Ballet Black, Pioneers. Reviewed by C. R. Hourigan.
On the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush generation, Ballet Black’s timely reflections on race, intimacy, oppression and the human condition manifested through beautiful expressive choreography was both moving and uplifting.
The first production was a modern ballet created by Will Tuckett, with a rich solo violin piece composed by Daniel Pioro and poetry by Adrienne Rich accompanying exquisite, delicate and ornate movement from a talented cast of dancers. Mixing art with politics, expressive and poignant scenes depicted the everyday systemic injustices faced by the black community. One scene depicted a panel of immigration officials silently conducting a faux interrogation, as a female dancer weaved her way through officials bringing to mind the verbal gymnastics required of besieged asylum seekers and the shameful treatment of the Windrush generation.
The second piece, celebrating the life of Nina Simone, was thought provoking and modern, with a contemporary style reflecting the dance and fashions of the era. It portrayed evocative snapshots of her life as an artist and activist whilst celebrating Black America from the Gospel church to the dancehall. With an urgent and political message, Nina Simone’s words hung in the air like the dancers’ graceful leaps. The gorgeous choreography by Mthuthuzeli November charted key moments in Simone’s life from her very first piano lessons to moments signifying her fame and prominence in American society. The joy, passion and pain she endured was intimately recreated through physicality and movement, giving a rounded picture of her life as Nina Simone, the lover, the activist and the star.
Ballet Black’s joyous expression of African American culture was dignified, bold and thoroughly moving.
C. R. Hourigan is a workplace representative and activist with PCS. He has a keen interest in the arts, especially theatre, music, film and dance with a radical edge.