To celebrate Ballet Black‘s upcoming 10th anniversary choreographer Will Tuckett has undertaken a new commission – aÂ 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 DirectorÂ Cassa Pancho to drop by the GenÃ©e 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 oneâ€™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). â€œItâ€™s really good to doÂ [Will's] work, you never know what youâ€™re going to get, but itâ€™s always something really interesting, a mix of classical and contemporaryâ€. 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.
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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.Â The company has an Associate program, a junior school and ballet star Carlos Acosta as patron. Here dancer Jazmon Voss who joined in 2008:
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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.
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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:
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Will uses video to recap with Cira Robinson, Chantelle Gotobed and Kanika Carr
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Jade Hale-Christofi plays the role of Death…
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… and Cira is one of his Furies
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Dancer Sarah Kundi has been cast as Eurydice
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Apprentices Kanika and Sam are Orpheus’s earthly friends
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Will gives some pointers to Sarah and Damien
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At the heart of the piece is a lyrical Pas de Deux between Orpheus and Eurydice
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We loved observing what the dancers wear at practice, here’s Cira looking very stylish
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The ensemble – Sarah Kundi, Chantelle Gotobed, Cira Robinson, Damien Johnson, Jade Hale-Christofi, Jazmon Voss, Kanika Carr and Sam Chung
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All photos by The Ballet Bag Â©. Plenty more here:
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With many thanks to Cassa Pancho and Will Tuckett.
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.