THE founders of BalletBoyz, Royal Ballet alumni Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, have one of the best contact books in the business.
A program that offers new choreography by Russell Maliphant and Liam Scarlett stamps itself as a must-see.
There’s an extra degree of difficulty to add interest, as Nunn and Trevitt’s company is made up of men aged 18-25 from diverse dance backgrounds or, in the case of one, no training. The Talent is about expanding chances for men to dance and sharing the joy.
In Serpent, Scarlett, who at only 27 is being picked up by classical companies around the world, goes for flowing, introspective movement that incorporates several striking images but offers little sense of purpose.
A man lifted out of a tight group, then absorbed back into it, a solo figure breaking from the pack, one still man in profile as the others move: these show Scarlett’s ability to make a fine moment, but overall the piece feels soppy, despite the men’s muscularity, aided by Max Richter’s soft-centred score that includes the sound of water falling. I thought of wafting seaweed rather than sexy dangerous snakes.
Maliphant’s Fallen uses traces of folk imagery, intimations of martial activity, and lifts and falls that have a hallucinatory quality. Michael Hulls’s lighting is a forceful character in itself and Armand Amar’s rumbling score supports the action well.
Yes, some of the young men are more polished than others, but in Fallen each immersed himself to the hilt and each looked right at home.
The Sydney Morning Herald
The Ballet Boyz are cool. Very cool. In fact so cool that it is probably best to approach their program of two short works with thoughts of British understatement. Any idea of an all-male ensemble as an outrageous romp could not be further from the truth.
Serpent and Fallen are serious works in which the possibility of homoeroticism appears to have been studiously avoided, taking with it any sense of fun or even over-the-top masculinity.
The group’s style, from a springboard of classical ballet, is a handsome mix of dance influences, particularly the contact/release technique of postmodern dance. With its fluent mode of contact between dancers at many points of the body, this technique has always stamped the gender equality of postmodern dance, so it is perfect for this group’s egalitarian males.
They are an interestingly diverse collection in dance backgrounds and superbly muscled good looks, including a striking moustache and a couple of trim beards. The strength of their ensemble work is often thrilling to watch and was especially notable on opening night in that one of their number had been taken ill and they were nine instead of 10.
Serpent, by Liam Scarlett to music by Max Richter, begins the performance with a gentle exposition of dance marked by intense concentration and beautifully integrated smaller groupings. Second-skin flesh-colour tights that stretch from waist to knees add to the impression that this is stripped-down organic dance, performed with graceful commitment.
Russell Maliphant’s Fallen starts dramatically with a two-tier tableau of dancers (repeated later with good reason) and drumming from a commissioned score by Armand Amar that adds considerably to the power of the work.
While audiences are not usually encouraged to put narratives to this genre of dance, I could not help thinking of off-duty soldiers in Afghanistan, bound by a kind of camaraderie yet determinedly separate as individuals.
Adding to a feistier version of the body-contact partnering of the opening piece, Fallen is highlighted by dancers climbing on the shoulders of others and falling onto waiting arms and bodies.
Just one duet was allowed a sensuality that is common among some postmodern choreographers. I wished there could have been more of this and less repetition in both works – but on balance, these are minor reservations.
BalletBoyz: the Talent 2013 – review
Sadler’s Wells, London
The Observer Luke Jennings
BalletBoyz is a title Michael Nunn and William Trevitt never much wanted. But it’s stuck to them like glue ever since, in 1999, the two of them made a video diary for Channel 4 about life in the Royal Ballet, and somebody somewhere in the TV company decided that the project needed “youth” appeal. Fourteen years and countless productions later, they’re certainly not boys, and their 10-strong, all-male company, the Talent, doesn’t do ballet. Instead, it does 21st-century choreography with a muscular and occasionally dangerous edge. If Nunn and Trevitt have changed the dance landscape, it’s not because they’ve ever offered anything radically different, but because they understand how to present new work in a way that makes it accessible and exciting.
