Thursday, 27 June 2019

Museo Sorolla in Madrid

I wasn't aware of Joaquin Sorolla until I saw the great exhibition of his work at the National Gallery earlier this year so when in Madrid last week I took the opportunity to visit his house that is now Museo Sorolla. It's about a 45 minutes walk north of the Prado, out in a residential district but with the traffic of a capital city all around.

Walk through the gate in the high brick wall and you find yourself in a delightful small garden with a fountain in the middle. Follow the signs to the right into another small garden with another fountain, statues, trees, shrubs and flowers and the dappled sunlight of Madrid. Walk past a little seating area and into the shop to buy a ticket for €3 and then walk out into the garden again to go up some lovely tiled steps and into the house.

The house is decorated and furnished as it was in Sorolla's day and you're instantly taken back 100 years in the quiet of the house, with it's high ceilings and relief from the heat and sun outside. Spacious corridors and rooms with ornate vases and statues on the furniture, large windows and with Sorolla's paintings on the walls. Some rooms are roped off so you only look at them from the doorway whereas you can walk into others to find the walls covered in paintings, usually quite high up on the walls above the tables and cupboards that belong in those rooms.

As I've come to expect from the National Gallery exhibition, many of the paintings are of Sorolla's wife and children, often outdoors but also some more formal portrait paintings. The walls were crammed with paintings but I really liked this one of his wife on the beach with lots of white in the parasol and dress for Corolla to play with the light and create highlights where he wanted on the dress and in the sea. It can't have been comfortable being dressed like that in a Spanish summer - women were so brave back then.

The walls are packed with paintings, as you can see above, with this painting of his daughter (Emelia, I think, the youngest daughter).

A painting that really caught my attention was this one called simply 'Fisherwomen'. It's quite large and dominates the second room along with another portrait of Sorolla's wife. It's easy to imagine these women waiting on the shore for their men to arrive with boats (hopefully) laden with fish that they will have to transport to market or to store, possibly to gut and prepare. They get the dirty work but they look hardy and ready for it.

It's not just the play of light or painting outdoors that made a painter an 'impressionist', it was also the choice of subject matter. The French Impressionists chose everyday scenes to paint, portraits of their friends, evenings out, workers and railways, factories and farmers. Sorolla's choice of subject matter is often interesting for it's own sake.

Upstairs on the next floor is a series of rooms that hold 223 small paintings on the walls that Sorolla did as sketches or notebook works to remind him of subject matter or colour combinations that he could use in larger works.

These paintings are all relatively small, individually framed in a variety of styles and hung together. Some were postcard sized and some were A4 sized - I don't think any were larger than A4 - and were of all sorts of subjects. Some were landscapes, some were of boats on dappled water, some flowers and gardens, swimmers, crowds... you name it, it was in there somewhere. Apparently he used them as reference pieces for his other paintings, seeing how colours worker together, clashed or complimented.

I was very impressed with some of these paintings, some clearly just dashed off and others were really more like careful studies, but all so small. Some are, apparently, painted on radom bits of cardboard, any material he found could be turned into a painting. I think all were painted in oils but I wonder what size brushes he used for these?

After seeing these lovely sketches you exit down what I assume were the servants' staircase and exit through some other rooms that are furnished as they would have been, with more Sorolla paintings on the walls.

I particularly liked this painting of his front garden and the fountain near the gate through the brick wall. Do you recognise it? It's one of my photos above. It's more overgrown in this painting but it's the same garden. He must've loved living here, near the centre of the city but far enough away to have some privacy and solitude.

While I loved seeing all these new paintings by Sorolla, something I really enjoyed was simply being in his beautiful house. It felt comfortable and homely, somewhere his children probably felt good in growing up. It was lovely with the high ceilings and open rooms, windows on most walls and the lovely furnishings. He was clearly well off but he produced enough paintings to deserve it.

The way out of the museum is through what was probably the front door, so you have to double back to get to the shop to buy the obligatory postcards (I also bought a book about his works in English). The gardens are beautifully maintained and, in the covered seating area is a statue of Sorolla, watching people come and go through his gardens and his house. He's there with his palette as if he's about to paint his garden again. If I had that garden then I'd certainly be painting it as well.

