Balletboyz’s new work leaves choreography up to the dancers. A leap of faith perhaps – but it works
Words Kelly Apter
Bodies fly over metal bars, limbs stretch and torsos ripple – welcome to the BalletBoyz, an all-male dance company taking power and finesse to the next level. Whether they’re dressed in colourful tracksuits, smart shirts and jackets or simply bare-chested, the six dancers cut a dash with their technical polish and ability to convey both strength and vulnerability in a single movement.
And although they say too many cooks spoil the broth, in the case of the BalletBoyz the reverse proved true. The ‘broth’ in question is Them, one half of the company’s Fringe double-bill, and a work created entirely by the dancers themselves. What prompted this bold, virtually unheard-of move?
“The dancers were really interested in the idea,” explains co-artistic director, William Trevitt, “and we’d seen how creative they are when they’re working with a really collaborative choreographer. We always felt confident telling choreographers that they could rely on the dancers, because they have so many ideas and are eager to contribute. So we just thought let’s take that a step further and see what happens.”
The leap of faith paid off, and Them met with rave reviews and rapturous applause when it premiered earlier this year. Set around a large, cuboid metal frame, the work moves from balletic grace one minute to seemingly effortless acrobatics the next, never allowing the pace to drop.
“When they were creating Them, the dancers were all willing to listen to each other and were very open to each other’s ideas,” says Trevitt. “So what we ended up with, was a really broad palette of movement. Then gradually, that was drawn together so that it was closer to being one voice.”
It comes as no surprise that Trevitt and co-artistic director, Michael Nunn have fostered such a spirit of teamwork in their dancers – the duo have been operating that way from the start. Having met at the Royal Ballet School as teenagers, the two men danced together for 12 years in the Royal Ballet before seeking new challenges in Japan, then returning to the UK to start their own contemporary dance company.
Since 2009, however, when they both hung up their dancing shoes, Trevitt and Nunn have been cherry-picking the finest male dance talent they can find. And those early connections have also proved handy when it comes to commissioning, with Christopher Wheeldon, who danced at the Royal Ballet with Trevitt and Nunn in the early 1990s, providing the second half of Them/Us.
A stunning work of tight unison and athletic partnering, Us started life as a much smaller piece. “Chris created Us as a short duet for our last show,” explains Trevitt. “And we really liked it, but felt like he had dropped the audience in the middle of a story. We wanted to know how the dancers got to that point, what led up to it? So that’s what we asked him to create – and he did something really interesting with it, developing it into a work for six dancers.”
WHERE & WHEN
Them/Us Underbelly, Bristo Square, 31 Jul-15 Aug, 1pm. From £11.50 underbellyedinburgh.co.uk