Their latest programme comprises two contrasting pieces. Serpent, by Liam Scarlett, sees the 10 men galvanised by a series of kinetic, touch-tag duets. There’s an almost experimental feel to some of these – the sense of a search by Scarlett and the dancers for a superior form of physics, and for a fusion of timing and virtuosity that will enable them to overcome each other’s physical mass. And there are glancing moments when they seem to achieve this, when an individual, perfectly counterbalanced by his partner, will for an instant seem weightless, before dropping to earth. This is not the antigravity of ballet, more an exploration of trust, sinew and nerve. And it’s lent poignancy, if not quite romanticism, by the grave cadences of Max Richter’s score.
In his abstract ballet choreography, Scarlett, like Christopher Wheeldon, inclines towards a well-established form – essentially, male-female duets framed by faster ensemble passages. No amount of aesthetic top-dressing can disguise the fact that this paradigm is played out, and that the sentimental manipulation of women by men is starting to look very vieux jeu. Here, without a pliant, sad-eyed woman in sight, Scarlett is forced to dig deeper, and the result is enthralling.
In Fallen, by Russell Maliphant, the dancers are a cadre, a phalanx. All-male choreography often takes us to well-trodden arenas of homoeroticism and combat, but here the choreographer’s intention is more complex. Where Scarlett gives us self-realisation, Maliphant gives us self-abnegation. To a reverberant score by Armand Amar, the 10 men move with ritualistic, neo-folkish precision. The shapes are almost Busby Berkeley-ish at times, with the dancers moving in concentric circles as if round a giant wedding cake, but the inexorability of the choreography and the sinister drama of Michael Hulls’s lighting suggest a post-industrial Rite of Spring. There are repeated, precipitous falls from shoulder height, expressive of trust, as in Scarlett’s piece, but also of letting go, of surrender to the group dynamic. It’s darkly thrilling stuff, with the dancers’ occasionally rough-hewn execution counterpointing Maliphant’s perfectionism to wholly positive effect. Perhaps the revelation of the evening as a whole is the adroitness with which the company rises above the machismo and boy-band swagger which might, in some quarters, be expected of it. Once again, Nunn and Trevitt are ahead of the game.
The New York Times
By ROSLYN SULCAS
Published: March 12, 2013
Ordinary Guys Shifting Around, Surveying New Muscular Territory
BalletBoyz, at Sadler’s Wells in London
LONDON — Twelve years ago, flying in the face of all reason, two former Royal Ballet principal dancers, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, formed their own small company. They quickly became known as the BalletBoyz, appealing to a youthful public that appreciated their irreverent, ordinary-guy humor; their flair for combining risk-taking commissions with entertainment; and — credit where due — their idea, later copied by many companies, of prefacing performances with short films that gave choreographers and dancers a chance to speak of the creative process, often amusingly.
Mr. Nunn and Mr. Trevitt stopped dancing a few years ago, but BalletBoyz is now a brand, not just two people. Their new show, “BalletBoyz: The Talent 2013,” which opened at Sadler’s Wells on Friday, offers 10 male dancers in two new works, by Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant.
It’s a pairing with appeal. The 26-year-old Mr. Scarlett is now — at least in Britain — a hot young talent, recently appointed an artist in residence at the Royal Ballet. Mr. Maliphant, still better known here than in the United States, has had a long association with the BalletBoyz, who helped put him on the international dance circuit. The program is also a risky idea. It’s not easy to make a work for 10 men from different dance backgrounds, without the conventions of heterosexual pairings, the implications of romance and the physical difference — strength versus suppleness or lyricism — that often form the basis of both classical and contemporary works.
This is particularly true for Mr. Scarlett, who until now has worked only with large ballet companies and classical technique, and whose works have tended to focus around male-female pas de deux. (He isn’t alone; try finding a new classical ballet that doesn’t have a big male-female pas de deux as its centerpiece.)
In “Serpent” Mr. Scarlett shows an engaging willingness to take on something new. Set to tracks from Max Richter’s 2002 album, “Memoryhouse,” the piece is a fluid, meditative series of encounters between the men that keeps exploring ways of shifting and negotiating weight, testing and transferring equilibrium, using gravity to generate movement rather than — as in ballet — fighting its pull.
“Serpent” begins with the men, dressed in knee-length tights, lying in a violet glow of light with their backs to the audience, legs in a fetal curl to their chests. As slow piano chords sound, one man raises an arm, and then the others do; soon they begin to lift up from the ground, and to form sculptural, cantilevering duos, one man sometimes holding another high overhead.
