Discussing Ballet Black: With Cassa Pancho


Live on CIUT 89.5 FM

Airing Date: September 20, 2023
Hosted By: Nicole Inica Hamilton

Producer: Nicole Inica Hamilton
Assistant Production Manager:  Amber Downie-Back

Featured Guest(s): Cassa Pancho

On this episode, Cassa Pancho (Founder and Artistic Director of Ballet Black) shares about the work of the company, and the Fall for Dance North performance of NINA: By Whatever Means, choreographed by award-winning choreographer Mthuthuzeli November

About Cassa Pancho

Of Trinidadian and British parents, Cassa founded Ballet Black in 2001 after graduating from professional dance training and was one of the first dancers and choreographers in the Company. Her initial goal was to provide role models to young, aspiring Black and Asian dancers. A year later, she opened the BB Junior School in Shepherd’s Bush.

Cassa is a graduate of the 2009 National Theatre cultural leadership programme, Step Change. Since starting the Company, she has commissioned work from a wide range of choreographers, including Liam Scarlett, Richard Alston, Sophie Laplane, Javier de Frutos, Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa, Shobana Jeyasingh, Henri Oguike, Arthur Pita, Will Tuckett and Mthuthuzeli November. Ballet Black has won both the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Company in 2009, Best Independent Company in 2012 and Best Mid-Scale Company in 2022. Cassa was awarded an MBE in the 2013 New Years’ Honours List for Services to Classical Ballet and has served as a judge on the panels of both the Kenneth Macmillan Choreographic and BBC Young Dancer competitions and the Arts Foundation Futures Dance Jury in 2022.

Cassa is a Patron of Central School of Ballet and a vice president of The London Ballet Circle. In 2017, both Cassa and former BB dancer, Cira Robinson, collaborated with renowned British ballet shoe manufacturer, Freed of London, to create two brand new pointe shoe colours to enable dancers of Black and Asian descent to buy skin-tone pointe shoes ready-made. In 2018, Cassa was awarded the Freedom of the City of London. In 2020, she authored a guide for improving equity and access in ballet for dance schools and companies that has been widely shared in the arts world. She is a Board Member of Scottish Ballet, and serves on their Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee. Cassa also works as a consultant in EDI for several British dance organisations, including National Youth Ballet and the Elmhurst School of Ballet.

In 2022, Cassa collaborated with the Ballet Black Company artists to create Say It Loud, a ballet to commemorate the Company’s 20th anniversary. This production won Best Dance Production at the 2022 Black British Theatre Awards and Say It Loud was short-listed for Best Dance Production at the 2023 South Bank Sky Arts Awards. She created choreography for the Company for the 2023 Eurovision opening film, United By Music. To date, she has commissioned over 40 choreographers, to create over 60 new ballets for the Company. She teaches regularly for the BB Junior School in Shepherd’s Bush, West London and has a degree from Durham University.