Two takes on Life. from the BalletBoyz

Jessica Wilson is at Sadler’s Wells, London for the Boyz’ latest premiere
April 20, 2016

With a title such as Life. (complete with full stop), the finite springs to mind; it’s a theme that runs through the evening. The two halves to the BalletBoyz’ latest programme are also certainly poles apart. We see serene dance in the moonlight and frantic work in the studio, with both classical and contemporary influences informing the choreography.

The internationally acclaimed choreographers Pontus Lidberg and Javier de Frutos act as yin and yang, displaying the melancholy and then the overwhelming joy of dance all in one programme. Life. is accompanied by original music performed live, expertly conducted by Christopher Austin. The scores are both emotive: highly strung, frantic and then lonely in the absence of all other dancers bar one left on stage.

This indication of a stranger in a private world is the thread running throughout Lidberg’s Rabbit. This elegant and powerful work allows the BalletBoyz to display their artistry and wonderfully controlled strength, constructed from the constant partner and support work. A serene pas de deux is compelling as it moves in and out of the floor with ease. Juxtaposing with the dance is the intensity of Górecki’s score, which grows, then leads to a slick and intricately patterned skipping routine.

The BalletBoyz dancers have a clear bond between them as move effortlessly from section to section in a seamless display of lifts. They were in complete synchronisation as the herd of rabbits they morph in and out of. Rabbit masks and even tails single out the outsider, prompting thoughts of what is masked from the rest of an often rigid society by individuals that make up the group; the essence of life.

The BalletBoyz in Fiction from Life. Photo Tristram Kenton
The BalletBoyz in Fiction from Life. Photo Tristram Kenton

In an about turn, de Frutos uses his own premature obituary as a basis for Fiction. In another provocative work, the voices of Sir Derek Jacobi, Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter accompany the loss and bereavement of the dancers as they journey through their mourning for their choreographer who, as it is fictionalised, is killed by falling plastic from his own stage set.

Aggressive and frustrated movements push and pull the ten dancers highly effectively in canon as they vent their anger, the intensity of the dance helping create emotive, narrative strands. The cast, in rehearsal clothes, shout. A ballet barre, half laid on the floor and a stripped back stage emphasise the continuation of rehearsal and practice in light of the death, the dancers working together and against each other to fight their way through their loss. Death is only present in the absence of life, and a final outburst of joyful, solitary dance epitomises de Frutos’ passion for his work.

Life. is a programme full of talent and precision. The passion and presence of the men of the BalletBoyz never disappoints. Although strong dancers, the strength of the company is that it is absolutely more than the sum of its parts. The Boyz’ have done it again; Life. is another work of strong artistry, and no little passion.