United Kingdom Raime, Greenwood, Glass, BalletBoyz: theTALENT: BalletBoyz®, Royal Opera House (Linbury Studio Theatre), London, 17.9.2014 (J.O’D)
Dancers: Andrea Carrucciu, Simone Donati, Flavien Esmieu, Marc Galvez, Adam Kirkham, Edward Pearce, Leon Poulton, Matthew Rees, Matthew Sandiford, Bradley Waller
Musicians: Rakhvinder Singh (violin), Rowan Bell (violin), Ruth Gibson (viola), Charlotte Bonneton (viola), Reinoud Ford (cello), Ella Rundle (cello), Matthijs Broersma (cello), Max Ruisi (cello), Stefan Reese (cello), Dave Brown (double bass).
Conductor (MeTheus): Robert Ames;
Arrangements (MeTheus): Hugh Brunt
Choreography: Alex Whitley
Lighting Design: Jackie Shemesh
Costume Design: Fabrice Serafino
Choreography: Kristen McNally
Lighting Design: Natasha Chivers
Composer: Jonny Greenwood
Costume Design: Camille Roman & Olivia Hegarty
Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Lighting Design: Natasha Chivers
Composer: Philip Glass
Costume Design: Amanda Barrow
For their first appearance at the Linbury Studio Theatre (as part of Deloitte Ignite 2014) BalletBoyz founders and former Royal Ballet dancers Michael Nunn and William Trevitt present three works performed by their all-male company of ten dancers, theTALENT. The first two are new pieces by Sadler’s Wells New Wave Associate, Alexander Whitley, and Royal Ballet Soloist/ choreographer, Kristen McNally. The third, by Christopher Wheeldon, is a reworking of a piece originally created with BalletBoyz in 2003. All three have their merits, but it was the Wheeldon that prompted the audience (and this reviewer, had he been less reserved) to fervent cries of ‘Bravo!’
In The Murmuring, Whitley shows the dancers for what they are: ten strong, young men. Their costumes are almost the clothes such men might wear in the street. The work is pervaded by a sense of urban, male, initiation ceremony or competition. At the same time the dancers move in the thoughtful, fluid way that characterizes Whitley’s choreography. When they stretch, arch and bend, they draw attention to the bones and muscles used. It is movement that acknowledges its source within the body. The choreographer prefaces the piece with a quotation from Robert Burns, projected on to a screen, and ends it with another from Michel Foucault. The dancing is interrupted three times (to no very good effect) by blurred, pearly grey video footage of what, at first, looks like the inside of some living organism and which, finally, shows an indistinct male figure. It may be that of Prometheus, whose myth is a theme of this year’s Deloitte Ignite festival.
Kristen McNally’s MeTheus is a surprisingly subdued affair, given the work this choreographer has recently done for The Royal Ballet’s Draft Works and for the New English Ballet Theatre. For a start, the back of the stage is wholly taken up by musicians playing stringed instruments. The dancers have to move in the space that’s left. Spot-lit from the wings (as in the Whitley piece) they are dressed in costumes of grey, black and wine-colour that increase the heaviness of the atmosphere. The choreography seems confined, as if McNally were reining herself in through uncertainty. Only towards the end of the piece does she produce the evening’s most moving duet.
While Whitley and McNally treat the `TALENT very much as men, Wheeldon (Artistic Associate of The Royal Ballet) treats them like dancers. The balletic language of Mesmerics frees them from their own powerful shoulders and bulging biceps by letting them extend their arms (and thereby their spirits). Wheeldon dresses them in asymmetric peplums. He lights them from above. He raises them on to their toes. He gives them movements to make with their hands. I have sometimes thought that, as a choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon does not find sufficient moments of stillness. This does not seem to matter here. There is too much to enjoy watching the dancers, at the limits of their capabilities perhaps, pirouette and spin, and sketch arabesques. And if Wheeldon frees them from obvious masculinity, these men in turn bring new freshness and excitement to his work.