Take a dash of Hogarth’s The Harlot’s Progress sequence. Add a soupcon of 1920s louche apache dance, season with Baron Samedi and his voodoo priestess – and then mix together with the music of Kurt Weill. You have the narrative ballet which is Christopher Hampson’s Storyville. It’s the main piece in Ballet Black’s current touring programme and makes an effective climax to the programme.
These young dances have rock-solid technique, with good extension and accurate pointe work for the girls and sure turns and lifts from the boys. The first half of the evening has three contrasted short pieces. Sarah Kundi and Jazmon Voss are the couple whose edgy relationship is emphasised by Jonathan Watkins’ choreography for Together Alone, all sharp angles and abrupt moves.
Running Silent has Kanika Carr as the girl confined by an open space which keeps on bearing her down to the ground. As she bends and writhes in Jonathan Goddard’s choreography, you have a sense of one of those Velázquez infantas whose eyes and hair seem to be the only living thing about her, trapped within a certain something which is inescapable.
Robinson is Nola, the innocent corrupted, in Storyville. Johnson plays the sailor who meets, loves and loses her with Kundi and Voss as Lulu and Mack. From the opening sequence showing the devout community which Nola leaves (and to which, now fractured, we return at the end) through the sequence of her downfall and degradation, Hampson provides more than mere pastiche of early 20th century New Orleans dance halls. Rebecca Hayes’ costumes are particularly effective.