Review: Ballet Black at Linbury Studio

Performance: March 2010
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Friday 26 March 2010

Ballet Black, 24-27 March, Linbury Studio Theatre

Ballet Black marked their fifth season at the Linbury Studio Theatre with four world premiers by four distinctly different choreographers.

Da Gamba was Henri Oguike’s first foray into working en pointe and whilst there were some interesting allegro sections, it seemed that the choreographer was reluctant to wholly commit to this new venture. Leggy lifts, retiré balances and reaching extensions emphasised the use of angular line which was juxtaposed with arching back bends and leaning torsos. The spritely footwork was almost jig-like with fleeting heel and toe taps whilst the women’s sashaying hips and low, sweeping lunges added a seductive allure. As with much of Oguike’s work, there was an impressive dynamic array, especially the use of attack and delay, and whilst he worked closely to Bach’s highly textured and temporal score, the choreography remained an entity in its own right.

Chief Ballet Master Raymond Chai’s _*And Thereafter* _, inspired by moments of serendipity, seemed composed of three quite distinct sections, which, if connected, it was more by serendipitous chance than by design. The 2nd movement, by Bach again, with vocals by Bobby McFerrin, contained a multilayered arrangement that was sadly missing in the choreography. As you may expect, the softly held port de bras and delicate wrist motion spoke of a clear classical idiom as did the sharp jetés battus and neat multiple pirouettes. Unfortunately, despite several moments of intrigue, the work as a whole failed to communicate much else.

From the opening beats of *Human Revolution, it was clear that we were in for a striking change of pace. Composer and choreographer *Robert Hylton is more used to working with artists from the realms of hip hop, physical theatre and contemporary dance than with ballet dancers but still convinces with a work that is both punchy and compelling. Cira Robinson and Jazmon Voss impress with their quick, fleeting jumps and pinprick gestures. Both are sassy and cool with jerky shoulder movements and swaying hips; they speak the same raw, urban language. The percussive beats reverberate through the auditorium, adding to and reflecting the energy of the dancers and drawing the audience into the action. Ending with a note of nonchalant charisma, this work reinvigorates and satisfies.

In contrast to the modern urbanism of the former piece, Christopher Hampson’s *Sextet* _recalls the Ballet Russe era, in particular revoking images from _*The Firebird* _and _*Petrushka*. Like Stravinsky, Hampson’s choice of composer, Paul Hindemith, was also from the neoclassical school, thereby further evoking a sense of the early twentieth century. The dancers seem at times to adopt the characteristics of the instruments so that a female duet seems fleetingly birdlike in response to a phrase for flute or clarinet, and the men dance jauntily to the tune of a trumpet. There are moments of humour in the first section, Athletes, with the dancers jogging on the spot whereas the third, fourth and fifth sections, entitled *Lovers*, is a sensual portrayal of young couples on a journey of discovery. In *Finale* the whole company come together; bringing the work and the evening to a close on a well-charged, climatic high.

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