London's Ballet Black wants to take success abroad

Mon Mar 29, 2010 11:47am EDT
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By Ikuko Kurahone

LONDON (Reuters) - After years of sell out performances and innovative choreography, Britain's Ballet Black is considering a debut on the international stage.

Founded by Cassa Pancho in 2001 after graduating from London's Royal Academy of Dance, Ballet Black sprang out of Pancho's efforts to find black ballet dancers to interview for her dissertation.

Now with six classically trained dancers of black and Asian descent, Ballet Black's performances have become a top ticket for London culture vultures and chief ballet master Raymond Chai thinks it's time to have a crack at the international stage.

"I think Ballet Black has proven itself. We usually sell out wherever we perform... (and) we would love to do international tours," he told Reuters.

He said one of the aims of Ballet Black's founder -- whose parents were British and Trinidadian -- was to inspire young black or Asian dancers to believe they can do classical ballet.

"It is a very old misconception that black dancers cannot do ballet or do not have the body for ballet. Ballet Black has proven that is wrong," Chai said.

The path has not always been easy and the company still faces funding hurdles despite its popularity. Early help came from Deborah Bull, who was then the creative director of Royal Opera's contemporary arm ROH2 and saw Ballet Black's potential.

Now Bull is creative director of the Royal Opera House.   Continued...