BalletBoyz’s Fourteen Days Returns to Sadler’s Wells

United KingdomUnited Kingdom BalletBoyz, Fourteen Days – The Title is in the Text, Human Animal, Us, The Indicator Line, Fallen: Sadler’s Wells, London, 26.4.2018. (JO’D)

Javier De Frutos’s The Title is in the Text (c) Panayiotis Sinnos

Dancers – Edd Arnold, Sean Flanagan, Marc Galvez, Edward Pearce, Harry Price, Matthew Sandiford, Bradley Waller, Kyle White

Apprentices – Jack Hilton, Benjamin Knapper, Blaine Richardson

Choreography – Javier De Frutos, Iván Pérez, Christopher Wheeldon, Craig Revel Horwood, Russell Maliphant

In 2017, four contemporary choreographers were given fourteen days to create new work for BalletBoyz on the theme of ‘balance’. The results form the first part of Fourteen Days, which returned to Sadler’s Wells last week. As a way of hedging bets, perhaps, the evening ends with a work Russell Maliphant choreographed on the company in 2013.

The Title is in the Text, by Javier De Frutos, is the most successful of the new works and the first to be performed. A large see-saw, centrally placed, conveys an immediate sense of drama and danger. In white boiler-suits and white ankle boots, against a distracting background of recorded music and speech, the dancers exploit this ever-changing stage property in ways that are now collaborative, now confrontational, always difficult. It is how they exploited the two barres in Life, which De Frutos choreographed for the company in 2016. Best of all is the playful note on which the piece ends, with drama and danger dispelled.

Iván Pérez dressed the BalletBoyz as WWI soldiers in Young Men (2015). In Human Animal he gives them only floral-patterned shirts and black underpants. The focus, interestingly, is on their bare, dancers’ legs. They paw or stroke the floor like horses. They follow their leader in a circle to Jody Talbot’s urgent score, performed by musicians on a backstage platform. They incorporate rhythmically complex jumps and leaps as they go. When the dancers break out of their circle in the second half of the piece, however, a momentum is lost.

The musicians remain on the stage for the two works that come next. In Christopher Wheeldon’s duet, Us, ‘balance’ is emotional as well as physical. This piece was praised by critics a year ago but seems not so different from the majority of duets by this choreographer. Movement follows movement follows movement. However much you keep thinking it will, no really striking or pleasing or memorable image emerges. For all the artistry of the two dancers. For all that they are naked from the waist up. For all composer Keaton Henson’s piano and strings. Even so, at the end of the piece large sections of the Sadler’s Wells audience vigorously cheered.

Craig Revel Horwood’s The Indicator Line is odd. Or slick and odd. If it seems like something from a musical, a ‘show’, that is only to be expected from a choreographer whose credits include Paddington 2 and Miss Saigon. The BalletBoyz perform it, as they do all the works on the programme, with conviction: a bit of tap dancing here, a Tiller-girl formation there, a choreographed punch-up somewhere else.

According to the programme notes, Russell Maliphant’s Fallen (2013) is one of the company’s favourite works. Watching it for the first time, one can see why. It has the excitement of a work freshly-made. There is lighting designer Michael Hulls’ velvety chiaroscuro. There is the power of movement in concentric circles. There is the sense that Maliphant both understands what the dancers can do and asks them to do more.

John O’Dwyer

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