Has Potential: Black Sabbath – The Ballet

There is only one way in which a person acquires a new idea: by the combination or association of two or more ideas he already has into a new juxtaposition in such a manner as to discover a relationship among them of which he was not previously aware.
Francis A. Cartier

Combining heavy metal music with ballet? Sounds strange, but the Birmingham Royal Ballet has done so, combining the music (and band history) of «Black Sabbath» with ballet. You can see the trailer here ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oM0IaQGsKBI ):

Watching it in Hamburg yesterday … hmm, it does show potential, but I do not think it is «there» yet.

On the plus side, the dancers were good, at times very good. It doesn’t hurt that they were attractive and athletic, and that they did seem to have fun on the stage. At times, the dancing was strikingly beautiful.

On the negative side … let’s get two smaller issues out of the way before addressing the main point. First, while the dancers were good, at times it look like they were not perfectly synchronized. I do not mean when different movements were performed at the same time, but when they were ostensibly actually doing the same movements. I don’t expect Olympic level synchronized swimming kind of perfection, but some movements were too fast or too slow. Second, the dancing and the music did not always fit well. At times, it looked more like a gymnast performance — and the clothes did not help here. While beautiful, I missed the correspondence to the «Black Sabbath» style of music. I also miss the metal heads.

But what stood out to me was the main point: Perhaps it’s because I do not know the band (that well), or perhaps because I am not that well-versed in ballet. But if this is a ballet about «Black Sabbath» and the music they pioneered, then I would have expected some kind of story.

I might be biased, but to me, ballet is storytelling with movements, gestures, facial expressions … or in short, telling a story without words. I was missing that story here. Some interview cuts were not enough. For fans, maybe, but not to make the story understandable for everyone. And looking at the history of the band and the music, there likely is a way to show both the history of the band in movement (e.g., the beginnings, when Ozzy was let go, etc.). Give each band member a character and let them dance the emotions or what occupied them (e.g., drug problems). At the same time, the songs themselves could be personified by other dancers in different clothes. I am not sure whether they wanted to do something like this, if they did, I do not think it was clear enough.

But overall, this form of ballet does show potential. Especially when you look at songs that already tell stories. Just look at ballads, e.g., Meat Loaf’s «I’d do anything for love (but I won’t do that)» (see this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X_ViIPA-Gc ) or Tom Jones (featuring Cerys Matthews)’s «Baby It’s Cold Outside» ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7bPhZEDVns ). Using just the music without lyrics and letting dancers express the lyrics in body movements, gestures and facial expressions … yeah, there is a lot of potential here. Heck, even using the lyrics might work as well, as long at it does not end up as a musical, just look at Ryan J. Woodward’s «Thought of You» ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBk3ynRbtsw ).

So, yeah, it was interesting, and it will be interesting to see what the future will bring.