It was only when I unpacked when I got home and was examining all the tickets and random bits of paper you collect on a trip away that I looked at the back of the entrance ticket. It's a painting of his wife - yet another painting, and one that wasn't on display in the house (that I noticed). How fitting and how he must've loved her to have painted her again and again over so many years. She was always beautiful in his eyes. Their great grandchildren will be my age - I wonder what they think of this museum dedicated to their family and heritage? I loved it and will certainly go back again.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

'Tosca' at the Royal Opera House

'Tosca' is my favourite opera and I've seen it three times in recent years at the Royal Opera House, the most recent viewing was the 512th performance of the opera by the Royal Opera.

It's the tale of Floria Tosca, a diva and the fiery lover of Mario Cararadossi, an artist and political radical who is arrested and tortured by the evil Baron Scarpia. We're in Rome in 1800 during the Napoleonic Wars and Scarpia tells us that he wants Tosca but not in a romantic love affair, he prefers to dominate and conquer then toss the conquered aside. With her lover arrested and tortured by Scarpia what is Tosca to do when he makes his wants known to our hero?

That is when Tosca gives us her great aria in which she sings that.

"I lived for art, I lived for love
I never harmed a living soul
With a discreet hand
I relieved all misfortunes I encountered"

Brave Tosca tells Scarpia she must save her lover so gives in to him, insisting that her lover should not be executed and that she gets safe passage to leave Rome. This she gets and, when Scarpia lays hands on her, she stabs him through the heart and kills him. Typically, Scarpia has lied and Cavaradossi is executed. Scarp's guards come for Tosca but she throws herself from the battlements of Castel Sant'Angelo to thwart them. Brave Tosca. It's a powerful, elemental tale of love and passion and power and lust.

Our Tosca was Kristine Opolais, Cavaradossi was Vittorio Grigolo and Scarpia was Bryn Terfel.

'The Firebird'/'A Month in the Country'/'Symphony in C' at the Royal Opera House

The latest triple bill of one act ballets at the Royal Opera House was 'The Firebird', 'A Month in the Country' and 'Symphony in C' - spectacle, narrative and pure ballet. What more could you ask for? I like the triple bills by the Royal Ballet since you always get a mix of styles and tempos, something there to suit everyone.

'The Firebird' was created for the Ballet Russe and, as such, is all about spectacle and that's we get. The Firebird flutters around the stage with grace moving to jerky, bird-like movements in her red and gold costume. The story is rather minimal and unlikely but you're not there for the story.

The prince eventually captures the Firebird but frees her as she gives him a magic feather to summon her when he's in trouble. That's just as well because he soon finds himself embattled by the local wizard and his minions so the prince pulls out the feather and, miraculously, there she is, the Firebird swopping round the stage destroying the minions. The prince is then free to marry a princess who was the wizard's prisoner and we get a grand finale with more and more people appearing on stage in lavish costumes as they attend the royal marriage. It's a spectacular scene with so many people walking on stage at the end.

One of the fun things was to see the background of a magical cityscape used in the final scene and recognising it from seeing an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2011 about Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe.

The wonderful Itziar Mendizabal danced the Firebird, Nehemiah Kish danced the prince, Claire Calvert danced the princess and Christopher Saunders was evil as the wizard.

'A Month in the Country' is based on the play by Turgenev and created as a ballet by Frederick Ashton. It's a regular in the repertoire of the Royal Ballet and is an elegant, narrative ballet, telling the story of the residents of the country house, the loves, the boredom, the everyday lives and the special. It was very well done and nicely staged and, after the spectacle of 'The Firebird', nicely changed the tone of the evening with its genteel dancing and muted colours. The lead character of Natalia was danced by a namesake, Natalia Osipova.

The final ballet was 'Symphony in C', a series of movements of pure ballet, not trying to tell any story, rather, just enjoying the sight and power of movement for its own sake. I loved the energetic dancing and the synchronised sections, especially when the stage was flooded by ballerinas in white tutus, creating an astonishing spectacle. There were a lot more ballerinas than male dancers who created a nice balance in their black tights and tunics.

The excitement mounted for me as more and more dancers joined the stage, groups of dancers coming together and separating, different movements and complex synchronised dancing. It was breathtaking. As the ballet advanced the stage was flooded with ballerinas in white tutus and it was a splendid sight, watching them create patterns on the stage and then breaking away before coming back to gather in synchronised perfection. I loved it! Another successful evening of very different ballets from the Royal Ballet.

