Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
November 7, 2017
Fourteen Days from Balletboyz promises an interesting shake up of the oft-programmed triple bill: a first act of four short pieces from leading (male) choreographers, followed in the second act by Russell Maliphant’s Fallen. In contrast to Maliphant’s longer, considered work, the first four pieces were created with a completion time of fourteen days each. The result is a technically rigorous evening with moments of poignancy, the works intelligent without being overly intellectual.
The opener is The Title in the Text from choreographer Javier de Frutos, who continues on typically contrarian form. He throws images at you in a teasing way including an arabesque on a balance beam, try interpreting that! The bar is the centre on which everything and everyone hangs (literally), its shifts and negotiations challenging the dancers’ dexterity. Composer Scott Walker and Sound Producer Peter Walsh hurl together a score of choral music, operatic singing and affronting violin screeching, further defining the piece’s arch sensibility.
Ivan Perez’s Human Animal is a delight, accompanied by the bombastic chimes of Jody Talbot. The dancers are dressed in garish Hawaiian shirts while their legs are exposed, referencing through contrast the objectification of women’s legs in stage performance. They point, strut and show off their articulated legs as they prance around the stage, displaying a intriguing mix of passivity and confidence, show horses in the round.
There is an odd lull in the middle of the piece, where most of the dancers happily skip off leaving one soloist. But the reward for the extended length is the acrobatics and ever more impressive jumps when the group return to the stage.
Christopher Wheeldon’s duet, Us, is expertly done, a walk in the park for such an accomplished choreographer but by no means glib. There is a painful inability in the duet to fully connect; even at a reconciliatory point towards the close, the two dancers’ heads gently touch but they remain nonetheless as opposite forces to one another.
Craig Revel Horwood’s piece, The Indicator Line, proves a challenge for a contemporary dance watcher. It’s a camp delve into some sort of factory floor, complete with sinister tap dancing and sequences more familiar in a musical. There is no sense of irony, but a complete indulgence in form and spectacle. Cue sharp choreography, and perfectly executed pirouettes.
The first few minutes of Maliphant’s Fallen almost threaten to send the audience into a stupor, its grand, dark and serious set up a contrast to the variety of the first act. The music begins as an itch but doesn’t quite grab, while the aesthetic is utilitarian and military, verging on banal.
However, Maliphant’s superb group work and the dancers’ industrious technique soon outweigh Fallen’s penchant for heavy handedness. There is a calm, methodical practice in place, as the dancers pull and support each other. There is a continued image of the sacrificial body, each member of the group indiscriminately selected and compelled to be lifted, spread out and dropped. It’s an image I have seen in many choreographies with an all-male cast, an almost inevitable disposability.
Fallen lulls you into this kinaesthetic sphere of pure movement appreciation, while Armand Amar’s sound builds to a scratchy yet swelling string crescendo. Upon leaving, I hear another audience member protesting ‘but they only had two moves!’. Perhaps, but I am still caught up in an emphatic sway as I leave the auditorium.
Fourteen Days continues on tour to December 2. Visit www.balletboyz.com/tour-dates for details.