Two World Premieres from Ballet Black

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Various composers, To Fetch a Pail of Water, Depouillement, Second Coming: Ballet Black, Royal Opera House (Linbury Studio Theatre), London, 11.2.2015 (J.O’D)

To Fetch a Pail of Water
Dancers: Kanika Carr, Jacob Wye
Choreography: Kit HolderMusic: Clark: Mother McKnight, Nostalgic Oblong and Skyward Bruise/Descent; Ray Conniff: An Improvisation on Chopin’s Nocturne in E-Flat.
Lighting Design: David Plater
Costume Designs: Rebecca Hayes


Dancers: José Alves, Isabela Coracy, Damien Johnson, Marie Astrid Mence, Christopher Renfurm, Cira Robinson
Choreography: Will Tuckett
Music: Maurice Ravel: Sonata for Violin and Cello
Lighting Design: David Plater
Costume Designs: Yukiko Tsukamoto


Second Coming
Dancers: Damien Johnson, José Alves, Kanika Carr, Isabela Coracy, Jacob Wye, Cira Robinson, Marie Astrid Mence, Christopher RenfurmChoreography: Mark Bruce
Music: Tom Waits: Dave the Butcher, Let Me Down Up On It; Mark Lanegan: Deus Ibi Est, You Only Live Twice; Dimitri Shostakovitch, Second Waltz; Claude Debussy: Syrinx, Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto in E Minor (Adagio Moderato)
Lighting Design: David Plater
Costume Designs: Dorothee Brodück


After the success, last year, of Arthur Pita’s endpiece, A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ballet Black returns to the Linbury Studio Theatre with another triple bill. The endpiece this year, Mark Bruce’s Second Coming, is one of the two ‘world pemieres’ in the programme. I am not sure that the critics will call this ‘a ballet to keep’, or say it is one that any company would be glad to have in its repertoire, as they did of the Pita. But it stands out as a work created on this particular group of dancers. And it is a work by the choreographer of Dracula, for the title role of which Jonathan Goddard won the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award, 2014, for Outstanding Male Performer (Modern). Bruce, therefore, would seem to be a choreographer who enables dancers to become dancer-actors.

The other premiere is the ten-minute long To Fetch a Pail of Water, choreographed by Kit Holder. Dressed in the colours of a nursery rhyme illustration, Jacob Wye and Kanika Carr are a Jack and Jill who go around the block, so to speak, rather than up the hill. On the way they alternate dutifully between classical ballet and ‘contemporary’ steps. Holder, who is currently a Soloist with Birmingham Royal Ballet, has created a piece that works best when there is space between the dancers; when Kanika Carr dances with her eyes and Jacob Wye’s flowing arms are free; when it is two solos rather than a duet.

Will Tuckett’s Depouillement (2009) stands out as being the only work of the three that is danced to a single piece of music: a recording of Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello. ‘Depouillement’, Tuckett explains in the programme, refers to Debussy’s notion of ‘economy of means’. The word can be translated as ‘stripping away’. In white or black leotards, the dancers make their pared down, neo-classical movement. There are references to Balanchine: movement as narrative; the three women who exit abruptly, unexpectedly, like those in the ‘Emeralds’ section of Jewels (except that here one of the men follows). Cira Robinson and Damien Johnson, who taught this ballet to the new cast, are particularly moving in the central, emotionally stripped away, pas de deux.

When Damien Johnson appears again at the start of Bruce’s Second Coming, there are echoes of Goddard on his first appearance as Dracula in Mark Bruce’s earlier work. He is dressed in a top hat and a coat of velvety black, with gold braid, that is open to reveal a bare torso; but his slinky, sexy, cabaret, or perhaps music hall, ‘turn’ is essentially for himself.

This thirty-five minute, dance-theatre piece has a ‘blink and you miss it’ storyline, made up by Bruce, which takes one of its characters (José Alves) from birth to crucifixion in a single dance. It crams in recorded music by five composers (with a danse macabre to Shostakovich’s Second Waltz). From the narrative and musical perspectives it is flawed, as I think Dracula, even with the Bram Stoker novel as a basis, was flawed.

Its strength lies in its costumes (designed, like those for Dracula, by Dorothee Brodück) and its movement. This seems to bring something out of the dancers; they reveal latent qualities: Damien Johnson’s hips; Cira Robinson’s strongly arching back; Christopher Renfurm as a jumping, leaping devil; José Alves as the strong, secure, even angry partner of spectacular and complex lifts. At the end, all the dancers are moving, for themselves and on the spot, with slinky, cabaret gestures. And Alves, for reasons that perhaps only Mark Bruce understands, wears the mask of a fierce, sharp-toothed animal.

John O’Dwyer

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