Dundee Rep Theatre, Dundee, Scotland, November 9, 2017
Details and the slightest intricacies are key to this showcase of Balletboyz’ incredible work, displaying their versatility. A hand placed just so, a smile that is hard to read, bodies entwined, in conflict and pushed apart. With an audacious, challenging remit of creating brand new works for the company in just a fortnight, four choreographers bring pieces of delicacy and precision in collaboration with four composers. Balance and power structures is the theme threading through the evening, topped off by a critically acclaimed half hour long piece from 2013 by Russell Maliphant, called “Fallen” (the most balletic in the purest sense) full of bombast, acrobatic language and circularity.
Masculinity is an uncertain game in the opener by Javier de Frutos. “The Title is in the Text” is a typically playful, yet choreographically opaque piece by Frutos, where the ensemble precariously balance on a large metal see-saw, fight, swap places and disrupt each others’ movements by attempting to topple ‘the weakest.’
Dressed in white boiler suits, there is seemingly even a spiritual subtext gnawing away underneath, in a tableaux reminiscent of The Last Supper, wherein the men fight to attain leadership. Bradley Waller emerges as the victor, knocking over the rest of the group like skittles, but there is a sense that the dancers are softer in hold, more open and vulnerable than their impish roles might initially suggest. Scott Walker’s powerful score is capricious and operatic, with a sense of battles lost and still ongoing.
Canter, canter little show ponies! “Human Animals” by Iván Pérez is a glorious indictment of—or possibly homage to—the performer’s need to be seen. Equally, it appears to be a wry comment on the beauty of dancers. Clad in garish seventies style shirts and barelegged, six of the ensemble exhaustively trot round and round to Joby Talbot’s majestic soundtrack, scraping heels on the ground, and changing foot poses at the subtle flourishes of the strings. Their routine becomes as maddening to watch as it must be to dance. It is as though these ‘animals’ are tiring of being beautiful, preening, and dancing on cue to the crack of a whip. They become emboldened, start to rear up, throw heads back, and the smallest dancer, Marc Galvez, takes centre stage in a narcissistic solo, which acknowledges the influence of Nijinsky’s leaps and swoops. He gazes back at the audience. A beast which cannot be tamed, nor put out to pasture.
Only Craig Revel Horwood’s “The Indicator Line” fails, within the context of the others. It’s too exposition-heavy, spelling out the narrative in the way of a West End musical, and lit like an 80’s pop video by Paul Anderson. Charlotte Harding’s score is sassy and brassy. More nuance would be welcome, but as with the stompy clog dancing, which is an exercise in showboating seemingly for its own sake, it is a rather unsubtle, raucous anthem to overthrowing the boss and getting physical with the lads from the factory floor. By no means bad, but a little ill-fitting.
If Revel Horwood’s macho display is a disappointment, so Christopher Wheeldon’s sublime “Us” is arguably the most successful. It is perfectly constructed and fluid. To a gorgeous lyrical classical score by Keaton Henson, Bradley Waller and Jordan Robson tangle like a human pretzel, linking limbs, lacing hands together and always sharing symmetry. They appear a more fraternal pairing than romantic partners. The tenderness, the care, the precision always ensures that they land in the same place: two halves of a whole, the yin and the yang.