the TALENT – Independent on Sunday Review

13 February 2011

Ten years is an age for a small ballet company. Dancers come and go, careers peak and fade, sponsors cough up, or don’t. No wonder so few make it into double figures.

For pioneering BalletBoyz Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt, the first decade has been decisive. Maverick breakaways from the Royal Ballet, they set out to prove it was possible to take serious, new dance to the kind of theatres you find embedded in provincial shopping centres. Job done. Now, no longer dancing themselves, they’ve trained up nine young blades to carry the flame – BalletBoyz: The Talent.

While the original pair were hardly short of that commodity, the new bunch, possessors of the kind of taut, ink-inscribed torsos my daughter might describe as “ripped”, are blessed with the urgent sexiness of youth. This is contemporary dance, boyband-style. But don’t think for a moment that means safe or cosy.

Russell Maliphant’s Torsion pitches the tone. Formerly a tough-guys duet made for Nunn and Trevitt, its rigorous, rooted moves, arms whirring like chainsaws, are even more impressive when reworked as a sextet. The piece also serves to spotlight the extraordinary gifts of Miguel Esteves, the smallest and most baby-faced of the group, as he holds the focus in a solo spot of swirling suppleness and strength.

Machismo established, the more dancerly Alpha, by Britain’s Got Talent choreographer Paul Roberts, risks no loss of street cred at all. Dressed in Shelina Somani’s khaki parachute-silk parkas and trews, which ruffle deliciously as they slice through the air, the boys show off their drill, throwing and catching each other as deftly as if they were rugger balls. Songs by Keaton Henson, crooned to acoustic guitar, lend a compelling intimacy.

And then there’s the video element, the BalletBoyz calling card, giving an entertaining glimpse behind the scenes – in this case, the audition process that secured this particular team. A cheeky sequence filmed in a woodland glade with the boys in the buff is well pitched for the wolf-whistling, predominantly sixth-form, audience.

Void, the closer by debut Czech choreographer Jarek Cemerek – an exciting find – casts the company as the skulking hoodies they might conceivably have been if the discipline of dance hadn’t claimed them first. Melding monochrome film of grimy urban scenes with a startling update on a rumble by the Sharks and the Jets, or rather their baggy-crotched, 21st-century equivalents, Void sustains a daringly extended dramatic arc that reaches its street-fighting climax halfway through. Roaming like pack animals, hurtling in scrambling rolls and runs, and, most spectacularly, lobbing themselves across the airspace like so many pelted bricks, this is dance at its most riveting and fearless. Talent? I should say so.

By Jenny Gilbert

Read the review here.

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