BWW Review: BALLET BLACK TRIPLE BILL, Theatre Royal Stratford East
Ballet Black continue to move from strength to strength. Having recently secured funding and completed work on a more spacious London studio, they now tour nationally with their acclaimed narrative ballet, Red Riding Hood, as the main attraction in this varied triple bill.
In a change from the March premiere at the Barbican, Arthur Pita's House of Dreams has been swapped for Ludovic Ondiviela's Dopamine, a piece first performed by the company in 2013. It features the magnetic attraction between two dancers, the technically excellent Cira Robinson and the strong and unwavering José Alves.
It's an alluring piece and the two share a frenetic chemistry, making for engaging viewing. Robinson is feminine and skittish as a lovestruck youngster. She flits and floats in her attempts to impress Alves. However, the attraction turns sour later on in this brief work as Fabio D'andrea's heavy strings indicate. The pair become more wild and it's harder to decipher their relationship as a happy one, but more as one fraught with tension and racing hearts.
Martin Lawrence's Captured explores the conflicting dynamic between four dancers set to Shoshtakovish's String Quartet No.11. Unfortunately the female contributors, Isabela Coracy and Marie Astrid Mence, lack some grace and fluidity in their movements to make this piece as captivating as previously seen with an alternative cast.
The tug of conflict still remains, however, and with the very fine assistance of Mthuthzeli November and Ebony Thomas, the four demonstrate a great deal of attack, if at the expensive of technical exactness.
On this second viewing I was struck by how the women take more prominence in this piece - more seems to be at stake for them here than the men, who could at times pass for onlookers. With their glistening studded embellishments on their shoulders they are fearless gladiators ready for battle.
Captured is still a worthwhile addition to this triple bill, however its exploration of relationships and the brooding score make it a very similar viewing experience to Dopamine. Fortunately, the light relief of Red Riding Hood follows on for some welcome escapism.
It was fascinating to observe Sayaka Ichikawa's take on Red. She takes a clear journey from girl to women in a much improved narrative tale full of wit and strong comical performances from the full cast. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's work now appears slicker than on its debut earlier in the year. Gone is the fuss in favour of narrative clarity.
Individually, many are able to shine too. Ichikawa is innocence personified for the most part before bringing some gutsy grit to the finale. Mthuthuzeli November has lost none of his slink and swag as the Big Bad Wolf, and it's always impressive how he never gets caught up by that lengthy tail. A very honourable mention also goes to José Alves, who is formidable in his pointe shoes as the rather spritely Grandma.
Red is such a fun piece demonstrating how the company can deliver both light and shade in equal measure as well as nailing the characterisation. Hopefully this will live long in their expanding repertoire.
Photo credit: Bill Cooper