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Theatre review: BalletBoyz at Sadler’s Wells

PUBLISHED: 13:19 29 November 2013 | UPDATED: 13:19 29 November 2013

Ballet Boyz

Ballet Boyz

markbarrsphotography

The clue’s perhaps in the name: this isn’t traditional ‘ballet’ but two carefully-staged set pieces of choreography, each pulsating with a unique rhythm and energy of its own.

‘I have to tell you,’ my friend whispers, as the lights dim on Sadler’s Wells and the crimson curtains rise, “I really, really don’t like interpretative dance. I lost your email and didn’t realise this was what we were coming to.” I shoot her the dirtiest look I can muster in the dark. Forty-five minutes later, the audience erupts and she turns to me again: “I have never, ever been so entranced by anything in my entire life.”

This is Ballet Boyz, a multi-award winning troupe of ten young men handpicked by artistic directors Michael Nunn and William Trevitt. The clue’s perhaps in the name: this isn’t traditional ‘ballet’ but two carefully-staged set pieces of choreography, each pulsating with a unique rhythm and energy of its own.

26-year-old Liam Scarlett’s Serpent beautifully evokes the seamless fluidity of the animal, managing to convey both power and a touchingly human vulnerability. The sound of bodies - feet, hands, torsos - sliding across the stage in moments of comparative quiet has an oddly lulling effect, as seamless as the slow crawl of the snake on its belly.

Composer Max Ritcher’s score in this piece was particularly evocative, flowing from charged interludes to more sedate pacing as the dancers came together to show the grooveless serpent’s body, before separating in a series of paired displays. There was a very real sense of natural isolation, as one performer at a time held the spotlight and the others trickled backstage.

The second part, Russell Maliphant’s ‘Fallen’, was an altogether less stylised, more action-heavy sequence. For this act, bare flesh was substituted for heavier tracksuits, and the set resembled less Amazonian jungle, more light-flickering underpass playing host to a boxing match. Armand Amar’s insistent, cyclical bass-heavy score worked well in parts, but there were times where it had the potential to distract from movement on stage.

One aspect of Ballet Boyz which could use improvement are the brief video interviews with both choreographers before their pieces began. Neither Scarlett nor Maliphant seemed actually to say anything, other than that they’d relished the process of working with the company. And yet this is a problem with production, rather than execution: the performances are near-flawless, mesmerising, and sufficiently divergent from one act to the next.

Ballet Boyz are currently on tour, and came to North London on Sunday and Monday evenings. Don’t worry about missing them though - judging by the standing ovations on Sunday night, they’ll almost certainly be back in the spring.

****


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