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Ballet Black in Rehearsal

by Emilia & Linda on November 12, 2010

To celebrate Ballet Black‘s upcoming 10th anniversary choreographer Will Tuckett has undertaken a new commission – a  semi-narrative ballet inspired by the myth of Orpheus set to Stravinsky’s famous ballet score of the same name. A few weeks ago we were invited by Artistic Director Cassa Pancho to drop by the Genée Studio at Royal Academy of Dance to see the company in rehearsal ahead of their season at the Linbury Theatre (February 2011). Needless to say we were thrilled with this fantastic opportunity to see how new work is created.

Just before Will arrived we chatted with the dancers about the creative process which, they told us, takes “about a month or so” and involves many repetitions to clean out all the details. How were they finding working with Will again (he had previously choreographed 2009′s Depouillement)? “Great”, they said, “this one’s a bit different from the one before” as Orpheus requires getting into character. Besides Orpheus and Eurydice, roles are divided between the living (Orpheus’ friends/chorus) and the inhabitants of the underworld (Death and Furies). “It’s really good to do  [Will's] work, you never know what you’re going to get, but it’s always something really interesting, a mix of classical and contemporary”. They all seemed to be enjoying working on Will’s piece and we hope that, in turn, you will enjoy the photoblog below:

Founded by Cassa Pancho in 2001 Ballet Black aims to “bring ballet to a more culturally diverse audience by celebrating black and Asian dancers in ballet”. The company’s first seasons featured a line-up of six dancers in yearly performances at the Cochrane Theatre, London.

Ballet Black Rehearsal

In 2005, with the support of ROH2 (headed by former Royal Ballet Principal Deborah Bull), Ballet Black had its first season at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre. It continues to perform there every year to a full house.  The company has an Associate program, a junior school and ballet star Carlos Acosta as patron. Here dancer Jazmon Voss who joined in 2008:

Ballet Black

Ballet Black’s core repertory includes ballets especially created by renowned choreographers like Antonia Franceschi, Stephen Sheriff, Irek Mukhamedov, Christopher Hampson, Henri Oguike, Liam Scarlett and, of course, Will Tuckett. The dancers work together, taking classes and rehearsing, for about 5 or 6 hours, from Sunday to Thursday.

Ballet Black

Longtime company member Damien Johnson rehearses the role of Orpheus, the poet and musician who enters the underworld to try and rescue his beloved Eurydice from Death:

Ballet Black Rehearsal

Will uses video to recap with Cira Robinson, Chantelle Gotobed and Kanika Carr

Ballet Black Rehearsal

Jade Hale-Christofi plays the role of Death…

Ballet Black Rehearsal

… and Cira is one of his Furies

Ballet Black Rehearsal

Dancer Sarah Kundi has been cast as Eurydice

Ballet Black Rehearsal

Apprentices Kanika and Sam are Orpheus’s earthly friends

Ballet Black

Will gives some pointers to Sarah and Damien

Ballet Black Rehearsal

At the heart of the piece is a lyrical Pas de Deux between Orpheus and Eurydice

Ballet Black Rehearsal

Ballet Black Rehearsal

We loved observing what the dancers wear at practice, here’s Cira looking very stylish

Ballet Black Rehearsal

The ensemble – Sarah Kundi, Chantelle Gotobed, Cira Robinson, Damien Johnson, Jade Hale-Christofi, Jazmon Voss, Kanika Carr and Sam Chung

Ballet Black Rehearsal

All photos by The Ballet Bag ©. Plenty more here:


With many thanks to Cassa Pancho and Will Tuckett.

Visit Ballet Black’s official website

Follow the company on Twitter @BalletBlack

Ballet Black performs Orpheus at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, 9 – 12 February 2011. For tickets & booking visit the ROH website.

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{ 4 comments }

David November 13, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I wish that there were more black men and women in ballet. I have noticed that some companies have a few black men in the company but no black women at all. There are some companies that are pretty much all black but it would be good to see a mixture across the board. Thank you for the photos.

Maria November 17, 2010 at 1:18 am

Dear Bag Ladies, Thanks for such awesome photos! I really enjoyed them! :)

Emilia December 4, 2010 at 2:03 am

Very interesting feature about Ballet Black + black men and women in ballet generally, in today’s The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2010/dec/04/black-ballet-cassa-pancho?CMP=twt_gu

Happy you guys enjoyed the photos!

Bonnie December 29, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Great pics! I would love to see more pictures of black men demonstrating the moves.

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