Beautiful original Zulu ballet set to Ladysmith Black Mambazo at the Edinburgh International Festival
This article is from 2014.
It’s often the case that dance at the International Festival, while pushing the boundaries of creativity – Batsheva, Preljocaj – isn’t always the most accessible. In this sense Zulu ballet Inala is a breath of warm fresh air, rich in its costume colours and textures, gorgeously scored by Ella Spira and Ladysmith Black Mambazo – who sing (and dance) live – and just beautiful to watch.
Rambert Artistic Director Mark Baldwin, working under producers Sisters Grimm, has taken 16 original songs each with their own mini-story to tell, and choreographed them with a new dance language, mixing Zulu traditional dance and contemporary ballet. The fusion is seamless: flat-footed swaying steps tuck in for a beat or two with kicks and jetes; scooping, shaking torso movements add intrigue and a spiritual edge to one stormy passage. There is a sense of equality to the partnering that feels both light-footed and strong in shape, for both the men and the women. All the while Ben Cracknell’s burnt dusty lighting creates a languorous outdoor sunscape in which gatherings and dance-offs feel fun and warm.
But it’s when Ladysmith Black Mambazo take the stage alone, or dance alongside the main dancers, that the individuality and flair of Zulu dance comes out, showcasing each performer’s personality. The lean, stretched tautness of the ballet fusion, beautiful and different as it is, doesn’t give its performers the same opportunity to let go in this way.
Edinburgh Playhouse, 473 2000, until 12 Aug, 8pm, £10–£32 (£5–£16).