Dance review: Ballet Black, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Black Ballet

Ballet Black, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh ***

Twitter is often a repository of illogical and damaging rants that shouldn’t be considered let alone shared. Unfortunately, of late Ballet Black’s social media accounts have been a magnet for such comments, questioning the company’s right to exist (“Maybe I should start Ballet White”) and demanding that they only do problem-based work.

What a pleasure then to see artistic director Cassa Pancho thumbing her nose at this absurdity and creating Say It Loud – a heartfelt love letter to ballet. Divided into seven distinct chapters, the piece captures 20 years of Ballet Black history and pays homage to the classical form. Over a soundtrack of musical styles, interspersed with the aforementioned tweets, it gives this perfectly formed little company a chance to shine. These dumb keyboard warriors still have a lot to learn, but if their words sparked this joyous celebration, then at least something good has come out of their fingertips.

Last seen in Scotland with his contribution to the Edinburgh International Festival’s Dancing in the Streets film series, South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma took dancers in a very different direction. Black Sun, he says, “draws energy from the sun and moon” to celebrate ancestral power, acknowledging how we take those who came before us into the future.

The piece feels like a stream of consciousness of Maqoma’s mind, body, and spirit, sometimes leading to a lack of clarity in the narrative. And had it not been for the overflowing enthusiasm with which the dancers attack the piece, this could have proved problematic. As it is, every stomping of bare feet against the ground, clapping of hands on metal buckets, and plaintive cry in the desert creates a connection to a spiritual home that we cannot see but certainly can feel. .