José Alves and Cira Robinson in Cathy Marston's The Suit. Bill Cooper, Courtesy Ballet Black.

Standout Performances of 2019: Ballet Black in "The Suit"

It was a bold choice of adaptation. "The Suit," a short story by South African writer Can Themba about a woman's infidelity and subsequent punishment, could easily serve as an excuse for overwrought domestic violence onstage. Not so in Cathy Marston's crisp one-act version for Ballet Black, Britain's small but artistically mighty company for black and Asian dancers, during performances at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre in November.


Three dancers hold a brown suit and lean over Cira Robinson as she sleeps onstage.

Sayaka Ichikawa, Mthuthuzeli November, Isabela Coracy and Cira Robison in Cathy Marston's The Suit.

Bill Cooper, Courtesy Ballet Black

With just a handful of chairs and props, the British choreographer sets each scene—the couple's home; the streets beyond its invisible walls—and lets the characters' inner lives color the choreography. Everyday gestures and arabesques alike are woven into a clear dramatic arc. As the wife, the expressive Cira Robinson explored erotic yearning and the pain of humiliation when her husband forces her to treat the clothes her lover left behind as an actual guest in their home. What's more, Ballet Black's ensemble acts as a smart counterpoint to the unfolding tragedy, making The Suit a truly original company showcase.

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