Dance review: Ballet Black, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

In a new piece created by artistic director Cassa Pancho, Ballet Black took a series of attacks made against them on social media and turned them into a heartfelt love letter to ballet, writes Kelly Apter

Ballet Black
Ballet Black

Ballet Black, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh ***

Twitter is often a repository for illogical, damaging diatribes that shouldn’t be thought let alone shared. Sadly, in recent times, Ballet Black’s social media accounts have been a magnet for such comments, questioning the company’s right to exist (“Maybe I should start Ballet White”) and demanding they make only issue-based work.

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How utterly delightful then, to see artistic director Cassa Pancho cock a snook at this nonsense and create Say It Loud – a heartfelt love letter to ballet. Divided into seven distinct chapters, the piece captures 20 years of Ballet Black’s history and pays homage to the classical form. Set against a soundtrack of music styles, interspersed with the aforementioned tweets, it gives this small but perfectly formed company a chance to shine. Those mindless keyboard warriors still have much to learn, but if their words sparked this joyful celebration then at least something good came from their fingertips.

Last seen in Scotland with his contribution to the Edinburgh International Festival’s Dancing in the Streets film series, South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma took the dancers in a very different direction. Black Sun, he says, “draws energy from the sun and moon” in celebration of ancestral power, acknowledging how we take those who went before us into the future.

The piece feels like a stream of consciousness from Maqoma’s mind, body and spirit, leading at times to a lack of clarity in the narrative. And were it not for the boundless enthusiasm with which the dancers attack the piece, this could have proved problematic. As it is, each hard slap of bare feet against the floor, smack of hands on metal buckets, and plaintive cry into the wilderness drives a connection to a spiritual home we can’t see but can most definitely feel.