top of page


Ballet Night's 005: New Futures
Jun 28 & 29, from 18:30: Tickets

4 June, 2024

At the core of Ballet Night’s is this belief that by being at the forefront of change in how audiences connect and understand ballet, and provide the platform for new and emerging talent, they can make ballet become more accessible. Ballet is still considered high art, perhaps one of the highest in our cultural landscape, making any changes or challenges to this tradition meet with resistance. But what Jamiel Devernay-Laurence is achieving with Ballet Nights is altogether groundbreaking; he’s opening up new connections between audiences and an art form that is steeped in tradition and a little rigid. What’s more, Devernay-Laurence is ensuring that those who already have an appreciation of ballet will still be enticed by Ballet Night’s unique way of experiencing it.

During the UK Premiere of James Pett and Travis Clausen-Knight's IMAGO Ballet Night’s artistic director Jamiel Devernay-Laurence announced that their next event would be held at the Ministry of Sound, and I couldn’t help but perk up. There is an interesting juxtaposition of bringing ballet to one of the most iconic dance clubs in Europe, but it’s also one that shouldn’t be as surprising. The Ministry of Sound was co-founded by James Palumbo, whose father, Peter Garth Palumbo, was the last chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain. I mentioned this because it is clear from the inception of the Ministry of Sound there was an awareness that they were going to significantly contribute to the cultural fabric of London. In the 1990s, these culture wars seemed never-ending as the government attacked the rave scene, with dance and house music being placed firmly on the periphery social discourse. The Ministry of Sound changed how people experience dance music, and this change allowed outsiders to appreciate and understand the genre a lot more.

And now, standing on the balcony overlooking the bar in the Ministry of Sound, there is a feeling of intrigue mixed with delight. This is not be a typical club night, but the air is electric, as nobody quite knows what to expect, and that’s part of the enjoyment. As the show is about to start, people begin to clammer around, trying their best to get a good view, huddled together in this unique space as dancer Seiran Griffiths begins to open the show. 

Griffiths’ energy is palpable as he moves through his piece, creating a moment that breaks tradition allowing ballet to meet breakdancing. His body jolts and moves in a way one imagines a soul daring to break free. This is what dance is and what ballet can be; it’s the heart and mind connecting to the deep emotions of a dancer, allowing them the freedom to express their feelings in a way that is usually hidden. With New Voices, the immersive nature of the night means neither audience nor performer can hide, and as Griffiths moves across the clubroom floor, hundreds of eyes are meeting his, enclosing him in a horseshoe shape, you can’t miss feeling the brush of air or the sound of his breath as he passes you by. We feel his energy and perhaps even begin to understand and connect to his silent message. 

From a lone performer to a duo in Your Ghost by Cydney Watson and Liam Woodvine, who take great advantage of the space, creating a split-level performance that both builds a connection with the audience but equally creates a distance, with Watson on the clubroom floor afforded greater freedom to move and explore the space we're is able to feel this energy that emanates from the dancer who is so close they can touch her. But there is something precious created by this divide between Woodvine, Watson, and their audience. Woodvine is alone on the walkway that overhangs the clubroom floor; his movements, at times, mirror Watson, but depending on where you are standing, you are unlikely to see much of this as he’s hidden behind a balustrade. It’s a richly observed piece that has added impact as we splits their gaze between Watson and Woodvine. The performers offer you a simple choice: who do you want to follow? Looking at one will take away from the other, and it’s this sacrifice we have to make that gives the piece added substance.


The final performance in the first half is an ingenious combination of the two that preceded it. Introducing the piece, Devernay-Laurence highlighted how the four dancers come from different backgrounds and that this piece was a combination of all their styles. Gathering Rhythms is bold and verges effortlessly into the avant-garde with great care given to every aspect of the performance. From the way they move in their colourful costumes to the lighting, and interact with the music by Amiina, to how they connect with one another, choreographers Servage and Quay have created something unique and touching. There is an understanding given to the individual, with each performer afforded a moment in the light before all four performers make their way to the club floor. Much like Your Ghost, Servage and Quay use the space to split our view with three of the four dancers appearing on the bar behind the audience. As they jump down and begin walking through the tightly packed crowd, another unique element is given to the piece. They appear as Gods coming down from Mount Olympus, walking through a crowd looking on them in awe, the mystic of their performance, their movement, paused briefly as they all us to savour this rare gift.

The second part continues the theme of personal connections through how the performer(s) and choreographer(s) interact with each other, the music, lighting, and us, their audience. This is bold in its inception, as the opening piece in the second half can attest. Spirit of the Machine by Devernay-Laurence, featuring Woodvine and Alexander Fadayiro, is heartbreaking and allows Devernay-Laurence to create a powerfully structured narrative storytelling that engages you. With Fadayiro already in position as the audience walks into the space, this moment lasts over five minutes until Woodvine walks on, and the tone of the space changes, and we feel something pull at us. Standing as close to the stage as I could, I was overwhelmed by this proximity to the performers, and as Woodvine walked onto the stage, I felt the vibrations from his steps. Sonia Killman’s music adds something unexpected: hope. The physicality between Fadayiro and Woodvine is rawly heartfelt, with both performers giving a huge sense of themselves to Devernay-Laurence's characters. There is an emotional strength to the connection between Fadayiro and Woodvine that shows there is much more to this world that Devernay-Laurence has created.

