One of Britain’s most exciting ballet troupes, the all-male BalletBoyz: The TALENT, played their own part in the centenary of World War I with Young Men, a full-length work delving into the complex relationships of men at once boys, soldiers and friends.
The work, which features a specially commissioned score by the cult singer-songwriter Keaton Henson, is choreographed by rising star Iván Pérez, who has already tested his mettle against the likes of Nederlands Dans Theater and Ballet Moscow.
Through a series of scenes, non-chronological vignettes of the wartime experience, Perez carries the Boyz from love and friendship to loss and survival, all against a background of the senseless brutality of war.
A circle of booted, soldier-like dancers launch themselves one by one at a central figure, whether in attack or loving desperation we cannot tell. The circle melts into a training ground, where the hard-faced men throw themselves relentlessly into the floor, urged on by the emotionless voice of their leader.
One man is brought in alone, writhing in little clothing as though trapped in the throes of an inescapable nightmare. Only the careful attentions of his comrades, calm and repetitive, can bring him back into wakefulness.
Perez is a choreographer who imbues his steps with violence, both physical and emotional, with speed and the wheeling of limbs just under control. The militaristic patterns of this piece and its inevitable masculinity have drawn from him a more grounded power, thudding into the stage to the thunder of Henson’s score.
In two scenes, the Boyz are joined on stage by two female dancers - a surprising move for the all-male company and one that divided the critics. The dancers themselves attested though to a new atmosphere in rehearsal thanks to that female influence.
Filmed sequences play both as background and as an integral part of the choreography. One scene hones in on the aggressive despair of a single soldier, danced by Matthew Rees. It’s not the first time they’ve made use of his grimly expressive face and hardened brows - he’s the face of Keaton Henson’s music video to Healah’s Dancing.
The BalletBoyz are no strangers to Henson's music, having worked on several of his videos; his tense score, at times threatening or lonely, is played live on stage to looming atmospheric effect.
The much acclaimed programme from English National Ballet, Lest We Forget, presented three specially commissioned pieces from front-line choreographers inspired by various aspects of WW1, and that too returns in the Sadler's Wells new season. However, there is always a special buzz to whatever the Balletboyz do, and the young, male cast in such weighty material carries a rare and captivating note of authenticity.
Young Men brings life and realism to a sombre meditation on the war that so irreversibly changed the lives of millions of real young men, and shows an exciting contemporary company at their impressive peak.
Booking for the Sadler's Wells Autumn/Winter season, 2015/2016, opens at 10am on Monday 11 May 2015.
|What||BalletBoyz: The TALENT, Young Men at Sadler's Wells|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Roseberry Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
05 Oct 15 – 10 Oct 15, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Website||Click here to book via the Sadler's Wells website|