Mr. Scarlett seamlessly mutates from ensemble sections to smaller units or solos, and back again, as Michael Hulls’s vivid lighting washes the men in lime green, yellow, purple and a burnished gold. There are cartwheeling, back-bending, push-pull duets; grounded adagio sections; men in pairs facing each other with confrontational quick gestures that reach toward but don’t touch each other’s bodies.
The men might be Spartan youths at play — the atmosphere is not sexual, but sex might not be excluded. “Serpent” has a more tentative quality than Mr. Scarlett’s previous work, and as it progresses, it blurs slightly into a never-ending stream of beautiful movement. But there is much to admire in Mr. Scarlett’s willingness to move away from the elements — classical precepts, the big pas de deux, music as a driving, expressive force — that he has been praised for doing well.
The BalletBoyz dancers meet Mr. Scarlett’s demands superbly, and they do the same in Mr. Maliphant’s “Fallen,” set to driving music by Armand Amar. As in “Serpent,” the music here is used for its rhythmic impulse and mood rather than as a basis for expression. But despite the musical blandness, Mr. Maliphant creates a remarkable amount of tension and drama in a work that is both choreographically and structurally accomplished.
Much is based on the circle form — the piece opens and closes with moving rings of dancers, and the dancers move in wheeling configurations that invoke stylized martial arts confrontations throughout. In one sensational section the men climb upon one another’s shoulders and fall, straight-bodied, into one another’s arms, a fluid, cascading display of fearless flight. Mr. Hulls’s dark, moody lighting underpins the tightly coiled feel of the work, its tribal energy and fluent attack.
“Fallen,” like “Serpent,” offers us ideas about masculinity, about male bodies and how they move, together and alone. That those ideas and images feel even more resonant in retrospect is all to the choreographers’ credit.
BalletBoyz’ challenging double bill proves they’ve got The Talent
Tuesday 12 Mar 2013 6:00 am By Keith Watson
When Michael Nunn and William Trevitt hung up their dancing tights and started BalletBoyz: The Talent in 2010, it felt like they’d created a laddy gang to have fun with, a knockabout young dance troupe who’d have the world at their feet if they ever decided to take themselves seriously. That’s just what they’ve done with the double bill that makes up The Talent 2013.
The comedy film clips are put on a backburner and the ten-strong dance company gives its all to challenging works by Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant. The BalletBoyz have become BalletMen.
Scarlett’s Serpent is a revelation. He’s created lyrical work for the Royal Ballet but here, his dance takes on new muscle.
Working with an all-male company has brought out the best in him. Serpent ripples with undulating musculature as the performers shimmer from yoga pose to shadowboxing with stealth and grace.
Beautifully lit by Michael Hulls, Serpent lets the BalletBoyz flesh out a primitive bodyscape that’s strong while packing a deceptive emotional punch. Maliphant’s Fallen, full of his trademark knee rolls and capoeira kicks, provides the perfect counterpoint.
There’s a darker edge here: the militaristic look and Armand Amar’s Arabic-flecked score evoke a distant battleground as the dancers launch themselves from each other’s knees, shoulders or whatever comes to hand. This is choreography that sorts the men from the boyz and they rise to the challenge.
The Financial Times
BalletBoyz, Sadler’s Wells, London
By Clement Crisp
New choreographies from Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant highlight the skill and devotion of the young dancers of ‘The Talent’
You put a body on stage, and you already have a drama. You put 10 young male dancers on stage, as Michael Nunn and William Trevitt (the BalletBoyz) do with their company of chaps, give them new choreographies from Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant, and you have almost more drama than you bargained for.
“The Talent”, which is the code-name for this brave ensemble now in its fourth season, on Friday took to the Wells stage in fine form. For Liam Scarlett they wear flesh-coloured tights that conceal which we are not supposed to reveal, and look like fugitives from Eadweard Muybridge stop-frame photographs. For Maliphant they wear tops and trews that would not excite interest in an urban setting. And the two choreographers explore their presences on stage in movement as different as their costuming, though both creators saddle them with scores of stupefying dullness – Doctor Gradus ad tedium.
