Composer: Ella Spira
Choreographer: Mark Baldwin
Musical Director: Rob Barron
Reviewer: Laura Stimpson
Four time Grammy award winners Lady Smith Black Mambazo are bringing something a little different on UK tour –Inala, a Zulu ballet. First opening in 2009 to much success, Inala is a collaboration between the nine piece male vocal harmony group, choreographer Mark Baldwin and composer Ella Spira.
Inala is a Zulu word, with two meanings: “harvest to reap”, and “abundance of goodwill”. There isn’t much of a plot; this piece is more of a collection of atmospheric scenes. The set is simple, providing only a small amount of crates which double as seating and props. The lighting provides changes from daylight to evening and through soundscapes we are transported from travelling scenes to remote villages with the sounds of animals and birds.
The 12 dancers are clearly incredibly skilled, they are strong, flexible, and controlled. Stand out performers of the evening are Julia Davies and Jacob O’Connell, their intimate routine towards the end of the first half is truly breath-taking. They both move with such elegance and Bracher showcases the graceful dancing she presents so well throughout the show, she appears weightless, almost floating around the stage.
The instrumental accompaniment is provided by live piano, percussion and strings, the musicians are on stage for the duration of the performance. The scoring works well to contribute to the atmospheric soundscapes, helping to transport the audience to South Africa.
Of course, Lady Smith Black Mambazo do not disappoint, their rich, velvety tones bring a sense of warmth to even the coldest of hearts. The ensemble are on stage throughout the whole performance, not only entertaining the audience with their stunning close harmony vocals, but also adding movement, dancing and some humour to the evening.
Sometimes you go to the theatre and the show doesn’t quite live up to expectations because there is something missing, Inala somehow manages to do the opposite – it gives too much. On the whole the ballet and vocal group work well together, but there are moments when the lines between the two groups become a little blurred and clumsy, specifically when both the vocalists and dancers are moving. Likewise, some of the best bits of this performance are when the vocalists are on stage alone singing. When the audience are enthralled in a beautifully still, intimate, aural delight, a dancer will pop up and the moment is ruined. Less would certainly be more at certain points in this performance.
Currently on UK tour until: 2nd August 2015