BalletBoyz: The Talent 2013, Palace Theatre, Watford


BalletBoyz William Trevitt and Michael Nunn have always been ambitious. This latest double bill shows off ten strong and charismatic male dancers in new works by big name choreographers Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant. It’s a confident evening of muscle and grace.

Trevitt and Nunn built BalletBoyz on their own dance talents. They’ve now moved the company on to a new generation, relaunching it as a larger, all-male troupe. Their training is varied, from gymnastics and ballet to one dancer, Matthew Rees, who has had no formal training at all. Together, they’ve make a team with fluid movement and plenty of swagger.

Liam Scarlett, currently ballet’s next big thing, stresses the fluidity. Serpent opens with the men lying on their sides. They reach up with one hand, bare arms curling and winding in snaky lines. Scarlett gives them sinuous moves, but makes use of their weight and strength in partnering, including overhead lifts. One dancer will take another by the waist, then twist until he’s lying across his partner’s thigh. They are literally balanced partners.

Scarlett’s balletic lines look good on these dancers, though he sometimes slips into body beautiful poses, heightened by the costumes: tights and bare chests. Serpent could do with stronger music. Max Richter’s soundtrack acts as melancholy wallpaper; it has less energy and pace than Scarlett’s twisting steps.

From the beginning, Russell Maliphant has been at the heart of the BalletBoyz repertory. His new work Fallen responds to the scale of the new company with driving attack. Armand Amar’s score has a driving rhythm; even when it slows down, the energy keeps pumping.

Maliphant starts with an elaborate group pose: a circle of five dancers, with another five perched on their shoulders. The upper five dive down into the centre, then flow out between their colleagues, like the widening ripples of a stone dropped in water.

Fallen switches between solos, duets and group dances. As the men face each other, ducking and diving, it recalls the Brazilian martial art capoeira: it’s not aggressive, but they mark each other. Sometimes one will jump onto another’s braced thigh and leap away again. It’s a fluent swoop with a sense of spring and recoil.

Maliphant also brings out a looser, rougher movement quality in these dancers, giving them extra force and bite. It’s a powerful end to a strong programme.

Tour continues until 23 March;