Perhaps Scarlett needs them to be slightly more experienced classical dancers: his choreography bursts with ideas about male dancing – images vivid with drama that seem at moments clouded, even with the undeniable skills of these eager performers. And their apparent nakedness hints at a scenario about sexuality – why is he holding him so eagerly? – that is centrally not part of the action. The piece is, in effect, a bit of a tease for a tease-able public.
Maliphant is more direct in coping with the bodies, his style more familiar. His men dance, grapple, and support their companions, but the street-wise costuming both creates and sanitises identity, and we are fascinated by the physical urgencies, the calligraphies of urban action he proposes. Where Scarlett’s dances hint at emotional and sexual undercurrents, Maliphant’s chaps are a community, like acrobats caught up in the technical minutiae of throwing and manipulating another body. But whatever the implications of these two pieces, the skill of the 10 young men, their devotion and physical focus, are not in doubt. They dance because they must, and the viewer must cheer.
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Design is, shall we say, minimal and no bad thing, and well lit. The presentation, with its BalletBoyz explanatory films, is needed for touring purposes. The performance is whole-hearted, whole-bodied, splendid.
London Evening Standard.
BalletBoyz, Sadler’s Wells – dance review
The body beautiful meets serious talent says Lyndsey Winship
Ok, there’s no denying it: 10 near-naked guys, with beautifully toned, beautifully lit torsos, literally man-handling each other in a series of improbable lifts and balances — it’s hot. But this is the BalletBoyz, not the Chippendales; serious artistry that just happens to come in an attractive, very saleable package.
When the original BalletBoyz, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, formed a second-generation company, The Talent, they relied on raw power and youthful energy to counter the rough edges but three years on the group are maturing impressively. They celebrate the dancing male but in Liam Scarlett’s Serpent they are not so much balls-out macho men, more strong silent types. This is new territory for Scarlett, more used to working with conventional classical ballet companies. Some of these lithe partnerships could be his usual pas de deux transferred onto two men’s bodies but elsewhere he’s had to think again, and the result is a luscious study in weight, heft and swooning curves. It’s tender without being wet and it bodes well for Scarlett extending his reach from his classical roots.
Choreographer Russell Maliphant has been a collaborator with BalletBoyz from the beginning— his muscular, martial arts-influenced treatment of male partnering helped define their early style — and his piece, Fallen, feels like familiar territory. It’s hampered by a faceless, relentless electronic soundscape which, as it moves into Philip Glass-esque strings and banging-your-head-against-a-brick-wall bass, threatens to overwhelm any light and shade in the choreography. A shame, because there are some fantastic moments: a solo for Leon Poulton is the stand-out, showing off the dancer’s sensitive touch. The company may have a boyband-y profile, what with the naked photoshoots, gaggles of girls in the audience, and pre-performance films shot in tasteful black and white but it doesn’t undermine the quality.
Even if (for some reason) the torsos don’t do it for you, there’s plenty that’s great to look at.
Until March 13 (0844 412 4300, sadlerswells.com)
BalletBoyz: the TALENT
The Times – Debra Craine – January 23 2013
Now in its fourth season, the TALENT, the company founded by BalletBoyz William Trevitt and Michael Nunn, goes from strength to strength. Its shows are accessible and well-presented (with helpful introductory videos) yet maintain the highest artistic standards. Now a new touring double bill (co-produced by Sadler’s Wells) shows them at their best, the ten young male dancers rising to the challenge of two feisty world premieres specially created for them.
The first comes from Liam Scarlett, only 26 and already an established choreographer at the Royal Ballet. For ‘the TALENT’ he has had to recolour his classical palette. Instead, SERPENT (which has edgy and ruminative music by Max Richter) finds him branching out into movement driven by the use of the torso and greater power-sharing in partnering. His language combines sensitivity and strength (his words, not mine) with grace and muscularity (my words, not his). You can see Scarlett experimenting with the possibilities of an all-male ensemble while also bringing classical tropes – especially high lifts – into play. Only in the middle does his imagination sag. SERPENT ends on an elegiac note that suggests these ten men have made a personal and transformative journey.
