BalletBoyz: Life Review

These young men are terrific dancers and compelling performers, and their impeccable teamwork gives their repertory its distinctive edge, says our reviewer

Sadler’s Wells and West Ham United have recently announced they are joining forces on Home Turf, “a community dance production inspired by football” to be shown at the Wells in September. It’s a great idea, because it’s taken decades for anyone to acknowledge that sport and dance have more than muscles in common, and many people still find no similarities whatever between them.

The second iteration of the BalletBoyz, which has just opened a new programme called “Life,” makes a strong case for the rugged athleticism, discipline and thoughtful delivery that dance demands and receives from its male artists. The troupe consists of ten young men, terrific dancers and compelling performers, whose impeccable teamwork gives their repertory its distinctive edge.

Established internationally but relatively unknown here, the Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg peoples Rabbit with men and…rabbits. He assigns face-covering animal heads to one dancer, then half the dancers, then all but one of them, usually leaving a single figure as an outsider. Played live and beautifully, Górecki’s “Little Requiem for a Certain Polka” sets the mood, now hectic, now contemplative, for the dance’s contrasting sections, and the men flow like water into supportive couples, aggressive ensembles and meditative solos.

Filling the music and its resonant silences with a sense of loneliness and longing, Mr. Lidberg uses the men’s strength to project tenderness rather than power. The rabbits, though charming, seem incidental to the work’s gentle impact.

Javier de Frutos’ choreography leans towards outrageous behavior and graphic sexuality rather than gentleness, but he has skillfully toned down its flamboyance for theatre productions and musicals, shaping the movement to a specific dramatic purpose.

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In his new Fiction, the BalletBoyz leap over, balance on, slide under and peel away from a steel ballet barre while several recorded voices declaim the choreographer’s biography. The text begins with an announcement of his death—that’s the fiction—and continues by celebrating his achievements like an appreciative obituary.

Meanwhile, as if accompanied only by Ben Foskett’s music, the men dance. They toss one body between them like a basketball or unite to carry it aloft. A trio twines around the barre in a loose knot. As a crowd they play Follow the Leader, break into canons and fold themselves into elaborate architectural structures that mirror each other on opposite sides of the barre. Footballers would have a hard time matching such consistent precision and no luck at all making their effort look so effortless.

This programme tours until 4 June:

In association with the Dance Screen competition, BalletBoyz presents the Frame Dance Film Festival in Kingston Upon Thames, 9-12 June.

The National Theatre production of, choreographed by Mr. de Frutos, receives its French premiere in Paris, 7-16 June.

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