Ballet Black‘s double bill of The Suit and Arthur Pita’s A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream showcases the company’s artistry, versatility and personalities of their outstanding dancers.
Opening the evening is the emotional drama The Suit, choreographed by Cathy Marston and co-commissioned by the Barbican. It’s a raw story of love, betrayal and death. Set in Johannesburg, South Africa, we enter the home of a couple on a typical morning. The scene is framed by two tree-like coat racks holding a suit and a bag. Two lovers in bed begin their day. Philemon (performed by Senior Artist José Alves) happily makes breakfast for his beloved Matilda (performed by Senior Artist Cira Robinson).
José and Cira are superbly matched as they’re both strong and elegant with beautiful lines and they have a wonderful connection that shines whenever they come together on stage. As a contented and comfortable couple, they dance with joy, love and familiarity. They move with ease, their bodies knowing the other. So it’s a shock that as soon as Philemon dashes off to work, Matilda opens the door for her hot lover, Simon (performed by Junior Artist Mthuthuzeli November).
The ensuing duet between Mthuthuzeli and Cira is nothing short of sizzling hot as they head straight to bed. The love scene is beautifully choreographed. Still dressed in her powder blue short slip, Cira’s divine legs extend slowly and wrap around Mthuthuzeli’s bare chested body, her head falls back, it’s slow, erotic and decadent, which only adds to the fervor.
In the background we see Philemon return home for his forgotten bag and through the window sees his love in the arms of another. Caught, Simon jumps out the window. Philemon collects up the man’s suit and thrusts it to Matlida. The scene turns shameful and tortuous as Cira and José dance together with the suit that haunts them physically as well as emotionally. Cira’s dramatic finesse is accute as she begs for forgiveness, she jumps on José’s back, clinging to him in desperation and you can really feel her regret and both of their pain. The pas de deux is heart felt and together Cira and José are captivating.
Carrying the suit over her shoulder like a penance, Matilda and Philemon head to a jazzy, joyful party full of swing dancing, hip swirling and low grooves to high tempo jazzy tunes. A cool scene and a high note that allows each of the dancers to bring their own style and show their individual personality to Samba beats.
The final scene sees Matilda desperate. Cira boldly portrays her character’s pain, her face etched in guilt. And as her unforgiven heart breaks, you feel a little bit of your own heart break too. Matilda tries to destroy the languishing suit, but she can’t and [spoiler alert!], she shockingly takes the bright yellow suit tie, climbs up high on her pointes and hangs herself. Matilda’s body is discovered by Philomen. It’s an intensely emotional finale as José holds Cira’s completely limp and motionless body. A dark ending that sees Philomen left alone with the only the suit.
From the outset The Suit is a theatrical narrative piece, that demonstrates José and Cira’s dramatic skills and ability to tell a heart felt story of intense emotions. The staging is intelligent as the dancers become part of the set, forming a sink, a water jug, a mirror image of Philemon dressing. It’s a wonderful and skilful way of bringing the whole cast into the story and creates an inner audience to the couple’s story, that makes it even more revealing.
Arthur Pita’s A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a perfectly surreal, hilarious antidote to The Suit. Created for Ballet Black in 2014 (with support from The Royal Opera House), Arthur Pita at the time put the dancers in tutus and classical costumes for the first time in the company’s history.
Opening to the sound of deep tudor strings, two pairs of dancers are joined by Oberon (José Alves) and Tatiana (Cira Robinson) adorned with regal blue sashes and a sparkling crown. Their classical but quirky dance sequence is interrupted by a green-hair, bearded scout cross-dressed Puck (Isabela Coracy) who casts a spell, causing them to fall asleep and enter into a surreal parallel forrest universe, where they are influenced into doing unusual things and fall for an unexpected love.
Pita’s surreal dream within a dream in this retelling of the classic Shakespeare tale, sees dancers screaming, Puck dragging tutu-ed dancers across the stage, Helena snorting a line of glitter, a hand reaching from the wings, a Salvador Dali with a gigantic head wandering across the stage. There’s a great scene with Cira under an umbrella with a green silk wrap and dark sunglasses as she stalks incognito across the stage. Helena (Sayaka Ichikawa) falls for Hermia (Marie Astrid Mence) and they catch the audience off guard by stealing quite a kiss.
Isabela Coracy’s performance as Puck made the crowd roar as she brought the character to life with excellent execution of the funny role. And while the piece is witty and frivolous, it shows the classical side to the ballet company and the high quality of the dancers who received a well-deserved a standing ovation to end the enchanting evening.
Reviewed at Barbican on 16 March 2018.