Monday, 24 June 2019

'Rutherford and Son' at the National Theatre

'Rutherford and Son' is the latest revival at the National Theatre, a play from 1912 by Githa Sowerby, partially based on her own family experiences in Gateshead. It's the tale of old man Rutherford who rules his factory and his home with an iron will, dominating everyone around him, alienating his children and, as the local 'big man' keeping his family a step above everyone else.  This isn't good for anyone except him.

We meet Rutherford's eldest son that he's sent to Eton for a posh education and that ruins him - he has grown up with all sorts of expectations but none of the skills to achieve those. He's married beneath him, in his father's eyes, and it seems that he didn't marry for love, but only because he got his wife pregnant. We meet his daughter who is there solely to look after the house and her father, kneeling before him to take off his boots on command, alienated from the other local young folk but looking for a life of her. And we met the youngest son, who has become a member of the clergy but is laughed at by the locals. Rutherford also has a widowed sister and the foreman of the factory who he treats more like a son than his own sons.

The play is claustrophobic and tense, an intake of breath held far too long as the family wrangles and submissions continue until too much is said and done. The youngest son escapes in the early morning without saying goodbye and the eldest sone steals from his father's safe and leaves his wife and baby son to the mercy of his father. The daughter is banished for daring to have an affair with the factory foreman, who is also sacked. The daughter has nowhere to go since her lover doesn't come to her aid, but still bravely marches out into the world to create her own future. That only leaves the daughter-in-law who shows that someone in the family has some spine but I won't spoil it for you.

I'm pleased the National Theatre chose to revive this play, give it an airing and reacquaint theatre-goers with the work of Githa Sowerby - I'm very pleased to have seen this powerful drama. Roger Allam was great as the domineering father and I liked Justine Mitchell as the daughter. It's always nice to see Harry Hepple who had the minor role of the youngest son and Anjana Vasan as the strong daughter-in-law with brains and a spine was excellent. It was a very strong ensemble performance from all of the cast.

'Fra Angelico and the Rise of the Florentine Renaissance' at the Prado, Madrid

This is the second great exhibition this year about the Florentine renaissance (the first being at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich) but this exhibition at the Prado focuses on Fra Angelico in the years 1420-1430 and his contribution to getting the renaissance underway in Florence, both in terms of developing new ways to paint and to his triumphs of storytelling. The centrepiece of the exhibition is the Prado's newly restored 'Annunciation' altarpiece and it is a glory to behold with Gabriel's glittering wings and the bright colours - we can only be grateful to those apprentices that would've spend days pounding rocks to extract the colours and prepare them for the Fra to carry out this amazing work. And, of course, to the restorers who've done such an amazing job.

One of the things that made this exhibition special for me was the number of Fra Angelico works on loan from all around North America and Europe, from places I would probably never go to and so never see the paintings. Paintings are loaned from the Hermitage in St Petersburg ('Virgin and Child' opposite, an early painting with gold background), from Fort Worth and Houston in Texas USA, from Yale University and San Diego in the USA, from Rotterdam and Frankfurt and Remagen. Paintings are also on loan from the great museums of the Met in New York, the National Gallery in London, the Vatican in Rome, the Uffizi in Florence and, of course, from Fra Angelico-central, San Marco in Forence. Works by other artists of the time are also on loan, of course, including a lovely little 'Annunciation' by Uccello from the Ashmolean in Oxford.

It's such a privilege to see the wide range of works exhibited and we should be grateful to the curators and teams that must've spent years preparing for this exhibition and negotiating the various loans.

The exhibition is about Fra Angelico and the vast majority of exhibits are by the good Fra. However, it also includes works by other contemporary artists to provide a more rounded picture of the time and how artists were developing and influencing each other. We see bas-reliefs by Donatello to illustrate how the Fra started to depict a more playful baby Jesus in paintings for the first time, paintings by his master Lorenzo Monaco, and examples of the gorgeous Florentine cloths that were being weaved and which the Fra depicted as clothes and drapery in paint.

There is a single painting by Masaccio, 'Saint Paul' (opposite)  since it's thought that his 'Adam and Eve' in the Brancacci Chapel in Florence influenced how the Fra depicted Adam and Eve in the 'Annunciation'. There is also an 'Annunciation' by Robert Campin to demonstrate how the scene was viewed differently in the traditions of the Northern Renaissance. There are many others, of course. The Fra was open to influences and he absorbed the ones that helped him develop his art and pave the way for subsequent artists. 

