Review: The Murmuring

Country Life's dance critic reviews The Murmuring and Roméo et Juliette.

All dancemakers sometimes make bad dances. Every artist has ideas that don’t pan out. That’s the nature of the creative beast, and it’s dangerous for viewers to forget it. Within weeks of seeing uninteresting work by two different choreographers, I saw thoroughly engaging pieces by both of them. So before jumping to any lasting conclusions, dancelovers should always be willing to look again.

Having wasted the time and talent of Rambert’s dancers by giving them little to do in Frames, Alexander Whitley surprised me with The Murmuring, a gripping blend of muscularity and tenderness that shows the young men called BalletBoyz at their best.

Mysteriously built from crouching, lunging bodies, a group pose recurs again and again, solid as a sculpture newly carved each time the dancers shift their configuration. The men fly out of its mass as if ejected from its slow organic development, latching onto one another in waves of overlapping phrases. Though dim lighting and grainy unintelligible film projections undercut their focused energy, the overall effect of their shared space and weight overrides the distractions, and the taut balanced structure anchors their tense encounters.

Roméo et Juliette

Roméo et Juliette

Jean-Christophe Maillot’s pointlessly passionate trio for Diana Vishneva’s recent showcase evening never hinted at the theatrical power and clarity of his gleaming Roméo et Juliette, which has just come and gone from the Coliseum in only three days. Retaining the Prokofiev score, his two-act production unfolds at top speed, bypassing realism to cut straight to the chase. This sleek version features a bold Juliet and a shy Romeo, duels without swords, a nurse young enough to have fun, a comic Punch-and-Judy style puppet show that foretells the imminent tragedy, and expressive dancing, immaculately executed and infused with emotion, for every single character.

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Fast, sexy and intensely dramatic, this is the sort of choreography that strips ballet of its elitist label and enlivens its encrusted history with immediacy. From the unexpectedly austere opening moment to the final tableau, the production hooks the uninitiated newcomer and holds experienced viewers fast.

BalletBoyz tours The Murmuring on a double bill with Christopher Wheeldon’s Mesmerics until 7 June.

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo appears briefly in Germany, Poland and France with three different productions before 24 June. See for details.