Coming up close and personal with BalletBoyz on your computer/laptop screen is a mixed experience. Works atmospherically lit for the stage do not necessarily appear at their best on a flat screen, but a little eyestrain is a small inconvenience when pitted against the ability to watch this extraordinary programme in intimate close-up.
The core of Deluxe is two pieces specially commissioned from female choreographers, neither of whom had ever worked with an all-male troupe: Maxine Doyle, associate director and choreographer of Punchdrunk, and Shanghai-based Xie Xin.
Their contrasting approaches highlight the company’s versatility. Maxine Doyle’s Bradley 4:18 brings the Western male to the fore, his testosterone-fuelled rants, his fragility, his insecurities, his infinite complexity.
Xie Xin’s Ripple is shaped by China’s ancestral culture, and attempts to balance all-male energies, all yang without the tempering influence of yin, something the choreographer admits she’s found very difficult.
Bradley 4:18 follows the eponymous archetypical character, who’s awake at 4:18 am. Andrew Ellis’ moody lighting is tinged with blue, setting the work in the darkest hour of the night.
To Cassie Kinoshi's clubby jazz score, often unnerving, and sometimes playing like improv, each dancer takes on a character, each one side of the same man. Harry Price appears to come in after a night on the tiles, dark suit slightly crumpled, tie loosened, his anguish translated in jerky, incomplete movements, and enhanced by a sudden hubbub of male voices in the sound score.
By contrast, Liam Riddick’s character is, in his own words, grotesquely narcissistic, strutting across the stage with an arrogance that barely disguises fear and insecurity.
As the work moves from a succession of solos to ensemble dancing, so the characters begin to coalesce, the lights go a up a touch and a picture of troubled humanity asserts itself. If anything, the narrative thread thins a little towards the end, but that’s a minor quibble.
Xie Xin’s Ripple is the polar opposite of Doyle’s work. Described by the choreographer as a memory like an ocean, it is subtly articulated as the series of concentric circles caused by a stone when it plunges into water.
Here the dancers are all fluidity, pushing, pulling, connecting, their movements based on Chinese contemporary dance, which, in turn, drinks from the rich well of martial arts. Everything flows into everything else, dancers coming together, as if to find a momentary centre for each other. It’s a dreamy work, well served by Jiang Shaofeng’s score.
The programme starts with a short piece, Intro, which works rather like an amuse-bouche to whet the appetite for the banquet to come. Dressed in stone-coloured boiler suits, the Boyz perform a lively, playful, jazzy choreography, that wouldn’t be out of place on Broadway, and they do it with verve and impeccable synchronicity.
Read our interview with BalletBoyz directors Michael Nunn and William Trevitt here
|What||BalletBoyz, Deluxe review|
|Where||BBC Four | MAP|
On 27 May 20, 22:30 Dur.: 1 hour