Flawless, Royal Festival Hall, London
Bling on the dancers, but add an old hand
Sunday 02 January 2011
The parade of bling, for a start, is impressive, an eyewatering turnover of sequinned suits, jewelled trainers, and snazzy city tailoring cut so tight that you fear for the seams at every jab of an elbow, let alone backflip.
The laddish, cocky, impeccably stylish way the 10 members of Flawless inhabit their clothes isn't just part of the act, it's the best part.
When not one but two streetdance crews made it to the final of television's Britain's Got Talent in 2009, it may have seemed as if an underground movement had suddenly surfaced, blinking, into the daylight. In truth, it was a case of armchair catch-up. This exacting dance discipline had been gathering a head of steam, and a rack of distinctive sub-styles, among Britain's clubs and fitness centres for a decade at least, and it had already colonised the stage, at Sadler's Wells's annual Breakin' Convention and in a couple of West End imports.
But you can't blame the boys of Flawless (runners-up, in the event, on television) for wanting to play up to the breakthrough myth. Chase the Dream is, after all, their first full-length stage show after packing in the day jobs, and it's set to visit no fewer than 28 British theatres over the next three months. That's an awful lot of young people to influence with the motivational message: "Chase the dream, not the competition!", though as it turned out this was delivered to a Royal Festival Hall dominated by parents with small children, and gaggles of middle-aged women whose dream-chasing, on this evidence, involves ultra-fit young men semi-clothed. At one point, the chunkiest of these pops off his shirt no-handed, by flexing isolated muscles on his chest and pecs.
Compiled and choreographed by Flawless themselves, the show is a wonky mix of super-slick routine and faint goofiness, most appealing when an individual briefly breaks ranks to perform a relaxed, free-form party turn, highlighting some special skill – a rippling of the torso along the floor, or a cheerful ability to make a baseball cap roll like a wheel along one arm, then catch it, mid-somersault.
Judged purely on their dance ensembles, Flawless are smart as paint. It's the attempt at narrative drama that starts to look like a committee job, and a feeble one at that. A sequence set in a city park meanders hopelessly, and the second half's elaborate conceit of space travel turns out to be a crude cue for a series of homages to Michael Jackson, Gene Kelly and X-Men. I've no gripe with Michael Jackson impersonations per se, but I long to see a fresh take on the moonwalk, rendering it less of a playground stunt.
There are inventive moves lurking among the clap-along dross in this show, but the context doesn't do them justice. If Flawless want to be seen as a serious dance company rather than variety hoofers, they need to make friends with a good stage director, fast.
Tour resumes at The Lowry, Salford (0870 787 5780), 4 Feb
Juggernaut gasp-machine Cirque du Soleil has a new show, Totem. As usual, Jenny Gilbert cannot resist
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