It is always a pleasure to see Ballet Black on stage. Offering excellent dancers, exciting new works and impeccable performances, their evenings have become a familiar source of delight for ballet-goers. Now in their thirteenth season, the company presented an exciting triple bill of new works in its annual visit to the Royal Opera House Linbury Studio. Martin Lawrence’s meditative Limbo and Christopher Marney’s lyrical Two of a Kind started a programme that culminated with an exceptional new addition to the repertory of the company: the imaginative, magical and funny A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream by Arthur Pita. 

Inspired by the Shakespearian comedy, Pita’s Dream tells the story of the unexpected infatuations of the well-known characters of the play. Bold Puck – a grown-up Boy Scout here – disrupts the formal court of Obreron and Titania and naughtily rewrites the events of the story. Working his magic, he devises a love plot where every character falls in love with a surprising partner. The dramaturgy Pita uses for this reinterpretation of Shakespeare is successfully simple. Characterisation is achieved through elegant, distinctive costumes and subtle gestures or movements. Props are reduced to the minimum but when they are present their narrative function is cleverly exploited. An umbrella suggests sophistication and solitude in the hands of Titania; a butterfly net, childish nature in the hands of Obreron. The choreography is playfully seductive, using clean, expressive movements. Their poetic simplicity proves highly effective in the languorous atmosphere created by the carefully selected music.

At the Linbury, A Dream showcased the acting abilities of Ballet Black dancers. Isabela Coracy, in the role of the naughty Puck, led the narrative of the piece with firm comical brilliance. Cira Robinson was both majestic and bewildered in equal terms in her brilliant portrayal of Titania. Damien Johnson played the charmingly inane king Oberon with tender grace. And both Sayaka Ichikawa and Kanika Carr indulged in a mixture of stylishness and carelessness to convey the sensual abandonment of Helena and Hermia.

Preceding Pita’s Dream, the bill was well-balanced with two quiet meditations on death and love. Lawrence’s Limbo, set to Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Solo Viola, is a trio for two male dancers and a female that evokes a struggle to accept mortality. Lawrence’s choreography is always dynamic and fast, but in contrast with the alternating vitality and serenity of the music, produces the effect of a useless fight preceding peace. All three dancers (Robinson, José Alves and Jacob Wye) executed Lawrence’s fast movements with sharpness and clarity.  

Marney’s Two of a Kind is a lyrical and delicate piece for two couples. Set to a melancholic score composed of pieces by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Maurice Ravel, it explores the inner turbulence of a lover unsure about her true feelings. Crafted through slow-paced steps, beautiful poses and lifts highlighting the polished lines of the dancers, it places the two ballerinas in the central roles. In this performance, Ichikawa was youthful, radiant and pensive in her part as the dubitative lover. Opposing her, Carr portrayed the untroubled happy girl of the second couple. Both dancers demonstrated refined technique and charming personality.

Ballet Black will tour this enjoyable Triple Bill later this year. This combination of Lawrence, Marney and Pita, performed with ease, delight and conviction by the dancers of the company, will surely be relished by audiences across the country.