Watch the Audience Feedback Video:
In the wake of the most recent Black Lives Matter movement, I wondered how Ballet Black should react to the apparent shift in global thinking about race, inclusion and equity. My overriding feeling was one of exhaustion; micro aggressions, persecution, death – it seemed never ending. I wanted to see the passionate, joyful aspects of our diverse existence brought to the fore, not just the tragic. Blackness it is not a singular experience: we do not all share the same background, beliefs, trauma or skin colour. I felt compelled to respond by showcasing the multifaceted aspects of joyous human emotion, and also the artistic power of Ballet Black, an organisation that has been championing positive change for Black and Asian dancers for twenty years.
CASSA PANCHO MBE
Performance Concept & Creative Direction
Of Trinidadian and British parents, Cassa trained at the Royal Academy of Dance, gaining a degree in classical ballet from Durham University. Upon graduating in 2001, she founded Ballet Black in order to provide role models to young, aspiring black and Asian dancers. A year later, she opened the BB Junior School in Shepherd’s Bush. Cassa is also a graduate of the 2009 National Theatre cultural leadership programme, Step Change.
Since starting the Company, she has commissioned work from a wide range of choreographers, including Liam Scarlett, Richard Alston, Javier de Frutos, Annabelle Lopez- Ochoa, Shobana Jeyasingh, Henri Oguike, and Will Tuckett. Ballet Black won both the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Company in 2009 and Best Independent Company in 2012. Cassa was awarded an MBE in the 2013 New Year Honours List for Services to Classical Ballet and has served as a judge on the panels of both the Kenneth Macmillan Choreographic and BBC Young Dancer competitions.
In 2015, Cassa was appointed a Patron of Central School of Ballet and in May 2016 became a vice president of The London Ballet Circle. In 2017, she joined the Ballet Now consortium in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). Also that year, Cassa, along with Senior Artist Cira Robinson, collaborated with renowned British ballet shoe manufacturer, Freed of London, to create two brand new pointe shoe colours to enable dancers of black descent to buy skin-tone pointe shoes ready-made.
In 2018, Cassa was awarded the Freedom of the City of London. To date, she has commissioned 41 choreographers, to create over 50 new ballets for the Company. In both 2017, 2018 & 2019 Cassa was included in The Evening Standards The Progress 1000: London’s most influential people. She also teaches regularly at the BB Junior School in Shepherd’s Bush, West London.
News & Reviews
- “Ballet Black, Eightfold”Culturewhisper.comhttps://www.culturewhisper.com/r/dance/black_black_eightfold/16
Film Concept & Direction
Traditionally, ballet has a very limited and fixed relationship with film; invariably being performed and recorded in standard, theatrical formats. The first complete transgression and transcendence of this convention is now marked by, Eightfold.
A collision and in a sense, vivid dialogue between cinema and ballet, this conceptualised suite of work is comprised of eight newly choreographed pieces, each performed within a corresponding atmospheric moment, on a symbolic 24 hour “psychological clock”.
Expansive and radical use of light and film technology – including the most sophisticated cinematic rigs and FPV drones deployed as both camera and light source by Bridgerton Director of Photography, Mark Nutkins – render an unprecedented dance experience, where each dancer is introduced by a symbol or glyph, allowing the unadulterated transmission of absolute performance, state, emotion, and deep fusion with the medium of film.
This project is unprecedented in its approach and dimensions, and will, in all probability, radicalise and inspire the relationship between ballet and film forever.