Russell Maliphant has a long association with the BalletBoyz; indeed he made some of his best work for Trevitt and Nunn when they were still dancing. Now he does it again for ‘the TALENT’. FALLEN, with industrial-strength music by Armand Amar (and exquisite lighting by Michael Hulls) is a remarkable piece adorned with striking imagery, an adrenaline rush and a thrilling ambition to build mighty structures with dance. I like the way Maliphant, almost alone among his contemporary dance colleagues, isn’t afraid to use height in his choreography – dancers perch on each others shoulders; they stand on one another’s backs – and I like the exhilarating energy that courses through every body on Maliphant’s stage. FALLEN is a work of incredible assurance and magnificent sweep, and the company does it proud.
And here’s more good news. The TALENT has secured a permanent home with studios and an office complex in southwest London (a former laundry in Kingston), no mean feat in these dark financial days. So Trevitt and Nunn must be doing something else right too.
BalletBoyz: The Talent – review
Watford Palace theatre
The Guardian – Judith Mackrell – Sunday 20 January 2013 11.49 GMT
BalletBoyz: The Talent started out as a project to offer new professional experiences to young male dancers. Over the last two years it has been a pleasure to watch the company mature and expand. But in their latest programme it’s not so much the dancers who are being pushed into new terrain, as the two choreographers creating works for them.
For Royal Ballet choreographer Liam Scarlett, it presents a twofold challenge: he has to avoid adapting his language to The Talent’s core contemporary style while dealing with its absence of women dancers, who he has always acknowledged as the inspiration for his work.
But much of Serpent proves to be triumphantly different from anything he has made so far. There is a classical linearity to some of the choreography, while the dominant impression is of mass and heft. Scarlett roots his movement deep inside the bodies of his 10 dancers, allowing it to evolve through thickly textured waves and clusters of dance, which shift mysteriously to the rhythms of Max Richter’s accompanying music. Some of these configurations are given a rapt beauty by the colour and radiance of Michael Hulls’ lighting, but an underlying menace stalks the piece, suggested in the background rumble of the music, and made explicit in brief sparks of combative partner work.
Scarlett’s invention slackens midway through, but Serpent still represents a compelling advance in his career. Even greater advances are made by Russell Maliphant in Fallen, another full company work which, as the choreographer acknowledges, has forced him to create on a different scale from his preferred format of solos, duets or trios.
His opening response is to work with one of the most ancient of dance formations – the circle. The 10 men move round a single centre, sometimes hoisted high on each others shoulders, sometimes crouched low and wary. There’s a tribal defensiveness in their energy, emphasised by the percussive drive of Armand Amar’s score, but it grows into exhilarated wheeling and lunging, and finally to a miraculous climax, in which dancers soar and rebound off each other’s bodies, orchestrating a paradox of muscular impact and weightless flight that I’ve never seen on stage. Maliphant has been making work for two decades, but still this unique and scrupulous choreographer continues to reinvent what the dancing body can do.
BalletBoyz: The Talent 2013, Palace Theatre, Watford
The Independent -ZOË ANDERSON – MONDAY 21 JANUARY 2013
BalletBoyz William Trevitt and Michael Nunn have always been ambitious. This latest double bill shows off ten strong and charismatic male dancers in new works by big name choreographers Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant. It’s a confident evening of muscle and grace.
Trevitt and Nunn built BalletBoyz on their own dance talents. They’ve now moved the company on to a new generation, relaunching it as a larger, all-male troupe. Their training is varied, from gymnastics and ballet to one dancer, Matthew Rees, who has had no formal training at all. Together, they’ve make a team with fluid movement and plenty of swagger.
Liam Scarlett, currently ballet’s next big thing, stresses the fluidity. Serpent opens with the men lying on their sides. They reach up with one hand, bare arms curling and winding in snaky lines. Scarlett gives them sinuous moves, but makes use of their weight and strength in partnering, including overhead lifts. One dancer will take another by the waist, then twist until he’s lying across his partner’s thigh. They are literally balanced partners.
Scarlett’s balletic lines look good on these dancers, though he sometimes slips into body beautiful poses, heightened by the costumes: tights and bare chests. Serpent could do with stronger music. Max Richter’s soundtrack acts as melancholy wallpaper; it has less energy and pace than Scarlett’s twisting steps.
From the beginning, Russell Maliphant has been at the heart of the BalletBoyz repertory. His new work Fallen responds to the scale of the new company with driving attack. Armand Amar’s score has a driving rhythm; even when it slows down, the energy keeps pumping.
