with lyrics. Initially, this took a little getting used to; I am not used to ballet being performed to this kind of soundscape and, if I’m honest, I did find it difficult at the start to decide what to focus on: the meaning of the words or the movement… However, when I relaxed and watched these two pieces as a whole, they really were extremely impressive. The words and the choreography, at times underscored by music, ebbed and flowed and became beautifully complementary.
Despite the company comprising only eight dancers, they had such a great presence on stage, and they really filled the whole space. The solo work of each of the dancers was impressive, but the partnering and the ensemble work were truly mind-blowing.
A collection of poetry by Adrienne Rich on a wide range of themes which included love, war, innocence and guilt, supported by the performance of a solo violin by Heinrich Franz von Biber and Daniel Pioro, provided the soundtrack to the first piece, entitled Then Or Now. Monochrome costumes and clever lighting were the perfect way to showcase moments of movement and interaction between the dancers and to highlight particular lines within the poems.
The second piece, The Waiting Game, explored the idea of what could be waiting for us if we could only escape from the drudgery of our daily routine. Brightly lit, flamboyantly costumed, and full of contrasting music and spoken word performances, this piece was a reminder of the need to step out from the norm, which was met with cheers of joy from the audience and was perhaps even more poignant after the isolation and monotony of the last 18 months. A particular commendation must go Mthuthuzeli November for his choreography and performance here; not only his physical movement, but also the character arc of a man wondering and waiting and seeking joy.
Established in 2001, Ballet Black seeks to showcase dancers of black and Asian descent. It would be nice to think that such a company is no longer necessary, but the continuing lack of diversity on dance stages and the popularity of Ballet Black show otherwise. The company is currently on tour with dates until November – more information can be found at Performances – Ballet Black – and will be performing one more show at The Lowry on Wednesday 13th October 2021 at 8pm. Tickets are available from https://thelowry.com/whats-on/ballet-black-double-bill/
Reviewer: Jo Tillotson
Reviewed: 12th October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★