Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Boys Doing Ballet

While I am aristocratic enough to regard anything that spells a plural with the letter Z as hopelessly gauche and slightly concerned about the amount of dance that emphasises the masculine (yes, it gets me hits on the blog and the audience just love seeing the boys stand on their heads, but...), Balletboyz: The Talent 2013 is something I cannot ignore. It's the perfect combination: the high art polish of ballet, which my mother and sister still insist is the most perfect performance art and a gang of lads strutting their stuff.

Frankly, if every company had a name this evocative, critics could retire from previewing and stick to abusive reviews. 

Luckily, The Telegraph did provide me with a bit more of the critical detail. 

‘The company challenged every dance stereotype going. Their work was hip and sexy and, above all, it was accessible. Now we have Balletboyz II, the Talent, in which Nunn and Trevitt pass the performance baton to a new generation... it is a clever ploy, a good way of shaking up the company image, and certainly the dancers who comprise 'the Talent’ have a fearless, crunching physicality’

Apart from the ugliness of "every dance stereotype going," The Telegraph has a point. I am checking out the company biographies, and I think they are informative.

Taylor Benjamin has worked with 2Faced Dance. I am assuming he was part of the company when they wowed the Fringe by dancing with their tops off and showed that dynamic moves could be integrated in a contemporary choreographic framework. Think tough swagger, and sudden pounces.

Andrea Carrucciu  has danced for Ballet Jeune de Geneve (Switzerland), and for acclaimed artist Penny Arcade at the Arcola Tent in London. Swiss Ballet and anarchic live artist: I have an image of a very technical dancer who suddenly takes off his clothes and shouts at the audience. He won't, but that is an intriguing pedigree.

Flavien Esmieu trained at the National Conservatoire in Lyon before joining the Jeune Ballet de Lyon. Adam Kirkham trained at Arts Ed,and performed as a soloist for the Peter Schaufuss Ballet in Denmark. Okay, that's straight up ballet action from these two.

Jordan Olpherts completed a foundation course at Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds and graduated from Rambert School this year. He has performed in Resolution! at The Place and has worked with Liam Steel at Opera Holland Park. Edward Pearce trained at Elmhurst and then at Rambert School and also performed alongside Rambert in A Linha Curva by Itzik Galili. 

That's the contemporary angle covered. This line up hits plenty of tick boxes.

Leon Poulton performed for Will Tuckett as part of the summer programme at ROH2 after graduating from Laban. He has also worked with Brazilian choreographer Jean Abreu.  And Abreu is another one who likes the manly man dancer. Contemporary and tough, I guess.

Matthew Rees has no formal training; he was introduced to dance at Brockhill Park School and prior to being accepted into BalletBoyz worked with numerous youth dance groups in Kent. Had he not been selected to join the company, Matt had completed his first stage application to join The Royal Marines. This is his fourth season with BalletBoyz.

That one is my favourite. And I am not making any smart comments about someone who could have been in The Marines.

Matthew Sandiford graduated from Laban this year. He has performed with Charlie Dixon Dance Company and at The Place as part of Resolution! In August 2012 he was a featured dancer in the London 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony. 

So - a diverse bunch. They are doing works by Liam Scarlett,  and Russell Maliphant, the multi-award-winning choreographer and an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells. I am hoping that neither work will explore the nature of masculinity, because that theme is really worked out in dance. Equally, male dancers don't represent men in any meaningful way:  they are fit, beautiful and dynamic, often elegant and frequently capable of doing things I'd dream about achieving. The only thing they really share with most men is a set of organs and the habitual advantages given to them by the patriarchy. 

Having said that, I do think this will be a spectacle - not so much hip (seriously, if The Telegraph thinks something is hip, it's safe to assume it isn't) but polished and precise, with sudden bursts of ferocious energy. It might be sexy, too:  I am not the one to judge this....

Mon 18 February 2013, 7.30pm

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