The first painting in the exhibition is a small 'Virgin and Child Enthroned' from 1411-12, i.e. before the Fra was ordained as a friar and took the name Giovanni, back when he was a teenage apprentice called Guido. This devotional piece was painted by the young Guido di Pietro while he was in Lorenzo Monaco's workshop, to Monaco's design but  painted by Guido. It was probably commissioned by the Alberti family in Florence since its coat of arms is prominently displayed at the bottom and may have been the central panel of a triptych. It's a lovely little painting and it's nice to see very early works from the Fra to begin to trace his development as an artist and story-teller.

Another early painting that I really like is the 'Crucifixion' from the Metropolitan Museum in New York. it was probably painted in 1418-20 so the Fra was still a very young man but, although it has a traditional golden background, he was already experimenting with the figures and positions he paints them in. Look at Mary Magdalene bending down behind the Virgin so you see mainly the top of her head and the head of the man holding the pole looking up at the daed Christ, head tilted right back. Something I always find strange is the little tuft of hair on the man's chest since body hair was so rarely included in paintings. The group is arranged in a circle around the base of the cross with the figures looking up while the Virgin collapses in shock at the front.

The next room is what I thought of as the London room since it included three golden panels with seven roundel paintings from the Courtauld collection and the five-panelled San Domenico predella and small roundel of St Romulus from the National Gallery. 

My favourite of the five panels is to the right of 'Christ in Glory' and shows the forerunners of Christ, saints and virgin martyrs. Out of all the many figures painted in the five panels only one looks out at the viewer and that is Moses, to the left of centre in the top row. I've never seen an explanation of why this is - it's not unusual for the Fra to paint a character looking out at the viewer but out of all these people, why only him? A reminder of the Old Testament commandments would be odd given that Christ came to provide a new Testament but there's probably a theological reason for it.


One thought I had about this predella and it being full of different biblical and historical characters was suggested by the label that said it was the Fra's first work after being ordained as a friar - is this a 'show off' painting? I think of 'show off' paintings as those that advertise the artist's skills - look what I can do and if you commission me I can do something of this quality for you. The Fra was demonstrating his painting skills but also his understanding of theological studies, putting characters in the right order of importance in the paintings. One of the many joys of the exhibition catalogue is that it attempts to name each character in the five panels, something Dillian Gordon did in the National Gallery catalogue (which is no longer in print for some reason).

The panels from the Courtauld are made up of seven small roundels (about four inches in diameter) with gold background. The choice of saints to portray is a bit unusual but the panels were commissioned for a convent so that might help explain it. I've always been quite fond of the Mary Magdalene figure who looks quite cross and is gesturing to her lord almost to say to the viewer, 'look at what you've done'. I also rather like the painting of an almost imperious St Catherine of Alexandria resting against her wheel.

In the next room there are two gorgeous Virgin & Child panels on adjacent walls, the 'Virgin of the Pomegranate', acquired by the Prado a couple of years ago, and the lovely 'Virgin of Humility' from the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection on loan to MNAC, Barcelona. 

The 'Virgin of the Pomegranate' is full of gorgeous blues and reds and gold, with the two angels holding up the cloth of gold wearing green. The rather chubby baby Jesus is helping himself to pomegranate seeds from his mother's hand (the baby is the image on the front of the plan of the museum for visitors at the front desk). The cloth of gold almost shimmers as you look at it and you can almost see the rich stitching if you look closely, the heavy drapery falling in complex folds around the Virgin. I particularly like the two angels whose job it is to hold that heavy cloth for all eternity, the green of their robes works well against the gold cloth, as they both look towards the Virgin and the playful baby. It's interesting that their wings are also painted mainly green. It's a very peaceful, contemplative painting and it's astonishing how those colours have stayed rich and bright over the nearly 600 years since it was painted.

On an adjacent wall is the most lovely 'Virgin of Humility' in it's golden tabernacle-style frame. I first saw this painting a few years ago at an exhibition of the Thyssen collection in Barcelona and have loved it ever since. We see the baby resting his head against his mother's cheek and gazing up at her, offering her a lily while the Virgin holds a vase of roses with a single lily. The cloth of gold is intricate in the way the folds fall and, again, is obviously rich and heavy. Three angels hold the cloth while two more sit at the Virgin's feet playing instruments. The angels holding the cloth aren't as prominent as those in the 'Pomegranate' panel and look rather too delicate to hold up that obviously heavy cloth but they manage to do so effortlessly. It really is a lovely painting.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is the newly restored 'Annunciation and Expulsion of Adam and Eve' altarpiece for San Domenico, the Fra's home church at the time and for which he completed three altarpieces. The restoration was carried out to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Prado and no better painting in the collection could have been selected.


