It was a night of new experiences for me. Having never been to Camden’s Roundhouse or seen any work by the BalletBoyz before, I was expecting something as contrived as the company name suggests, but I was soon corrected in these misguided judgements. The night’s performances are presented by ten dancers from the company known as ‘theTALENT’ and are ably supported by the BBC Concert Orchestra, who lift the pieces with a slowly bubbling intensity; it makes for a fascinating and undeniably enjoyable evening.
The evening opens with Serpent, choreographed by Liam Scarlett – responsible for, in my opinion, the most impressive piece from English National Ballet’s recent WWI commemoration Lest We Forget, in which Scarlett choreographed the beautifully melancholy No Man’s Land. Serpent is another evocative and fluid display. The dancer’s bodies are immediately striking in their athleticism, dressed in only nude leggings with their bare muscular torsos undulating and rippling throughout. It’s obvious why such a piece is so aesthetically appealing, but it is their elegance and almost ethereal quality that held my attention throughout when so rarely seen (and expected) in these strong, masculine, synchronised bodies.
What follows are a series of tag-team pas de deux where the typical male/female dynamic is removed. The result is an exhilarating watch as the two dancers work seamlessly to counterbalance each other in a series of poised and flowing movements, the low toned but slowly intensifying hum of the BBC Concert Orchestra keeping everything driving along nicely.
Young Men, the only new work featured in the evening, left me a little colder, mostly because the subject matter does not lend itself to the control and elegance shown just previously – attributes this company naturally exude. With the previously mentioned WWI commemoration still fresh in my mind, the ideas that choreographer Iván Pérez is trying to explore are not made clear enough for me to find it the powerful and evocative piece I wanted it to be. There are moments of camaraderie and brutality, but intermingled with too much that is, for now, unintelligible to the casual viewer. Young Men will get its full début at Sadler’s Wells this January.
The bookending of Serpent with Fallen makes for easy comparative viewing. Russell Maliphant’s choreography for the latter has been nominated for numerous awards, but I found the piece no more enjoyable than Scarlett’s engaging and exhilarating opener. Fallen is a more aggressively physical display, with fluid transitions into lifts and formations, but with shades of the training discipline parkour as the dancers run at each other using their fellow company members as obstacles to negotiate.
The BalletBoyz are certainly memorable when it comes to pure dynamism and sheer strength, expertly combined with the soft fluidity of their movements. My only regret is that there were few light moments in this lengthy triple bill, and at times I longed to see something a little more playful, of which I’m sure this cast would be capable – it would surely complement their impressive agility.
Serpent/Young Men/Fallen played at Camden’s Roundhouse from 31 July-1 August. For more information, see the Balletboyz website.