Balletboyz 'Greatest Hits', Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
The boys are back and looking to the future
Thursday 06 November 2008
You expect a greatest hits programme to look back. For these London dates, Balletboyz William Trevitt and Michael Nunn found both a touch of nostalgia and a nod to the future. Ballerina Viviana Durante, appearing as a guest star, was a reminder of the Boyz' past in classical ballet. Laws of Motion, danced and choreographed by teenagers, hints at new directions for Trevitt and Nunn, as much as for their protégés.
Durante, Trevitt and Nunn have a shared history. They're from the same Royal Ballet generation, trained at the same school, dancing with the company through the 1990s, then moving on. Durante was by far the biggest star, promoted and profiled alongside Darcey Bussell. She made national headlines in a row over partnering, eased her way out of the Royal Ballet, and has barely been seen in Britain since.
In the new millennium, she's spent much of her career in her native Italy and especially in Japan. Like the Boyz, she spent time there with the hugely popular K Ballet. Earlier this year, she made a brief dancing appearance in Tony Harrison's play Fram at the National Theatre.
At this performance, she dances a duet with William Trevitt. William Tuckett's On Before is a short, soft piece that shows them off without putting too many demands on their classical technique. Both dancers look good, but this didn't tell me much about Durante as a dancer now. In her floaty chiffon and soft slippers, she's still charismatic, but Tuckett's wistful choreography is neither a challenge nor a star vehicle.
As she curves her arm around, Trevitt mirrors her gesture, the back of his hand never quite touching hers. They lean against each other, weight gently shifting until she is lifted up into the air. The choreography isn't classical, but you can't miss their ballet training, their smooth lines. As Durante is carried high, she holds her shoulders calmly open, head high on her long neck.
The John Adams music mixes atmospheric hums and an unexpected slice of voiceover, samples of an American evangelist talking about faith healing. It's so incongruous that it's a surprise when Durante's repeated shrug catches the voice's speech rhythms.
At the other end of the scale, the 15-year-old Kai Downham created Laws of Motion earlier this year. Trevitt and Nunn saw Downham and his three colleagues, all from Folkestone, at a National Youth Dance event. Speaking on one of the Boyz' trademark video links, these young dancers explain that they got into dance through school lessons: here's an education success story. With their tattoos, piercings and gelled hair, this young group have a boy band appeal. To judge by the audience screams, they already have a fan base.
Laws of Motion is most notable for its relaxed, confident movement. Downham's swung arms and crouches recall Hofesh Shechter's loping choreography, but uses a more upright stance. Shoulders swing, hands are shaken delicately at chest height. Downham can combine big and little movements: those hands don't look finicky. The use of stage space is interesting, with dancers grouped at angles, right at the edges of the stage. It starts as a trio, with a fourth man quietly slipping in from the wings.
This may be where the Balletboyz go next. They've always been their own leading dancers; in recent years, they've spoken frankly about the shortness of the dancer's career. Promoting dance, particularly to boys, has been at the heart of their company. It's heartening, but not surprising, to find them focusing on the next generation.
Downham's choreography also shows the Boyz's influence. This Greatest Hits evening brings together favourite works, including Russell Maliphant's Broken Fall, originally created with Sylvie Guillem in the woman's role. Across several choreographers, several styles, there's the same use of weight. These dancers lean against each other, use each other for balance and support. It's there again in Laws of Motion: a distinctive style for men dancing together.
Touring to 10 February (www.gpdances.com)
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