The altarpiece is a perfect example of the Fra's great contribution to pushing forward the Renaissance in Florence as well as his skilful story-telling. Brunelleschi's theories of perspective are evident in the architecture of the Virgin's room and the innovation of having the altarpiece as a square without gothic arches is the first example of this approach, soon to be followed by almost every artist. The prominent addition of Adam and Eve leaving the garden and, in effect, walking through the Virgin's garden, is another first for the Fra. 

I was particularly taken with Gabriel's golden wings that glittered with new life after the restoration. You can clearly see each individual feather in his wings and and they glow and glitter almost as if they're becoming still after flying. I stood there swaying from side to side to watch the feathers move and take turns shining - I don't know what the guards must have thought I was doing. I also liked the graceful folds in his robe and then lime green lining that shows at the bottom and the blue under-robe.

It was also lovely to see the bright light coming through the window in the room beyond the doorway and see the leaves of the trees in the garden outside. 

I suspect that when most people think of the 'Annunciation' they think of the Angel and the Virgin - I certainly do - so it was inspired to use the Adam and Eve section of the painting as the face of the exhibition. It features on the posters for the exhibition and is the cover of the catalogue. What a great idea. It also helps to emphasise that these characters are actually one third of the painting and are an important part of the biblical story, with the Virgin wiping away original sin and the baby to be born is the ultimate descendant of Adam and Eve and is the one who will eventually free them from eternity in Limbo. There's a lot that can be read into this painting.
Near the altarpiece was a copy of a contemporary book illustrating trees and flowers, showing that the detail the Fra included in the garden was part of a tradition and the flowers were real, not simply made up to look pretty. 

The restoration work is incredible, with the colours almost luminous, making the altarpiece much brighter than it was previously, almost like a veil has been lifted and we can see it properly for the first time. Thank you Prado and thank you Almudena Sanchez for carrying out the restoration. Thank you also to the American Friends of the Prado and the Friends of Florence for donating so much to the cost of the restoration.

The predella of the altarpiece has been removed and hung at eye height so we can more easily look at it and appreciate the smaller paintings showing scenes from the life of the Virgin. They are lovely little paintings and I really liked the Nativity scene with the kings obvious in their crowns and the lookers-on in contemporary Florentine dress just as the scene is set in a Tuscan landscape. Something I hadn't noticed before but now can because of the hanging of the predella is the small angel flying over the hillside at top-right calling to the shepherds. It's always worth looking at the details in paintings by Fra Angelico.

Further on through the exhibition you come to a three dimensional painting, almost life-sized of a 'Crucifixion with St Nicholas of Bari and St Francis'. This was exhibited in Florence for the first time after being restored and I saw it there last year. It puzzled me at the time, wondering what it had been cut out from but, it seems, this is how it was originally done, as a piece to stand out so that viewers can get closer to the crucifixion and almost be part of it. Sadly there's a lot of damage to the figure of St Nicholas but the red of the blood dripping from the cross is as bright a scarlet as you could want.

It was designed for a boys club at the time in Florence where the boys could channel their energies into singing religious songs and chants with this work in the background. I wonder what it must have felt like to be there at the time?

Also on display is one of the four reliquaries Fra Angelico painted for Santa Maria Novella in Florence. The four reliquaries were brought together in Boston, USA, last year for the first time in several hundred years.  Three of them can be seen in San Marco in Florence and the fourth is in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. This reliquary is the 'Coronation of the Virgin' in which Christ crowns his mother as queen of heaven. It's very colourful and can almost glow under the right lights. St Thomas Aquinas looks out at the viewer, presumably exhorting the viewer to read the Bible or his other works. Along the bottom of the frame is a scene of six angels, the holy couple and the baby all in blue. The reliquaries are quite small so it's a testament to the Fra's skill that he can get so much detail into small paintings.

