Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt’s all-male company are on sparkling form right now. The 11 dancers exude confidence; their technical skills are superb and they work together with intuitive fluidity. Most importantly for this latest BalletBoyz programme, they show a lithe adaptability as they hurtle through five very different pieces of choreography.
The first half of Fourteen Days is a madcap experiment – four choreographers were paired with four musicians and asked to create a piece on the theme of balance in a fortnight. The results, ranging from 18 to 8 minutes in length, are strung together with intertitles, and provide a showcase for the skills of the Boyz.
First, we see their athleticism. For The Title Is in the Text, Javier De Frutos has been the most cheekily literal with the theme; he presents the whole piece on a seesaw. Nine dancers in white boiler suits explore every possibility of balance and imbalance as they jostle for position, perform gymnastic beam work, walk the plank and create chains of support. As the seesaw tilts they wrestle with its momentum or go with the flow. One holds the beam level with a precarious arabesque; another dead-drops off the high end into the arms of four companions.
And through it all, Scott Walker’s recorded score pummels us with its unnerving, off-kilter bombast, a mix of operatic melodrama, clanging bells, dissonance, Killa Impact’s rhyming and spoken text (courtesy of Lisa Dwan). Contrapposto pops up repeatedly in that text (and flashes on the screen) – the pose in which shoulders angle in one direction, hips in another, most famously shown by Michelangelo’s David – and there is something sculptural about De Frutos’s creation, in which combinations of dancers often form friezes of concentrated power. At 18 minutes, though, it does start to feel indulgent – and painful on the ears.
Iván Pérez’s Human Animal has the smooth intricacy of a jewel-movement watch. Five dancers, dressed in just briefs and brightly coloured floral shirts, describe a circle round the stage, one in front and four following, adding skips and high stepping in increasingly complex combinations, and pausing to paw the ground with one foot, as though they were taking part in a dressage competition. Joby Talbot’s insistently rhythmic score, performed live on stage by 12 musicians under Mark Knoop, has a ticking clock urgency, which the dancers respond to as they move from circling into creating swinging arcs with their legs. Pérez gives us an enigmatic reading of the theme – this is a deft balance of synchronisations.
Christopher Wheeldon’s Us is the highlight – an exquisite duet, performed by Bradley Waller and Jordan Robson, steeped in tenderness and lush romanticism. Keaton Henson’s score sets the mood as the pair test each other’s trust and support in an exhilarating exploration of axis work and lifts, shot through with the sense of a love story unfolding. It’s a relationship presented as the ultimate balancing act and it’s heart-in-mouth beautiful.
And to round off the quartet, we have a blast of stage show high-drama choreography from Craig Revel Horwood. The Indicator Line has the clearest narrative thread – it’s inspired by the Australian Battle of the Eureka Stockade, an armed uprising by gold miners against harsh British colonial rule. The balance under scrutiny here, then, is the balance of power. Charlotte Harding’s heavily percussive score, complete with the clink of pickaxes, is enhanced by the ten dancers’ enthusiastic clog dancing (added because Revel Horwood’s ancestor was a champion clog dancer in Australia). It’s a big burst of West End musical-style energy, with high jumps, stage fights and plenty of spins – quite a contrast to what has gone before, but delivered with plenty of brio.
The company’s well-oiled teamwork has a full workout in the second half of the programme – a revival of Russell Maliphant’s Fallen. This brooding, muscular display of power and vulnerability, attack and defence employs a range of lifts, falls, balances, torsions and martial arts moves that require a demanding precision and a hard-edged elegance. Trevitt and Nunn’s boys – despite losing one of their number to injury in the last rehearsals – are more than up to the challenge.