Thursday, May 5, 2022

Dance Review: Ballet Black, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

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In a new piece created by artistic director Cassa Pancho, Ballet Black has taken a series of attacks against her on social media and turned them into a heartfelt love letter to ballet, writes Kelly Apter

Ballet Black, Festival Hall, Edinburgh ***

Twitter is often a hotbed of illogical, harmful diatribes that should not be thought, let alone shared. Unfortunately, Ballet Black’s social media accounts have been a magnet for such comments lately, questioning the company’s right to exist (“Maybe I should start Ballet White”) and demanding that they only do on-topic work.

How utterly delightful, then, to see artistic director Cassa Pancho poking fun at this nonsense and creating Say It Loud – a heartfelt declaration of love for ballet. Divided into seven distinct chapters, the piece captures 20 years of Ballet Black’s history and pays homage to the classic form. Set against a soundtrack of musical styles interspersed with the above tweets, this small but mighty company has a chance to shine. These mindless keyboard warriors still have a lot to learn, but if their words sparked this joyous celebration, then at least something good came out of their fingertips.

South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma, most recently in Scotland with his contribution to the Edinburgh International Festival’s Dancing in the Streets film series, took the dancers in a completely different direction. Black Sun, he says, “draws energy from the sun and moon” to celebrate the power of the ancestors and recognizes how we lead those who went before us into the future.

The play feels like a stream of consciousness from Maqoma’s mind, body and spirit, leading to a lack of clarity in the narrative at times. And were it not for the boundless enthusiasm with which the dancers attack the piece, this could have become problematic. As it is, every hard kick barefoot on the ground, every slap of hands on metal buckets and every wailing cry into the wilderness propels a connection to a spiritual home we cannot see but can definitely feel.

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