Ballet Black Review

York Theatre Royal – 23 June 2023

Reviewed by Sal Marino


On the bare stage, apart from some wooden, white chairs, eight dancers take their positions. Dressed in simple garments of grey and shades of black: Jose Alves, Isabela Coracy, Alexander Fadayiro, Taraja Hudson, Sayaka Ichikawa, Rosanna Lindsey, Helga Paris – Morales and Ebony Thomas perform to the beautiful poetry recordings by: Hafsah Bashir, Natasha Gordon and Michael Shaeffer. Alongside these profound words, Daniel Pioro’s fabulous ‘Then and Now – variations on a theme by Heinrich Ignaz Franz vob Biber is played. It really was poetry in motion, such a rich tapestry of the arts – movement reacting to the sound and flow of ancient music and profound text.

Ballet Black’s programme is bold and innovative; and the work of choreographers William Tuckett and Mthuthuzeli November encapsulates the wide range of emotions that we, as humans, experience within our complex daily lives. My interpretation of ‘Then and Now’ was that this piece reflected on the relationship we have with nature and the sadness that will befall us unless we change and renew our love and vows to it. Since its formation in 2001, Ballet Black, a company for international dancers of black and Asian descent, always brings outstanding dance and we get the chance to see what makes them such a brilliant and necessary part of the British dance landscape.

Both pieces explore the complexities and vicissitudes of life and they do so in different modes. The result was an evening of stunning contrasts. ‘Then or Now’ and ‘Nina: By Whatever Means’ both celebrate and champion the diverse and daring ballet and both pieces give hope to what can feel like a turbulent and tempestuous world in their own and very unique and different styles. Intricate and precise movements, the dancers’ interlinking bodies conveyed so many messages and emotions.

Nina: By Whatever Means’ was simply stunning and the music and words were electrifying and as Mthuthuzeli November says, “Thank you, thank you Nina for everything” really says it all for what she gave us and the legacy she has left. It was a truly moving and inspiring performance and thank you Mthuthuzeli for bringing it to us but of course to the phenomenal dancers who were outstanding in every single moment.

A wonderful evening of trail-blazing ballet!