This is followed by James Cousins Jealousy, performed by Brenda Lee Grecht and Tom Davis. Words cannot express the sensuality and sexuality of this piece; it is a piece that leaves you absolutely breathless as Davis and Lee Grecht move through this imagined affair. You are close enough to believe in its truth and closer still to see the beads of sweat drip from Davis’ forehead as they move throughout the piece. Ben Frost’s music ushers forward the pace of the piece while adding a delightful touch of anticipation as we voyeuristically watches from all corners of the stage. It is not just intimate. Jealousy offers us an insight into something that is usually secret and private. As Davis and Lee Grecht connect, move, and express their love, we’re left wondering who they are and what has triggered their affair. Each time Davis and Lee Grecht look at one another, you can see there is a deep trust that can only come from a professional respect and understanding of a piece that requires performers to share such an intimate moment. As their bodies intertwine and move to the patient, slow rhythm of Frost’s music, you believe everything you see, which captivates us.


The physicality of Spirit of the Machine and Jealousy is matched with Splice by Hannah Ekholm and Faye Steoser. After premiering Splice at COMMONS Festival in 2023, Ekholm and Steoser (Ekleido) brought their unique and thoughtfully piece to the New Voices showcase. Their physical connectivity allows us to appreciate the delicateness and importance of space, personal and public, and the challenges of understanding our place within these spaces. Moving as though they’re interconnecting jigsaw pieces, Ekleido articulates something fresh and original while also offering a springboard for a wider conversation.

Dance, irrespective of the genre, is really about the expression of emotion. Dance is about feeling something that can only be conveyed through movement with music. A dancer uses their whole body to share this message and leaves it up to their audiences to interpret the meaning of what they’re seeing. Though audiences might see the same thing, what they interpret and take from any given performer will be different. The first three pieces in the second half of New Voices layered with this deep-rooted sense of emotion that is drawn out of experience, longing, and exploration as pairs of performers physically connect. This isn’t just about their ability to create or interpret choreography, for them, it is about being able to understand the beauty of the narrative form that is imbedded in the soul of dance. As the second half continued, there was a switch to solo performers, who each offered touching insight into the vulnerable nature of dance as well as the passion that drives them. 

This is beautifully illustrated through Nicholas Shoesmith’s Insomnia, performed by Felicity Chadwick, and 324a, choreographed and performed by Joshua Junker. Both pieces offer a moment of reflection for a dancer and convey this message of hope, resilience, and breaking through one's fears. There is truth in every movement and in every beat of the performers, and the music allows them to guide their emotional response to the pieces. We feel the frustration from Chadwick and the fear of uncertainty from Junker as they grapple with life’s challenges.

This public-private world that is inhabited by the solo dancer is switched up slightly with Kenny Junior Muntanga’s One, which includes the only live music of the evening from Guy Salim. The relationship between music and dance is captured brilliantly here as Salim and Muntanga perform One. The thunderous beating of the drum by Salim, who looks over towards Muntanga throughout the performance is met by Muntanga’s unique movement. One comes from a performer with a message to share for both him and his audience to discover. Though they never share the stage, there is a deep connection between Muntanga and Salim, one that richly serves the piece.

Finishing the evening was Nerve Wire, choreographed and performed by Pet / Clausen-Knight with music by Sean Pett. Their is real beauty in the way they not only execute their movements but also how they unpack a story that is interlinked with their emotions. They allow us to feel every move, touch, and glance, always ensuring their audience is with them and never simply watching. Pet / Clausen-Knight create work that is innocently gentle and honest, and comes from a genuine place crating an authenticity that is breathtaking. In an evening that saw heartfelt performances from dancers who held nothing back, Pet / Clausen-Knight closed the show with this measured, delicate, application of love and togetherness. 

"A dancer uses their whole body to share this message and leaves it up to their audiences to interpret the meaning of what theyre seeing."

The Ministry of Sound wouldn’t be here if it wasn't for the risks the founders took. Taking risks in music, dance, and theatre is vital in order for creativity to flourish, and this partnership between the Ministry of Sound and Ballet Nights is a risk that pays off. The age range on the evening was mixed, which created an enjoyable atmosphere that fed the excitement for what was to come. The arts in the UK are always under threat of defunding or closure, but Devernay-Laurence has created something that challenges the preconceived notion of what ballet is, what it can be, and where it can be performed. By being at the Ministry of Sound, Devernay-Laurence has removed the stuffy label attached to ballet, allowing New Voices to become a platform for both new ballet works and audiences. During the applause for Jealousy, I stood next to a man who kept shouting respect as Lee Grecht and Davis took their blows. He was so taken and impressed by what he saw; it had real impact on him, and he verbalised it wonderfully. This is what Devernay-Laurence wants New Voices to be: a night to celebrate dance, to respect tradition while refusing to stay rigidly confined, and to offer new audiences the opportunity to be part of something unique. New Voices is a night that can only grow, allowing Devernay-Laurence to continue to carefully curate events that threads this beautiful narrative of how ballet is the souls calling.

bottom of page