REVIEW: BalletBoyz – theTALENT

Paul Gustafson June 4, 2015

Ballet Boyz

Theatre Royal, 

New Road, Brighton

It’s now 14 years since Michal Nunn and William Trevitt first brought us BalletBoyz, and their all male dance company is still going strong, delivering on its manifesto to promote men’s dance and make modern ballet and contemporary dance more accessible to a wider audience. But this doesn’t necessarily mean giving audiences an easy ride.

The Murmuring, the first part of this double bill, is challenging on every level. Choreographer Alexander Whitley was inspired by murmurations, mass flocks of starlings in flight, to create a dark and difficult piece exploring the relationship between the group and its members, where individuals and especially free thinkers are at once supported and yet restrained by those around them.

Whitley succeeds in creating a dark and disturbing, dystopia, his choreography often reminiscent of the stuff of nightmares as his dancers variously struggle to break free of each other. His vision is well supported by Jackie Shemesh’s shadowy lighting and the ominous, pounding, grinding soundtrack written by electronic duo Raime.

The dancers were an outstanding ensemble, capturing a society and a dynamic where freedom of expression must ultimately give way to order and conformity.  The final image of the piece, projected on to the stark back wall of the set, was a hauntingly beautiful photograph of a single, tortured dancer, who we assume has failed to escape the clutches of the group and now languishes unfulfilled and in despair.

As with The Murmuring, Mesmerics, the second part of the evening, was introduced to the audience by a short film in which choreographer and dancers shed light on the dance’s creation and development. As before, this provided the audience with an icebreaker to the piece to follow and also intimated a possible sense of narrative and meaning. Some purists and intellectuals may not appreciate this, but it is a device which is entirely fitting for a company whose mission is in part to demystify dance.  It worked on the night.

In contrast to the first half of the evening, Mesmerics is a joyfully uplifting, life affirming piece, in which Christopher Wheeldon’s wonderful choreography draws a series of beautiful tableaux filled with harmonious shapes, elegant lines, and groupings and interactions which impart tenderness and grace.

Natasha Chivers’ simple blue and white lighting lit each vignette like a piece of classical fine art, and alongside Philip Glass’ neo classical score and Wheeldon’s moving choreography created a performance that was both mesmerising and truly beautiful.

Once again the piece showcased the talents of all the dancers, with the whole company interpreting Wheeldon’s steps with insight, power and grace. It was a wonderful finale to an absorbing evening and the company deserved their standing ovation at the end.

theTALENT spring tour continues until, June 7.

For tickets and information on other performances on tour, click here: