Ballet Black: Triple Bill

Posted: February 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ballet Black: Triple Bill

Ballet Black, Triple Bill, Linbury Studio Theatre, February 13

Ballet Black in Mark Bruce's Second Coming (photo: Bill Cooper)

Ballet Black in Mark Bruce’s Second Coming (photo: Bill Cooper)

In their triple bill at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Ballet Black has made a program in their image, one that not only showcases their dancers but frames their identity. It is a rich choice of works put together like a musical concert: an overture, a concerto and a full mythological symphony.

Kit Holder’s To Fetch a Pail of Water? (note the interrogation) decodes the nursery rhyme Jack & Jill into a modern immorality play in which the fall has biblical connotations. The hill is suggested by lighting designer David Plater as a diminishing perspective of light on the floor but the ascent by Kanika Carr and Jacob Wye is less geographical than amatory. Dressed by Rebecca Hayes in colourful check shirts and jeans, they each exude a rustic innocence and pleasure except that Carr is in silver pointe shoes. Given the hill climbing, Doc Martens might have been more appropriate. Wye is able to express the earthiness of his actions — and does so beautifully — but Carr appears more sophisticated by virtue of the footwear, a princess Jill who would never have trudged up the hill with Jack in the first place. Carr has beautiful feet that in soft shoes would subtly change her movement to blend the music, the setting and the warmth of the choreography more convincingly. One other niggle is that the cinematic cuts in the lighting are not as successful as they might be; the first comes so soon after the beginning as to suggest an electrical fault rather than a time lapse, and the one at the end, but for a knowledgeable clap from the audience, feels like a time lapse rather than a closure. But To Fetch a Pail of Water? is nevertheless a delightfully ‘cotton-nosed’ work that allows an audience to enter immediately into the spirit of the company.

Will Tuckett’s Depouillement (2009) is a meaty, sophisticated concerto, both musically (Maurice Ravel’s sonata for violin and cello) and choreographically. Tuckett’s musicality and jazzy neo-classical language fits the company well and here the pointe shoe is written in seamlessly to extend the body’s lines and accentuate the constantly thrusting nature of the choreography. Tuckett writes in the program that Ravel took the notion of ‘dépouillement’ (economy of means) from Debussy, effectively reducing the sonata form to two instruments. Tuckett combines his two principal instruments (Damien Johnson and Cira Robinson) with a quartet of dancers but the idea of economy shines through the unadorned quality of movement within its complex patterns and in the reduction of costumes to black and white leotards (by Yukiko Tsukamoto). Perhaps because she is in white with a purity of line and he in black with a playful presence (and an incandescent smile), I see Robinson as a slinky angel and Johnson as a rambunctious devil. If so, good and evil complement each other beautifully in their duet in the third, luscious movement. Johnson partners Robinson with ease and intelligence, calming her frantic gestures and prompting her to move to his impulses. The colour of the music is rich and dark (like the sound of the solo cello that begins it), muscular and passionate, qualities that Tuckett evokes in his dancers. The finale for all six dancers keeps you on the edge of your seat with its relentless drive, swapping partners, lightning entrances and exits, mischievous kicks and flawless, lyrical technique (José Alves’ pirouettes in particular) right up until the final, very classical flourish on the final plucked note as if they were written for each other. Brilliant.

Mark Bruce’s Second Coming is another kind of beast altogether (or lots of beasts), a myth or fairy tale of his own making without a moral conclusion. ‘As human beings we are seemingly always searching for morality, but this just conflicts with our nature, creates hypocrisy and ties us in knots.’ Watching Second Coming may tie your head in knots if you fail to read the synopsis in the program (sadly not included in the cast sheet). The narrative is on three mythological levels and deals with an authoritarian father (Johnson looking on his first appearance like Jimi Hendrix in military jacket and top hat), his sardonic sidekick angel with clipped wings (Carr) and a son (Alves) born of a maiden savage (Isabela Coracy) who forsakes patriarchal values for the love of a serpent woman (Robinson). It’s a complex genealogy but it makes for gripping theatre. Dorothee Brodrück’s costumes and the layering of musical influences from Tom Waits to Dimitri Shostakovich to Sir Edward Elgar and John Barry give the work a particular richness before a single step has been devised. Bruce’s imagination is up to the challenge and he gouges out a mythic story that stands on its own four feet and makes the company look in control of its destiny.