Maliphant starts with an elaborate group pose: a circle of five dancers, with another five perched on their shoulders. The upper five dive down into the centre, then flow out between their colleagues, like the widening ripples of a stone dropped in water.
Fallen switches between solos, duets and group dances. As the men face each other, ducking and diving, it recalls the Brazilian martial art capoeira: it’s not aggressive, but they mark each other. Sometimes one will jump onto another’s braced thigh and leap away again. It’s a fluent swoop with a sense of spring and recoil.
Maliphant also brings out a looser, rougher movement quality in these dancers, giving them extra force and bite. It’s a powerful end to a strong programme.
Ballet Boyz: The Talent 2013
The Stage – Katie Colombus – Published Monday 21 January 2013 at 12:36
The Ballet Boyz are in a strong position at the moment. Rather than downsizing their now 11-year-old company after their performing careers came to an elegant end, they pushed forward in another direction, re-developing the Ballet Boyz brand.
Deciding to pass on their legacy, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt have stepped it up a gear, imparting their wisdom, skill and technique to a group of young men, discovered during community schemes around the UK. The boys were chosen because of their raw talent rather than their dance accreditations. In fact some of the dancers have no formal training at all. The result is a whole lot of torso, tattoos and turn-ins.
With the fourth season of the box office-busting The Talent touring this year comes yet another coup – a work choreographed by Liam Scarlett, the first ever artist in residence at the Royal Ballet.
The 26-year-old’s piece, Serpent, opens the evening. All obvious phallic references aside, it’s interesting to see how Scarlett copes without the fallback of feminine elegance and classical beauty which make up such a large part of his work to date. With a penchant for striking pas de deux, what’s remarkable here is seeing the learning curve Scarlett has travelled when simply putting his movement onto two male dancers – the subtle differences in line and energy; the freedom of equal weight during lifts, the experiment with flow and a meatier dynamic. It’s an experiment in the give and take and balance of physical power, set off by the strands composed by Max Richter, taken from the album Memoryhouse. Aqueous and virulent, the dancers slink around, curving arms and shoulders, crouching low. They group together, swaying as if in an underwater current before separating into flowing duets, with a pleasing roughness around the edges. The movement isn’t so precise, not so linear, but it falls like water and shows Scarlett can turn his hand to a new aesthetic, building on the language of male partnerships.
The Ballet Boyz have worked with Russell Maliphant a lot over the years, and it’s clear that his work is a perfect fit. In Fallen, the costumes are akin to the boiler suits that gave the BB’s their poster-boy image and the depth and risk of the movement echoes Michael and Billy’s house style.
Long-time lighting collaborator Michael Hulls focuses on the dramatisation of illuminated shadow and shades of darkness, pushing a sense of staunch drama as if these are men in a prison yard, ebullient but with a light undertone of menace.
The work takes more risks physically if not artistically, with dive rolls and cartwheels, deep plies and combative gestures. The dynamic of the group breaks off into reactive physicality – there’s a grace but also a tension as the men group and swagger, pushing one another onstage with a hand around another’s throat, moving in circular motion with arm motifs in the air as well as within the space, pushing ribcages and challenging partnerships.
The work gathers momentum, pulsing along to composer Armand Amar’s urgent strings, at a rapacious pace. The physicality becomes confined at times and the characters as well as the space are stripped bare of previous bravado.
It’s an impressive evening of work that will delight many as it tours around the UK, and proves that the Ballet Boyz are still at the forefront of engaging audiences and producing all encompassing work.
The Telegraph By Sarah Crompton6:34PM GMT 24 Jan 2013
Michael Nunn and William Trevitt’s Ballet Boyz company of young dancers showed their vigorous skill in two specially commissioned works, writes Sarah Crompton.
It’s 13 years since former Royal Ballet principals Michael Nunn and William Trevitt set up their own pioneering dance company, supposedly called George Piper Dances, but known by everyone from the very start as the Ballet Boyz.
