Michael 'Mikey J' Asante
Black Sun is a work that draws energy from the sun and the moon, giving rise to descendants of ancestors. We live to tell stories not forgetting we live to be ancestors. The sun and moon only meet to blacken, allowing us to draw from their powers as we prepare for life after life.
We are all linked to the life forces of those that walked before us, those that paved the way to where we find ourselves walking from today. In this work we explore the spiritual influence of our ancestors that push, pull, and often guide our own journeys. From an ever-changing palette of intergenerational experience, we navigate our lives surrounded by the influence of the past, the present and in turn the effect of those influences on others. Black Sun acknowledges that the whispers of the past and beating of the present merge to inform the story that is our own.
The men’s trio explores the additional influence of the merging of cultures and the challenges of navigating the intersection of ancestral passage. The sense of ritual, of rites of passage and what those effects those have on our lives. Empowering and tormenting they influence our spirit in different ways and at different times as we are pulled between the then and the now.
At times life forces impede our flow, we become challenged to resist the beating drums that try to impede the nascent interactions with those around us. Ultimately, we must recognise the whispers and find our own grounding on this earthen path we travel.
The word ‘Abangoma’ or ‘The Healers ‘, sung during the group drumming conveys that we can embrace the differences, heal the torment, and pick one another up allowing us to ebb and flow as individuals but move forward together sharing a sense of community.
This work has asked that the cast dig deep, to be willing and submissive to supernatural powers. The dancers’ willingness to go further, to be open to the possibilities of going home, back to the source, has enriched this work and hopefully the audience and those we encounter on this journey can be transported with us as we discover. The music by Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante allows the ear to hear beyond the notes, to feel the pulse of the heartbeat.
Being with Ballet Black in the creation of this took me home, and I know now that home is where I am most free.
Other films available to watch in this partnership
Ballet Black is a company I have followed for some time now so when the opportunity arose to work with them I wanted to create something fun and vibrant that would reflect the beautiful and diverse personalities of these very versatile dancers. I came up with the idea of CLICK! as a way of exploring, in a playful way, the different gestural meanings of snapping or clicking the fingers.
It is a non-narrative piece, illustrating that with a snap of the fingers everything can change; with this device we were able to cover a range of different styles, from the, “snap your fingers and I’ll come running,” cartoon-like duet, to the dancers’ bodies reacting to the accelerating snaps and clicks of the ending, to the tenderness of the couple who simply “click” together. During the creative process the dancers embraced the quirkiness of my vocabulary whole-heartedly, with the moves in the studio shifting from sharp and groovy to angular and disjointed, to fluid and intertwined.
When costume designer, Yann Seabra, saw the piece he immediately came up with brightly coloured jackets reflecting the snazzy, sharpness these dancers convey so well. The score for CLICK! is a combination of pre-existing music, original composition, and sound design. This is an approach I tend to use in my work in order to create different dynamics throughout the piece. From the likes of Snapping Fingers by Ken Beebe to Two Of A Kind by composer Kenny Inglis, I find using a variety of music allows me to play with the pace and intensity of the work. My finger-snapping time spent creating this piece with Ballet Black dancers was an absolute pleasure. We clicked. Sophie Laplane
Choreography: William Tuckett
Lighting Design: David Plater
Costume Design: Yukiko Tsukamoto
Poetry: Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)
Director of Poetry: Fiona L Bennett
Poetry recordings: Hafsah Bashir, Natasha Gordon & Michael Shaeffer
Is it necessary for me to write obliquely about the situation? Is that what you would have me do?
Then Or Now, poetry by Adrienne Rich
Dark Fields of the Republic, Poems: 1991-1995
We are living through times where every action we take - responding to a call to arms, deciding to remain passive - has become a political act. Small or large, personal or public, our actions seem to hold more weight than before. Creating work for Ballet Black in this climate felt very different to previous collaborations; still exciting, but with great responsibility. Whose story should the dancers be telling in a time of such political and social change?
Having worked with poetry as a ‘spoken score’ for a while, I asked Fiona’s help in finding a poet whose work spoke to this narrative conundrum. On reading Adrienne Rich’s Dark Fields of The Republic, I was (and remain), overwhelmed by her ability to call the reader to action; her rejection of apathy, injustice and oppression; her reasoning that love is all – be it romantic, social or political. Specific yet open, Rich provides space for both the reader and the dancer.
In parallel, I had been listening to Daniel’s recording of the Von Biber Passacaglia, and thinking its ‘slippy’ structure, which makes it feel in the moment and improvised, would be wonderful to create to. Daniel later revealed that Biber did indeed intend the player to be actively involved in the piece; to improvise and bring themselves to it as an artist.
Finally, combining the poems, Daniel, and the voices of Natasha, Hafsah and Michael, our sound engineer Ian created a structure and soundtrack, that enabled me to make this piece with Yuki and David.
I remain immensely grateful to this hugely creative, creative team, Ballet Black, and particularly the Adrienne Rich Estate for their wholehearted support of this project.
From the Director of Poetry
We go to poetry because we believe it has something to do with us. We also go to poetry to experience the not me, enter a field of vision we could not otherwise apprehend… Someone writing a poem believes in, depends on, a delicate vibrating range of difference, that an ‘I’ can become a ‘we’ without extinguishing others, that a partly common language exists to which strangers can bring their own heartbeat, memories, images. A language that itself has learned from the heartbeat, memories, images of strangers.
Adrienne Rich, from What is Found There, Notebooks On Poetry And Politics, 1994
Adrienne Rich is one of the greatest modern poets of our time. She was born in Baltimore USA in May 1929 and during her lifetime published over 20 volumes of poetry and 8 books of non-fiction prose. A scholar, activist and a writer whose work established new forms, she received numerous awards, fellowships and prizes including The National Book Award and The Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. She was a tireless activist and ambassador for human rights olarly and artistic integrity make her a highly relevant and vital source of inspiration for our time. She died in 2012 and her legacy is a defining force in the ongoing development of poetry.
When Will invited me to suggest poetry for a new piece with Ballet Black to explore ideas of belonging and home we began looking for poems that would serve this theme and that would also offer an exciting balance of sound, image and story through which to create. We considered the works of many poets, past and present, and exchanged poems over a number of weeks. When I sent Will, What Kind of Times Are These? the opening poem from Dark Fields of the Republic, the question in this title and the sequence of poems as a whole, resonated so strongly with us that we knew we had found our source. As Will began work with the dancers and the collaboration between music, poetry and dance began, these astonishing poems, with their unique balance of tender intimacy and epic provocation, guided, challenged and inspired us all.
Dark Fields of the Republic is published by W. W. Norton and is available to purchase at www.wwnorton.co.uk. You can find out more about the life and work of Adrienne Rich through the Adrienne Rich Literary Trust: adriennerich.net
Fiona L Bennett Director of Poetry, Then Or Now.