In the final room of the exhibition were two halves of what was thought to be a small, portable diptych, brought back together again - the two halves are in different museums in Detroit and in Newark. The paintings are pocket sized, just about the size of a modern day postcard, and one shows the Virgin and Child with Angels while the other shows St Dominic witnessing St Francis receiving the stigmata from the flying seraph. I couldn't find a photo of this work online so this is a photo I've taken of the piece from the catalogue. I thought the diptych was delightful and am grateful to be able to see these works when I am unlikely to ever travel to the museums that now hold them.

The final works in the exhibition are two luminous panels depicting the 'Marriage of the Virgin' and the 'Dormition of the Virgin', both in the bright colours I've come to expect from the Fra.

There is a lot going on in the 'Marriage' painting, with the young men on the left breaking sticks to try to find the new growth that will win the hand of the Virgin, the men pounding Joseph's back in jealousy that he won her hand, the priest looking sideways at Mary, presumably checking that she really wants to Mary the much older Joseph, so much storytelling. The colours are gorgeous with so much detail included, such as the gold embroidery on the priest's green robe. I suspect this is one of the problems of looking at paintings by Fra Angelico - we risk seeing only colourful, pretty pictures without recognising the complex storytelling and innovations in terms of how to tell the story, how he developed new approaches that subsequent artists took on and used and how he developed new ways of painting these stories.

I haven't really commented on the works of other artists included in this exhibition since I wanted to focus on the works by Fra Angelico - there are about 60 of his works in the exhibition so I've only scratched the surface and included some of my favourites. The focus on his work between 1420-1430 helps to illustrate that the Fra was still a young man and still learning and developing his art, soaking up and contributing to the artistic life and development of Florence which was bursting with new ideas at this time. This is all ably demonstrated by this exhibition and by the careful work of its curator, Carl Brandon Strehlke. Although you can't take photos in the Prado, where possible I've used my own photographs when I've seen some of the works elsewhere to illustrate this blog. Other photos are taken from the web.

This is a great exhibition and, if you're in or planning to visit Madrid over the summer, it's certainly worth seeing. Well done Prado and happy 200th birthday!

Saturday, 15 June 2019

'The Suit' and 'Ingoma' by Ballet Black at the Linbury Theatre

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing a double bill of ballets danced by Ballet Black in the Linbury Theatre underneath the Royal Opera House. The two ballets were 'The Suit' based on a novel and choreographed by Cathy Marston, and 'Ingoma' (which means 'song') which was based on the miners strike in South Africa in 1946 and was choreographed by Mthuthuzeli November, one of Ballet Black's dancers. While I really liked 'The Suit', I loved 'Ingoma'.

'The Suit' is the tale of a man, a woman and a suit. We meet the couple waking up in the morning while the man gets ready for work but he forgets his briefcase and has to return home to find his wife in the arms of another man. He soon scarpers leaving behind his suit, shirt and tie. The man then chooses to rub his wife's nose in her infidelity by keeping the suit on display in their home so she can't put it behind her. It gets to be too much and she hangs herself with her lovers' tie. There's a lot more to this ballet than that since Ballet Black is a troupe of seven dancers so, while the couple are dancing, the other five members play as a washbasin, a toilet. random people in the street on the man's way to work, a really inventive approach to minimal staging  but a lot going on.

The second ballet was a lot more abstract and very imaginative. All seven dancers were on stage for most of the time in one of the most energetic performances I've seen in a long time. How on earth they do that is beyond me. It was a mix of ballet and African dance along with some acting and wielding pick axes since they were miners and wore wellies. Yes, wellies, but imaginative wellies that at one point also served as drums. I told you it was imaginative.

Two moments. There was a really tender pas de deux near the start when two lovers dance together when he gets home from working in the mine. They're clearly lovers and you can tell it a mile off as she wraps herself around him and he carries her before she exits on pointe, backwards diagonal tippy. Another when the four women dancers are energetically thrilling in African dance mode and then suddenly lift up on pointe and totally change the mood of the dance. I was all 'wow' what can possibly happen next? It's a serious piece about a serious subject but I was enthralled by it and would love to see it again.

The lighting was excellent, based around the light from pit helmets, the staging was great with one area roped off as the mine and filled with coal and rocks, but it's the dancers that make it work. I think Mthuthuzeli November, the choreographer, was dancing the lead male role but I'm not sure since I didn't buy a programme. I loved it and want to see it again. I hadn't heard of Ballet Black before but, now that I have, I'll keep my eyes open for more performances. Well done people!