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Ballet Black at 21

Dancers of Ballet Black in Then or Now
Dancers of Ballet Black in Then or Now

Ballet Black, celebrating 21 years of putting black and Asian dancers front and centre, returns to The Lowry in Salford (October 31-November 2) with a double bill of original works.

Ballet Black: Pioneers comes from two of the company’s best-known collaborators, Will Tuckett and Mthuthuzeli November. Tuckett's Then Or Now, created in 2020, blends classical ballet, music, and the poetry of Adrienne Rich; the second piece, a world premiere by November, is called Nina: By Whatever Means, and is inspired by the artistry and activism of Nina Simone.

Cassa Pancho MBE, the founder and now CEO and artistic director of Ballet Black, said: “Every year, I describe how delighted I am to present new works and this, our 21st year, is no different.

“Then Or Now was delayed by the pandemic, and only had a very short run across four theatres in 2021. One of the joys of having work created specifically for Ballet Black is getting to revisit it with the choreographer, and we’ve had fun having Will back in the studio to restage this beautiful ballet.

“And it's thrilling to be able to bring Nina: By Whatever Means to life. It’s part of our growing collection of ballets that depict the Black experience through classical ballet – the realisation of a dream Mthuthuzeli had to create a love letter to Nina Simone.”

Will Tuckett needs no introduction: as well as choreographing for, and performing with, the Royal Ballet for over 25 years, he is an internationally renowned director and choreographer, and has worked in both commercial and subsidised theatre, opera, musical-theatre, television and film.

Mthuthu November started dancing at the age of 15 with the outreach programme, Dance For All, in Cape Town, South Africa. He has worked with Cape Dance Company and eight years ago travelled to the UK to dance with Central School of Ballet’s third-year touring company, Ballet Central, before joining Ballet Black. He has created ballets for Cape Town Opera, Cape Town City Ballet, The Grange Festival, further commissions for English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer Competition, Northern Ballet, Tanz Ensemble for Luzerner Theatre, Ballet Central and Rambert School.

Cassa Pancho founded Ballet Black in order to provide role models to young, aspiring black and Asian dancers. She opened the BB Junior School in Shepherd’s Bush, still teaches there, and has commissioned work from a wide range of choreographers for her company, including Richard Alston, Javier de Frutos, Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa, Shobana Jeyasingh, Henri Oguike, and Will Tuckett.

She has also, with Cira Robinson, made a difference to the black dance scene by collaborating with ballet shoe manufacturer Freed of London, to offer pointe shoe colours that allow black dancers to buy ready-made shoes in the correct skin tones.

More info and tickets here


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