Black Maria – narrative ballet by Green Box Productions

©BC20071023171Much discussion currently about how to tell stories in dance.  Recent narrative works such as Liam Scarlett’s Hansel and Gretel and Wayne McGregor’s Raven Girl for the Royal Ballet in the Linbury Theatre and Covent Garden main house respectively, also Cathy Marston’s Hexenhatz for Bern Ballet and balletLorent’s Rapunzel on tour, have generated debate about what sorts of stories dance can convey, and whether dance needs to learn skills and approaches from other forms such as drama and film.

So perhaps a good time to ponder my own experience in this area and remember Black Maria from 2007.  A collaboration between myself as choreographer, composer Tom Armstrong and film maker Zara Waldeback, working together as Green Box productions, this was a multimedia dance production for all the family based on the novel by acclaimed author Diana Wynne Jones and performed at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler’s Wells.  Our aim was to tell this gripping story through dance action both on stage and on screen.  Adapting a complex narrative of realistic characters and fantastical supernatural situations was challenging, and we were proud that our efforts met with both the author’s approval and a warm audience response.  Here are some photographs by Bill Cooper; costume designs were by the talented Celia Perkins – enjoy!


Above: Aunt Maria (Ruth Posner) takes tea with the Mrs Urs (Yvette Halfhide, Justine Berry, Debbie Camp) served by Betty (Katherine Kingston).

Below: Chiara Vinci as our young heroine Mig


  1. Maggie said:

    I remember seeing Black Maria, and this is what I wrote the next day (24 October 2007):
    “We absolutely loved the show last night. The way that the dancing, music and film drove on the narrative and emotion was very exciting. I was completely convinced by the teenagers and Aunt Maria, and the way that she dominated everyone from her bathchair. The humour was delightful and the scary parts were really scary: the ladies drinking tea were awfully like some of the alarming North Oxford mothers that I used to come across in other children’s houses in the 60s, and Elaine [Bethany Elliot] in her black mac was terrific (how does she do that thing with her mouth??) – to mention just a couple of things. It was a terrific theatrical experience and the dancing was both beautiful and fitted the story
    perfectly. It was an outstanding night out for all of us (I took the family).”

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