As Beats on Pointe whirls into London, scattering its magical blend of ballet and street dance, I arrive at the Peacock Theatre excited but a little nervous since my credentials as a dance critic are largely derived from an enthusiasm for lurching around my front room to Pulp. Fortunately, you would have to be able to wipe the floor in a misanthropy contest with Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch not to enjoy this exuberant, elegant, playful spectacle of movement, lights and colour.
That said, Masters of Choreography’s globetrotting show begins in slightly suspect fashion, with an unapologetic social media plug. This is followed by some fairly specious platitudes wrapped in the guise of street poetry (“Life is made up of two elements / For this creates balance, otherwise we wouldn’t exist”) narrating the meeting-point between the two dance disciplines, initially held separate in two cones of light. Thankfully the two sets of dancers soon coalesce into a single unit for the first ensemble piece of piston-like movements and driving drumbeats reminiscent of a well-oiled engine coming to life. Clunky poetry is left behind in the wake of eloquent movement and the real show can begin.
A brilliant array of different pieces flash through the graffitied, traffic-cone-laden set, composed of high-octane ensemble and individual performances that segue seamlessly into each other. Sprinkled liberally with flips, lifts and moonwalking en pointe, the choreography (by Jennifer Masters, Emma Vaiano, Phill Haddad and Alexander Lima) is technically impressive and exhilarating throughout. But it is the charismatic, light-hearted personality of the routines that renders them truly memorable. Stand-out sequences include a hypnotic five-person body percussion piece, arresting ballet performed to Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ and a heart-warming double-act starring Brodie Chesher and Kelly Hemsley as a couple of old street sweepers who discard their brooms before breaking flirtatiously into action.
Georgia Mae Rutland’s dynamism is particularly eye-catching whilst the wonderfully mischievous Chesher floats across the stage with aplomb, frequently stepping in and out of a pink tutu to subvert and poke fun at the traditional gender roles associated with these dance forms. Meanwhile, the infectious Oriana Siew-Kim can hardly keep the smile off her face as she twists effortlessly through the demanding routines, and neither can the audience. What is perhaps most impressive, however, is the sheer range of talents on display. Uniformly adept across the superb variety of dance styles, the cast also boasts virtuoso beatboxing, drumming, rapping and singing amongst its abilities, as well as Burak Cagin’s gravity-defying specialism in breakdancing.
These diverse performances are tied together through Masters’ excellent music mix which combines everything from electro-classical music to Chaka Khan, with the pacing perfectly judged to allow each piece time to sparkle before we are whisked onto the next sequence. Likewise, Vaiano’s costumes form a glorious carousel of ripped denim, khaki, glitter and neon lights.
With its irreverent tone and bright mosaic of forms, Beats on Pointe might not be for every dance purist, but I for one am left feeling warm and hazy as I spill out onto the twilit streets, and itching to put on ‘Common People’ and try out some optimistic new moves.
Beats on Pointe is playing until 16 June as part of a world tour. For more information and tickets, visit the Peacock Theatre website.