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Inala – A Zulu Ballet

Inala – A Zulu Ballet, Sadler's Wells. Photo: Tristram Kenton Inala – A Zulu Ballet, Sadler's Wells. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Cultural combinations characterise many of the new dance productions of recent years, with mix-ups ranging from Kathak spliced with hip-hop and flamenco crossed with ballet. Premiered at the 2014 Edinburgh Festival, Inala is the latest dance show to draw on diverse traditions, with the line and precision of Western dance set alongside the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African Isicathamiya choral group who achieved fame with Paul Simon in the 1980s. Slightly reworked since its premiere with several new dancers including BBC Young Dancer Competition winner Jacob O’Connell, Inala is a recital piece, with the singers performing with all their renowned flair, while the dancers execute Mark Baldwin’s choreography with strength and elegance.

The piece works best when the two come together. The sequences when the dancers and singers form a semicircle and synchronise their moves give a unity and power to their respective skills. It works less well when all the dancers perform in front of the singers. With the excellent musicians, the stage becomes very full and rather busy, meaning there is an inevitable competition as to who to watch. Add to this the fact that the Ladysmith Black Mambazo members have considerable physical charisma of their own, and the dancers lose out in the group dances.

This is not to downplay their flair, not the exuberance and appeal of the show which has considerable visual and musical allure. However, producers Petra Mello-Pittman and Ella Spira, also known as the Sisters Grimm, could pare back the action to give the dancers their full due.

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Compelling mix of African song and Western dance, although the musical finesse and physical charisma of Ladysmith Black Mambazo slightly overshadows the dancers