The adopted name summed up the duo’s irreverent, blokey approach to dance, their determination to make it something everyone could enjoy and appreciate – but in that word ballet, their continuing belief in the form in which they had grown up. Three years ago, they stopped dancing and recruited the Talent – nine young boys from varying dance backgrounds who would carry on the flame. This year, five of that original group are joined by five new recruits; the continuing success of the brand is revealed by the fact that there were 500 lads who wanted to audition – and that the group’s performance was greeted by whooping screams from the girls in the audience.
There was quite a lot of male flesh to cheer in Liam Scarlett’s Serpent, one of two specially commissioned works that makes up this enterprising bill. The bare-chested boys looked almost indecent, performing intricate duets in revealing nude half-leg tights.
But there was plenty of choreographic sophistication on display as well in Scarlett’s first work for a contemporary trained troupe. He is now artist in residence at the Royal and his balletic turn of phrase was revealed in lifts and supported jumps which made the dancers’ bodies seem to flow into each other, under the multicoloured shifts in Michael Hulls’s sumptuous lighting.
Ultimately, however, the steps got bogged down in the mellifluous melodies of Max Richter’s music; the piece is lovely but soporific and it renders the boys indistinguishable.
In Fallen, by contrast, Russell Maliphant manages to bring out the differences in the dancers’ personalities while sending them pulsing across the stage in magnificently forged unison.
It opens with two circles: five boys perched high on the linked arms of the five standing. As the group unwinds, they stay in circular patterns, their movements swooping and sloping, high and low. With music by Armand Amar and harsh, defining lighting from Hulls, the piece feels both tightly structured and viscerally thrilling.
At one moment two men seem to almost nuzzle each other, shadow boxing without touching, hands flicking expressively; at another, a pair fold gently across each other. But these thoughtful moments are set against explosive sections, where the dancers use each other’s bodies to climb in high-kicking jumps and twisting leaps, filling the air with waves of exhilarating dance.
Fallen has the light and shade that Serpent lacks but both pieces are tributes not only to their performers’ vigorous skill but also to the excellent taste and judgment of Nunn and Trevitt.
Dance review: BalletBoyz: The Talent – Welcome to the muscle bank
JENNY GILBERT SUNDAY 27 JANUARY 2013 The Independent.
Bodies honed for heavy industry strut like Greek gods.
Over the past 10 years, dance has impinged on the public consciousness as never before, but it’s not all down to celebrity antics on Saturday night TV. The BalletBoyz, aka Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, have also had a hand in changing perceptions of what dance might do and who might do it. Both were awarded OBEs last year for their community work with young men and boys.
The touring company they founded 12 years ago challenged every stereotype: its dancers were blokeish and razor-shy, its shows novice-friendly, video clips offering helpful insights into the making of contemporary dance. With BalletBoyz: The Talent, the pair have passed the baton to the next generation, training up 10 young blades from diverse dance backgrounds to present commissioned work.
When Liam Scarlett began creating Serpent, the first half of the company’s new double bill, he was considered up-and-coming. Little more than a year later, the 26-year-old has upped and come – he’s now resident artist at the Royal Ballet with a clutch of international commissions under his belt. Nonetheless, it’s clear that choreographing for men, not all of them strong on classical technique, set him a challenge. Serpent aims for boneless fluidity, but doesn’t always get it.
Stripped to fawn cycling shorts, though, The Talent do a good impression of a seething tangle of flesh from which organised shapes emerge. Under Michael Hulls’s golden lighting, it’s hard to resist the suggestion of young Greeks wrestling at some ancient Games. These boys are fit all right, and their bounding energy is infectious. Of the 10, Andrea Carrucciu comes closest to the ribbon-like pliancy Scarlett demands, but on the whole the group seems to be operating outside its comfort zone. Even the way the boys walk on stage (could it be the shorts?) looks awkward.
By contrast Fallen, Russell Maliphant’s piece, plays to what they are: gym-honed young males who in another life might have played a part in heavy industry, and now respond readily to the interlocking body- mechanics of Maliphant’s devising. Powered by the warrior drums of Armand Amar’s score, they circle the stage in low handsprings or form dense human towers, presenting their muscular backs like shields.
Before long, they are making stepladders of each other and rushing to the summit, only to topple like battering rams and be caught by passing hands. The pace is fast: one false move and the edifice would collapse. But discipline is BalletBoyz’ middle name, and when the material is as good as this, the result is thrilling.