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Festival Review:
Black Velvet

Adelaide Festival
Black Velvet

Batsheva Dance Company alumnus Shamel Pitts and Brazillian dancer Mirelle Martins combine their formidable energies in the Australian premiere of Black Velvet.

High above the audience taking its seats, a woman clothed only in a black flowing skirt to the floor mesmerically rocks her arms to a fall of repeating notes.

From this simple opening, Black Velvet explores connection, tension, and release through a series of intimate, linked vignettes. The gleaming muscular bodies of co-creators Shamel Pitts and Mirelle Martins are (once Mirelle descends dramatically) dressed alike in short skirts, topless.

With eyes closed, Pitts move to and fro grounded on the floor, at first in silence. Eyes open, he stretches his right arm out from the shoulder, turning his head to the left. The stage is in semi-darkness, singing is heard, and then a sudden burst of sound coincides with bright light streaking up to Martins.

Later, in half light, Martins joins Pitts, putting her head on his shoulder, and they dance together like this for some time. The accompanying noise intensifies and they come to the front of the stage, thrashing their arms, looking out over the audience. Calmer, he gets down one knee, she sits on the other, and they look into each other’s eyes. But the tenderness doesn’t last; she attacks him, pushing his chest with her head. 

She climbs a ladder standing at the back of the stage, and he wheels it around – this section goes on far too long but the last part of the piece is brisk, the movement accelerating, and gives a satisfying ending to the piece.

Martins and Pitts are appealing dancers, who flesh out this lightly choreographed work with poise and personality.

Black Velvet was performed at the Odeon Theatre on Friday 29 February

Until 2 March

Adelaide Festival:
Black Velvet

Alan Brissenden

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