As part of Deloitte Ignite ’14 at the Royal Opera House – a contemporary arts festival celebrating myth – the renowned dance company BalletBoyz return for another season of eclectic dance with its all male company working with some of the UK’s most exciting choreographers. Divided into three parts, all with a different creative team, BalletBoyz is a night of great variety and shows the possibilities and expressions of the human anatomy.
It opens with The Murmuring where the exciting score by Raime provides a futuristic soundscape for the gradual revolt in choreography. Choreographer Alexander Whitley explores a sense of unity and pack mentality versus the outbreak of the individual and their opposition to the power of the group. The dancers show their impressive flexibility and Whitley’s choreography is fluent and fervent, playing with pace and self-exploration, and with the score we get a sense of the disruption inside us breaking out of its cage and revolting against fixed patterns and roles in the pack. It is a compelling performance of modern dance and the dancers are all incredibly committed to expressing oneself in the contradiction of absolute fluidity and rapid pace.
Metheus is choreographed by Royal Ballet soloist Kristen McNally and is inspired by the myth of Prometheus. Exploring characterisation and the unpredictability of human beings, each dancer explores their own peculiar roles on stage and how these intervene with each other. With a small string orchestra providing the score by Johnny Greenwood, the piece is less vicious in sound but provides a fascinating variation of string sound, and the choreography is sharp and edgy, sometimes explosive in form and tension. The imagery of the dancers’ placements is haunting and at times incredibly beautiful, and as a piece it is probably the most progressive of the three, seeming to have a hidden drive constantly pushing the movement forward.
Mesmerics is the last piece, briefly introduced by a beautiful film sequence highlighting the work of BalletBoyz outside the studio walls. Choreographed by Royal Ballet’s Christopher Wheeldon with music by Philip Glass, Mesmerics explores a more repetitive expression in movement and music (one of Glass’ traits) and how effective silences and gaps in sound can be. Exploring opposites, the dancers move rapidly to silence or slowly to music and it’s all an interesting stretch of what we expect of the combination of music and movement and how these expectations can be broken. The choreography is more traditional than the two former pieces and has a feminine quality to it – where the other pieces celebrated the male body and its presence in the room, whether graceful or strong, Mesmerics seems to aim for a less masculine expression and almost substitute female dancers with male. Again it stretches our conception of what masculinity is, and coupled with the two former pieces the many varieties and colours of a male expression is explored and revealed.
At times you feel slightly frustrated with the breaking of form and the repetition, but it’s all part of the expressiveness of BalletBoyz and as an experimenting and imaginative company the work is never boring, but thought-provoking and fascinating to watch. A great piece of ensemble work.
BalletBoyz is playing at the Linbury Studio Theatre at The Royal Opera House until 27 September. For more information and tickets, see the Royal Opera House website.