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TRCH David Suchet

Ballet Black

3 July 15 words: Alison Kirkman
A disappointing return for a top-class company let down by mediocre choreography
Ballet Black


Following Ballet Black’s winning debut in Nottingham last year, I expected good things from the company’s return. Unfortunately, the evening didn’t start well and, despite an upturn in the middle, ended slightly oddly too.

To Fetch a Pail of Water was created by Kit Holder, a choreographer better known as a dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet since 2000. Keen to explore the nursery rhyme ‘Jack and Jill’ and extract its ‘coded meanings’, he has created a dark, somewhat disjointed tale of love and loss.

Dressed casually, Damien Johnson in jeans and a checked shirt and Cira Robinson in tartan skirt and top, the main pair began by dancing a romantic duet. Moments later, the music stops, seemingly jolting them back to reality. The piece is peppered with these uncomfortable moments, along with some awkward fumbling and the triumphant removal of one layer of clothing. Its end was met with only polite applause from the audience.

Depouillement, by Will Tuckett, lightened the mood considerably.  First created for the company in 2009, Johnson and Robinson are credited with teaching it to a new cast.

The literal translation of the French word ‘dépouillement’ is ‘stripping, whittling down, shedding or going without’, the idea being to get rid of something either in whole or in part. This notion is what Ravel’s Sonata for violin and cello – the music for the piece – is based on and was Tuckett’s inspiration for the choreography.

Tuckett has choreographed for companies around the world. He began his career at The Royal Ballet School where, as a sixteen-year-old student, he had the opportunity to choreograph a piece for Darcey Bussell. Since then, he has made dance for The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, and Birmingham Royal Ballet to name a few, as well as for theatre, film and television. Now 46, he still performs occasionally with The Royal Ballet as a Guest Principal Character Artist.

His piece for Ballet Black is complex and fast moving, challenging the dancers and showing them at their very best. There are one or two wobbles, but likely this is due to being on tour and out of routine. It’s a piece I’d like to see again – there was almost too much to absorb in one sitting.

Following the interval, and in the same format as their last tour, the company ended with a new work – Second Coming by Mark Bruce. Bruce, whose most recent work for his own company is Dracula, is well known for his dark and mysterious choreography. For Ballet Black he has created a circus-themed, underground-style showpiece with religious overtones and plenty of bite. Damien Johnson plays ‘The Ruler’ or ringmaster, with Kanika Carr his sexy dominatrix assistant ‘The Angel’.

In the programme note Bruce says ”… as human beings we are seemingly always searching for morality, but this… ties us in knots. I have attempted to create a fairy tale that presents a picture – but has no moral in its conclusion.”

Sadly, despite the dancers’ strong performance, it also felt unfinished, laboured and lacking direction.

Ballet Black performed at Nottingham Playhouse on Friday 26 June 2015. 

Ballet Black website
Alison Kirkman on Twitter

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