Ballet Black, A Dream Within a Midsummer Night's Dream, dance review

4.00

Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House

Arthur Pita’s A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream shows Ballet Black’s dancers at their most classical – then gleefully twists that upside down in a burst of Shakespeare-inspired mayhem. The company have never looked better.

Ballet Black was founded in 2001 to create opportunities for dancers of black and Asian descent. Since then, it’s established its own niche as a sparky, award-winning company, with a spirited policy of commissioning new ballets.

The focus on new work has meant we don’t often see these dancers on the formal side of ballet. Pita’s work, his first for the company, is also its first tutu ballet.

After The Metamorphosis, his award-winning adaptation of Kafka, Pita’s star is rising. This time, he draws on the themes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, without sticking to its plot. Three couples dance a classical setpiece to Handel, moving with courtly authority. Just as they’re reaching a solemn finale, Puck pops up and throws the switch, pitching the dancers into a starlit dreamworld of kitsch pop and unexpected pairings.

Isabela Coracy’s larky Puck, cross-dressed in a Boy Scout uniform and flowery beard, is in charge of this particular dream, with no sense that he’s acting on Oberon’s instructions. Sayaka Ichikawa’s Helena stays primly classical as Demetrius and Lysander (José Alves and Jacob Wye) shimmy into mambo moves; she finally wards them off with some killer fouetté turns.

Pita then pairs her off with Kanika Carr’s free-spirited Hermia. The crisp, springy footwork recalls the perky solos of 19th-century ballet, but here becomes delighted lesbian flirting. There’s a real bounce and freedom to these dances, and a surprising tenderness to Cira Robinson’s lush duet with Alves, now playing a donkey-eared Bottom.

Jean-Marc Puissant’s designs illustrate Titania’s shift from regal to sensuous, while a rainstorm takes over the soundtrack.  Damien Johnson’s Oberon dances lyrically with Wye’s Indian Boy. They’re all whisked back to finish their finale, but these fantasies have shown where their hearts lie.

Two more new works stress Ballet Black’s classicism. Martin Lawrance’s Limbo, danced to Hindemith, is strongest in its solos. Robinson shows a terrific sense of speed and power, opening out her long limbs at the end of a turn. Joined by Alves and Wye, they share glances and a sense of waiting.

David Plater’s lighting cuts paths of light overhead, then shifts to spotlight Jacob Wye, who dances with swooping arms and quick attack. Lawrance’s theme of limbo could be developed more, but he shows off the dancers’ footwork and line in fast, polished dances.

Christopher Marney’s Two of a Kind sandwiches Tchaikovsky and Ravel together for lots of floaty, romantic pas de deux. Marney could do with more discipline: the switch of composers is jarring, and he throws in too many lifts. Still, it’s fluent and fluid, and danced with assurance by Carr, Ichikawa, Johnson and Christopher Renfurm.

Until 4 March. Box office 020 7304 4000. Touring until 2 July – see www.balletblack.co.uk for dates.

Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project