tue 13/11/2018

The Murmuring/ Metheus/ Mesmerics, BalletBoyz, Linbury Studio Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

The Murmuring/ Metheus/ Mesmerics, BalletBoyz, Linbury Studio Theatre

The Murmuring/ Metheus/ Mesmerics, BalletBoyz, Linbury Studio Theatre

New works show all-male company on top form

Fabulous: BalletBoyz The Talent in Christopher Wheeldon's Mesmerics© Elliott Franks

The fabulous dancers known as BalletBoyz The Talent 2014 looked so at home in the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre last night that it was hard to believe they had never performed there before. The BalletBoyz themselves, Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt, were Royal Ballet leading men back in the day, and they have been back to Covent Garden since leaving in 1999 to explore new avenues in contemporary ballet for men, but this was the first time that their new company of young dancers (now 10-strong) had been invited into the inner sanctum of British ballet. Hurrah for them all - it’s a (long overdue) recognition of the Boyz’ importance as dancemakers and The Talent’s, well, talent, that the Royal Ballet commissioned this bill of two new works (and one old) for the Deloitte Ignite Festival running at the Opera House all month.

The festival’s theme is myth, but if – after the Royal Ballet’s own earnest exploration of classical tales – you were hoping to see the Talent as Argonauts, or 10 lovely bare-chested Greek gods, think again. These three pieces of contemporary ballet take a very much looser approach to the mythical theme, evoking it – if at all – through a sort of timeless atmosphere rather than any direct narrative.

The Talent 2014 in rehearsal for The MurmuringAs the first pumps of an electronic bass heartbeat rang out, I had a momentary fear that Alexander Whitley’s piece, The Murmuring, would be one of those identikit electric-scored contemporary works about which one can remember precisely nothing afterwards. But not so, not so at all. Whitley deploys a fantastically memorable movement language, much of it based on visually striking lopsidedness (pictured right). The dancers frequently step on the outside edge of their feet, not the soles, causing their legs to buckle under them; they will move one arm or shoulder, while the other hangs as if a deadweight.

There is tremendous grace here, courtesy of the brilliantly trained dancers, who are capable of supple, soundless fluidity, especially in the faster-paced sections, which take on the combative, elegant flow of a judo bout with extra gymnastics. Men are flipped silkily head over heels, and a soloist – Simone Donati, in his first season as a company dancer – lights up the stage with a supple fusion of breakdance, martial arts and ballet. When I say the score – by digital music due Raime – was hypnotic, I mean it as a compliment, not as code for boring. At 28 minutes the running time does outlast the material’s intrinsic interest by some distance, but I still liked this exceedingly; if it were trimmed down to about 20 minutes, it would be an absolutely solid little gem for the repertory.

Kristen McNally’s MeTheus is the other new commission on show, and the title caused me to wonder if the Royal Ballet insider had drawn the short straw in being required to tie in to the Ignite festival’s dual focus on Leda and the swan, and Prometheus’s gift of fire. But the dark and figurative MeTheus doesn’t seem hampered by any storytelling requirements, and McNally must surely count herself blessed under any conditions to get to work with dancers like these, who are serious, thoughtful and dramatically astute, as well as physically superb.

BalletBoys The Talent 2014 in Kristen McNally's MeTheus

Christopher Wheeldon’s Mesmerics is an old BalletBoyz piece from 2003, now reworked from the original trio into a company piece for all 10 dancers. Intentionally hypnotic (so I assume from the title), it works with a Philip Glass score, again played live, that keeps repeating and building: not quite a theme and variations, but almost modular, with self-contained sections. Those with a lively ground bass in the cellos corresponded with a welcome increase of energy in the choreography, which featured the fabulously feline Andrea Carruciu prominently, and showed a series of interesting revolving lifts where two partners lifted each other alternately in seamless succession. Wheeldon’s choreography, which is very much classical ballet made contemporary, sits a little less easily on those of the dancers whose training was mostly contemporary, but the company still looks fabulous overall.

I can’t stress enough what a high-quality outfit the BalletBoyz are, and what a pleasure it is to watch The Talent 2014. If I have any criticism, it’s that it was not precisely ideal programming to have three pieces all in a very serious vein – by the end, one longs for a bit of snap or humour – but this is still contemporary ballet at the top of its game, and worth catching if you can.

The stage lights up with a supple fusion of breakdance, martial arts and ballet

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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