Feature: Recommended by... Cassa Pancho

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Cassa Pancho, Artistic Director, Ballet Black Cassa Pancho is the artistic director of Ballet Black, which she established in 2001 to give dancers of black and Asian more opportunities to perform classical ballet. They’ve worked with an impressive range of choreographers, including Liam Scarlett, Antonia Franceschi, Martin Lawrance, Will Tuckett and Shobana Jeyasingh and earlier this year won the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Company .

Ballet Black will be performing at the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House from 24 to 27 March – but Cassa and the company will be making a point of getting out of the studio occasionally to catch one or two performances. Not to mention staying in on Saturday nights for a particular TV programme.

Lyndsey Winship finds out more…

I really like to see any new ballet work so I’m looking forward to seeing what Jonathan Watkins comes up with in his first major piece for the Royal Ballet. Whenever new work is on, I’ll be there to see it. We need the classics, definitely – not only do they bring in money and bums on seats but they’re part of ballet history – but that can’t be the only thing we do or ballet will stagnate.

Wayne McGregor's 'Infra' Royal Ballet. Photo: Bill Cooper The Watkins piece is in a triple bill with Wayne McGregor’s Infra and Kim Brandstrup’s Rushes. I think it’s a really great programme. I always catch any McGregor work at the Royal Opera House – I really like seeing the dancers in a different light. And I really enjoyed Rushes when I first saw it, but I think it’s something you need to see a few times to get all the different aspects of it. That work is so different for the Royal Ballet, it’s really contemporary. I don’t know if I would call it a ballet; it’s more like a theatrical dance piece.

I’m also really interested in Draft Works in the Clore. It’s all dancers from the Royal Ballet who are choreographing so I’ll go and check out who’s coming up through the ranks. They get to choose other dancers from the company to choreograph on, including the principals, so it’s a good chance to break ranks and mix up things a bit.

Richard Alston Dance CompanyAnneli Binder & Pierre TapponPhoto: Hugo Glendinning When I left ballet school I was such a bunhead, but I’ve started looking more closely at people I like in the contemporary world – Richard Alston, Martin Lawrence, Shobana Jeyasingh. Richard always comes to our shows and I always go to his. He’s very classical in a way and he made a piece for us that was so balletic. I just love the fluidity and the musicality that he has, and that he doesn’t try and shock and he’s not self-indulgent. He makes the steps he wants to make, they dance, and it’s beautiful. I think we could have a bit more of that – not everything you see has to challenge your whole perception of the human race.

The other thing I’ll be watching is completely in the opposite direction, and that’s the last few episodes of So You Think You Can Dance? on BBC1. I was originally watching it because we had a few Ballet Black Associates in the top 100 and an ex-Ballet Black dancer, Hugo Cortes [who missed out on the finals because of visa issues], but now it’s become a big thing to talk about on Mondays: “Did you see So You Think You Can Dance?!”

It would be great if there were more ballet in it, but anything that puts dance on TV and gets people taking dance seriously is great. I don’t think we should turn our noses up at it – they’ve had some really great choreographers on there. Although I’m not sure I always agree with the judges!

What, where, when:

“Draft Works, ROH Clore Studio, 17-18 Feb”:

“New Watkins/Infra/Rushes, Royal Opera House, from 19 Feb – 4 Mar”:

“So You Think You Can Dance, Saturdays on BBC1”:

“Richard Alston, 3-4 Mar, Sadler’s Wells”:

Catch Ballet Black in the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, 24 – 27 March.
“More details/booking”:

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