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Ballet Black in Rehearsal for Storyville

by Emilia & Linda on January 24, 2012

Ballet Black returns to the Linbury Studio Theatre this February with Short Dance Works, a mixed bill combining plotless pieces with a brand new 30-minute narrative ballet (their longest yet) choreographed by Christopher Hampson.

Storyville takes us back to the famous red-light district in 20th century New Orleans, Louisiana to tell the “rags-to-riches-and-back-to-rags” tale of Nola, a sort of modern-day Manon. Before our Christmas break, we had the opportunity to watch Christopher rehearse the company:

Storyville Rehearsals

One of Hampson’s inspirations in putting together Storyville was Louis Malle’s 1978 film Pretty Baby. Featuring Brooke Shields and Susan Sarandon, the movie tells the story of Hattie, a prostitute working at an elegant New Orleans brothel who corrupts her 12-year-old daughter Violet (Shields).

Storyville Rehearsals

The main inspiration, however, is former dance club Mahogany Hall (shut in 1917), where the story unfolds. The central character is the young and innocent Nola, a real tour de force for dancer Cira Robinson as she simply doesn’t leave the stage. The other characters in Storyville are: brothel “madam” Lulu (inspired by the real Lulu White and played by Sarah Kundi), Mack (the “stereotypical crook”, here interpreted by Jazmon Voss) and “The Lover” (Damien Johnson) who tries to save Nola from her downward spiral.

Storyville Rehearsals

For Hampson the real challenge for Cira will be “to go from teenage girl and to travel two years in half an hour, showing the decline in Nola’s personality…” Hampson adds: “Cira does beautiful work, I’m really thrilled to work with her.”

Storyville Rehearsals

Asked about the parallels between Storyville and MacMillan’s Manon, Hampson nods: “yes, they’re very much alike. It’s a story of many societies and catches so many different time periods in history.”

Storyville Rehearsals

With Storyville – Ballet Black’s longest ballet to date – and last year’s Orpheus (Tuckett) in the repertoire, does it mean the company will turn its focus to storytelling? Not for the immediate, says Artistic Director Cassa Pancho: “we are still very well known for the abstract work, so I don’t want to get rid of all of that from the repertoire”.

Storyville Rehearsals

In additon to Hampson’s Storyville, Ballet Black’s Linbury season will include new pieces by Jonathan Watkins, Rambert’s Jonathan Goddard and Martin Lawrance.

Storyville Rehearsals

All Photos: © Zarina Holmes for The Ballet Bag. More here:


With many thanks to Cassa Pancho and Christopher Hampson

Visit Ballet Black’s official website

Follow the company on Twitter @BalletBlack

Ballet Black presents Short Dance Works at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, from 29 February to 7 March 2012. For tickets & booking visit the ROH website.

{ 8 comments }

The Ballet Bag (@theballetbag) (@theballetbag) (@theballetbag) (@theballetbag) January 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm

New post in the bag: @BalletBlack in rehearsal for Christopher Hampson’s #Storyville http://t.co/3ZqVW7Fx

PuntasyCorcheas (@PuntasyCorcheas) (@PuntasyCorcheas) (@PuntasyCorcheas) January 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Ballet Black in Rehearsal for Storyville:

Ballet Black returns to the Linbury Studio Theatre this Februa… http://t.co/BlkUSi9K

Zarina Holmes (@southwestXX) January 24, 2012 at 8:06 pm

My photographs at ROH featured on @theballetbag – @BalletBlack in rehearsal for Christopher Hampson’s #Storyville http://t.co/N0s8e6jq

Panny_Lujan (@Ann_Lujan) January 25, 2012 at 7:09 am

RT @theballetbag: New post in the bag: @BalletBlack in rehearsal for Christopher Hampson’s #Storyville http://t.co/3ZqVW7Fx

David Wilson (@DaveTriesBallet) (@DaveTriesBallet) January 26, 2012 at 7:54 am

RT @RoyalOperaHouse: @theballetbag report from rehearsals of @BalletBlack new production, Storyville http://t.co/Usy2Rfhh coming to ROH in Feb

The Ballet Bag (@theballetbag) (@theballetbag) (@theballetbag) (@theballetbag) January 26, 2012 at 9:28 am

:) RT @RoyalOperaHouse: @theballetbag report from rehearsals of @BalletBlack new production, #Storyville http://t.co/LFrrufjQ coming in Feb

(@RoyalOperaHouse) (@RoyalOperaHouse) February 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Some great photos of @BalletBlack in rehearsal for Storyville over at @TheBalletBag. Take a look! http://t.co/LEG8jprc ^C

Isabel (@skin_trader) February 28, 2012 at 3:46 pm

RT @RoyalOperaHouse Some great photos of @BalletBlack in rehearsal for Storyville over at @TheBalletBag. http://t.co/Hjo1XwYc ^C

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