BalletBoyz: Them/Us review – dreamy double bill confounds cliche

Sadler’s Wells, London
With one piece choreographed by the company and the other by Christopher Wheeldon, this is a fresh, thoughtful show

Over the last 19 years, BalletBoyz has metamorphosed from the founding duo of Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt, to a raw and ready gang of 10 young men, to the current seven-strong group attracting top-flight talent – including award-winning Liam Riddick, the latest recruit.

This current crop are not only dancers but – on the evidence of Them, the first half of this double bill – budding choreographers too. Them was devised democratically by the company themselves, which could have been a car crash but has turned out to be a fantastic piece of dance: thoughtful, fresh and finessed.

The choreography was made in parallel with Charlotte Harding’s excellent string score, and dance and music are clearly, pleasingly, in cahoots. Harding’s music is spare but rich: it has melody but never predictability with its riffs, clear statements and space in between, and the dance follows suit. Much of the movement came out of improvisation and feels authentic, naturally evolving from shrugs and handshakes and inner impulses. It’s not virtuosic or demonstrative, it’s the dancers being aware of how their skin (or the 80s tracksuits they’re wearing) moves through the air. The partnering is casual and dexterous, far from any cliches of muscular and explosive “male” dancing or romantic pas de deux. Them is immensely watchable but still serious dance.

Sensual strength … Harry Price and Bradley Waller in Us.
Sensual strength … Harry Price and Bradley Waller in Us. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

If these dancers are neophyte choreographers, Christopher Wheeldon is at the other end of the scale. Last year he made a short duet for BalletBoyz, Us, which he has extended into a half-hour piece, but the new prequel section for the whole company feels like an inharmonious add-on. The climactic duet reaches deep into two men’s connection, brimming with tenderness and sensual strength, their bodies interlocking, counterbalancing or pulling each other into flight. But what precedes it is anonymous, colourless and despite a sophisticated sense of composition, a bit on the basic side – as if you can see the counts. And it’s drowned by the heavy emotion of Keaton Henson’s Philip Glass-ish score. Luckily, when that duet arrives, Us ends on a high.

Contributor

Lyndsey Winship

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
BalletBoyz: Life review – angry rabbits v dead choreographers in bold double bill
The fur flies – and hops, skips and pirouettes – in an inspired and funny programme by Pontus Lidberg and Javier De Frutos

Judith Mackrell

21, Apr, 2016 @11:55 AM

Article image
BalletBoyz: Fourteen Days review – daring dance created at breakneck speed
Working to a tight deadline, Javier de Frutos, Iván Pérez, Christopher Wheeldon and Craig Revel Horwood respond to the theme of balance in new pieces, presented alongside Russell Maliphant’s Fallen

Judith Mackrell

11, Oct, 2017 @3:37 PM

Article image
BalletBoyz: Deluxe review – striking dances packed with talent
Michael Nunn and William Trevitt are characteristically unpredictable as they launch the Facebook Premieres series from Sadler’s Wells

Lyndsey Winship

26, Mar, 2020 @11:00 PM

Article image
Royal Ballet: Within the Golden Hour / Medusa / Flight Pattern review – monsters and melancholy
Crystal Pite reinvents the corps de ballet, alongside Christopher Wheeldon’s classy meditation and a flawed world premiere by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

Lyndsey Winship

09, May, 2019 @12:29 PM

Article image
BalletBoyz: The Talent review – forget about the ‘boyz’, just give us the ballet
Only at the end of this triple bill do Nunn and Trevitt’s dancers soar beyond gender, says Luke Jennings

Luke Jennings

20, Sep, 2014 @11:05 PM

Article image
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre review – swirling tales from Taiwan
Cheng Tsung-lung’s 13 Tongues circles and flows, while Lin Hwai-min’s Dust is a slow slide into the dark

Lyndsey Winship

27, Feb, 2020 @12:06 PM

Article image
Bluebeard review – Pina Bausch's punishing portrait of marital misery
Set to Bartók’s opera, the bloody myth becomes a bleak battle of the sexes where we can never quite tell right from wrong

Lyndsey Winship

13, Feb, 2020 @12:59 PM

Article image
Rosas review – life is suite in mysterious Bach dances
Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s choreography for the composer’s music, played by cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, is austere and enigmatic

Lyndsey Winship

25, Apr, 2019 @11:40 AM

Article image
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake review – electrified return to the wild
Intensity surges from the stage in this dark contortion of the classic ballet, given a mighty injection of new energy

Lyndsey Winship

13, Dec, 2018 @12:32 PM

Article image
BalletBoyz: The Talent – review

BalletBoyz combine muscle with grace, as Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant triumph in new territory, writes Judith Mackrell

Judith Mackrell

20, Jan, 2013 @11:49 AM