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DANCE REVIEW: BalletBoyz@Brighton Dome

Paul Gustafson October 19, 2016

No need to interpret – just respond.

Photo © Tristram Kenton

All male dance company BalletBoyz has made a triumphant return to Brighton with Life – a two-part show looking at life, death and some of the tones in between.

The programme consists of two commissioned pieces from choreographers known for very different approaches and styles.

The evening opened with Rabbit by Danish choreographer Pontus Lidberg, who has set his new work to Gorecki’s quirky and musically puzzling Little Requiem for a Polka.

Photo © Tristram Kenton
Photo © Tristram Kenton

As the curtain rises on a dreamlike scene, a bell tolls and in the foreground a young man dances yearningly but with a classical restraint.

In the background, facing away and seemingly oblivious, a similarly attired character gently sways to and fro on a swing. He could be a looking-glass reflection of the dancer but for one thing Рhe has a rabbit’s head.

It’s a surreal, intriguing and visually beautiful tableau, and as the young man begins to engage with the rabbit character through dance there’s a sense of mournfulness, loneliness and of a failure to connect.

This sense of disconnect is heightened as more dancers join in, and as the rabbits multiply and the music becomes faster and more discordant, there’s something dark and menacing about the rabbit men’s lively dance. To me Rabbit hinted at a sense of narrative Рsomething allegorical but at the same time deeply intangible, as the strangest dreams often are.

Photo © Tristram Kenton
Photo © Tristram Kenton

In Fiction, the second part of the programme, the so-called ‚Äėcontroversial‚Äô choreographer Javier de Frutos has created a dance playing with the premise his own fictional death.

Set to an original, fizzing score by musical luminary Ben Foskett, the piece opens with the BalletBoyz rehearsing on stage. As they work through some ideas the news is suddenly broken of their choreographer’s untimely if somewhat slapstick demise.

De Frutos commissioned dance critic Ismene Brown to write a supposed obituary which is then used as a stop-start, spoken soundtrack, overlaying the musical score. What follows is a dance about the making of a dance, and De Frutos’ own tongue in cheek obituary and homage to his art and method. It’s also an insight into the challenges of the creative process, as well as a broader exploration of the consequences of death.

It’s relentlessly hectic, claustrophobic and at times violent as the dancers direct each other to jump, twist, lift and contort in a crowded and restrictive space where the ballet barre is at once a support and an obstacle to creativity.

The process is shown to be both organic and mechanical, with dancers one moment human and emotional, and the next resembling piano hammers, or cogs in some kind of complex machinery. The effect is at times overwhelming and confusing but more often thrilling and occasionally very funny.

Ultimately things quieten until one person remains alone on stage. The upbeat chorus of Donna Summer’s Last Dance kicks in, and in a sublime final vignette the lone figure dances ecstatically to the music before crashing to the ground, exhausted, perhaps even dead. Disco meets the Rite of Spring.

It’s a joyous, heart-warming, show stopping moment which suggests that the notoriety and controversy surrounding De Frutos is, like the stop-start spoken soundtrack, all so much noise.

As ever, much praise goes to the BalletBoyz dancers, a true ensemble company whose talent has helped create two very different works that sit so well together and provide the audience with a spectacular night’s entertainment.

BalletBoyz Life UK tour continues until the end November 19.

For information and tickets, click here: 

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