Audiences can’t resist the “joyously unpredictable” (Guardian) programmes danced by Ballet Black, returning for their third visit to Oxford Playhouse.

Led by Artistic Director Cassa Pancho, this company celebrates dancers of black and Asian descent, showcasing technique, precision and grace in specially commissioned pieces. As part of their latest double bill, Cathy Marston, renowned for her expressive and beautifully crafted work, has choreographed a new narrative ballet for the Company. Inspired by Can Themba’s South African fable The Suit, this is the first dance adaptation of the affecting short story.  Completing the evening is Arthur Pita’s Olivier nominated A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a heady piece of dance-theatre for which Pita also earned a Critics’ Circle and South Bank Award nomination following its premiere in 2014.

Performance:  Wednesday 7th November 7.30pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford, UK, OX1 2LW 

Tickets:  £25/£20/£15/£10  Book online here or call the Box Office on 01865 305305

Age Guideline 12+

Duration: 1 hour 35mins with interval

Find out more about Ballet Black here

Read previous ODW reviews of Ballet Black performances here and here

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Natalia Osipova’s specially commissioned programme of contemporary dance at Sadler’s Wells was an opportunity to see one of the greatest dancers of her generation in new works by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant and Arthur Pita.

In Cherkaoui’s Qutb (meaning ‘axis’ or ‘pivot’), Osipova, Jason Kittelberger and James O’Hara experimented with ways of moving together, testing the limits of gravity and their contrasting techniques as they used their own weight to support, balance and counterpoise each other. Changes in the music, which included Sufi vocals, gave an episodic structure to a work so packed with possible interpretations that its meaning was ambiguous: suggestions in the programme included, among other ideas, the aftermath of a natural disaster, the interaction of celestial bodies, or a rite of passage. It was sometimes hard to see clearly the complex entwining movement of the dancers on the darkened stage; the work would benefit by being performed in a smaller and more intimate space. (more…)

Although a range of contemporary dance companies come intermittently to the Playhouse it seems a very long time indeed since a ballet company has performed there. Possibly the closest in recent years have been BalletBoyz and Michael Clark, but these groups however rooted in ballet technique have moved far away from classical tradition and the pointe shoe; arguably Richard Alston’s elegant lyricism has had a more balletic feel. So Ballet Black’s unabashed embrace of classical technique in chamber format came as a welcome and refreshing change to the Playhouse’s usual dance diet. Eight performers of diverse backgrounds and physical individuality come together as an ensemble in their generous and idealistic dancing, relishing ballet’s lyrical line and romantic feeling in movement, engaging the audience with their enthusiasm in a programme of three new works tailor made for the company. (more…)

The exuberant and gifted Ballet Black, now celebrating their 15th year, make their first appearance at Oxford Playhouse with their inspiring triple bill on Friday 10 June.  Dancer Cassa Pancho founded Ballet Black in response to the need to provide exciting opportunities for black and ethnic minority dancers in classical ballet.

The night presents three works each from different choreographers, spanning differing styles and showcasing the breadth of Ballet Black’s dance portfolio and the extensive skill of their dancers. Christopher Hampson’s Storyville is the bittersweet fable of Nola, a farm girl who falls prey to unscrupulous characters and world desires in 1920s New Orleans. The programme also includes two newly devised pieces: To Begin, Begin by Christopher Marney, and Cristaux by Arthur Pita.  This triple bill combines the bold inventiveness of the choreographers with the ambition and flair of the dancers to present a collection of narrative and abstract dance.

About the company: Ballet Black is a professional ballet company for international dancers of black and Asian descent. It aims to bring ballet to a more culturally diverse audience by celebrating black and Asian dancers in ballet. The company perform and offer community driven classes for dancers and students, young and old.  Their ultimate goal is to see a fundamental change in the number of black and Asian dancers in mainstream ballet companies, making that vision wonderfully unnecessary.

Performance:  Friday 10th June, 8.00pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW

Tickets:  £11.50-£22 available online here or call the box office on 01865 305305

Running time: Approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes including an interval.

Find out more about this award winning company here