Like Water

Concept, choreography & direction by Mthuthuzeli November
Ballet Black
Ballet Black On film
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Ballet Black in Like Water Credit: Mthuthuzeli November

Ballet Black’s poetic nine-minute film, Like Water, seems to nod to Sadler’s Wells, Pina Bausch Foundation and École des Sables’ Dancing at Dusk—A moment with Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring, filmed on a beach in Senegal.

Here only five resilient people (José Alves, Isabela Coracy, Alexander Fadayiro, Marie Astrid Mence and Ebony Thomas), on the sands under the white cliffs of Dover and England’s leaden grey sky, go through a ritual of arrival in a land where the sun does not shine on them.

Some move in unison like a shoal of fish, one takes off and runs, one sits like King Canute in the shallows of the sea, facing out. In overhead shots, they look part of the seaweed adrift on the golden sands.

And adrift they are, as Asisipho Malunga’s gentle text (mellifluous voiceover by choreographer Mthuthuzeli November) tells us. You can read the subtitles, the accompanying text, or simply listen and watch. Elegiac music by Georgina Lloyd-Owen soothes and flows with the ebbing tide. The sea is a vital character in the danced narrative, as Malunga’s closing text so evocatively reveals.

A collective work, Nauris Buksevics's photography part of the choreography, Like Water warrants watching again and again. A meditative work with a sincere reflection on black history, displacement, hope, adaptation to whatever life throws at you, and a memorial to those who have travelled and failed, £3 for 72-hour access is a gift.

Reviewer: Vera Liber