February 28, 2019
You never know quite what you’re going to get with William Trevitt and Michael Nunn, the BalletBoyz, and that’s part of the secret of their long success. There’s always a surprise, and I’m delighted to admit that this time they got me completely.
The first half of this clever double bill, Them, is, frankly, baffling. A group of dancers have improvised, in close collaboration with composer Charlotte Harding, a piece that unexpectedly used the repetitive and laddish vocabulary of the gym, tracky bottoms and all. It’s a piece where male competition is very much on display. The movement involves a lot of simple repetition of a limited vocabulary of gesture that references only this macho culture. It is high-spirited but it never gets above blokey blokes showing off, to a depressingly repetitive degree. Vigorous and athletically exacting, high culture it is not. It’s a glimpse of movement as seen in, well, real life, and which eventually becomes disappointing and then downright annoying in its lack of development and overall limitation. So, that was Them. But where was the ballet in the boyz?
But these guys are clever old things, because the second half gave us an earlier work, Christopher Wheeldon’s Us, newly extended. It’s a gem. Here, the previous demonstration of mere macho movement is substituted for the most refined of balletic expression as a group of dancers exquisitely clad in the almost clerical grey linen trousers and finest white chemises of a ruling elite go gravely through their ceremonial paces. The final pas de deux brought audience shouts of delight.
A brave evening, catching even regulars out with its many surprises. At times, politically correct it is not, but Us especially is dance at its classiest. It’s also theatrical dynamite with depth charges of style creating explosion after explosion.
Them/Us is currently touring. Visit www.balletboyz.com/whatson for dates and venues.