If you had to sum up the career of William Trevitt and Michael Nunn in a single word, audacity would do it. Ever since they dumped their safe, salaried jobs with the Royal Ballet, the duo have dared more and more. While it was fine and noble to want to take modern ballet to places such as Leicester and Aberdeen, it was hardly a new idea. It took their particular nerve to pull it off, lifting the mask to show audiences the gritty reality, the blood, sweat and blisters that go into putting new dance on stage. The risk was that exposure would kill the magic. In fact, it had the opposite effect. The self-deprecating video diaries threaded through the Ballet Boyz' live shows have made men want to be them, women want to marry them, mums want to mother them, and everyone love them to bits.
The title of their latest show is typically audacious. Ballet Boyz: The Greatest Hits – as if they were Take That! And to underline the boast they appear as a rock band for the final five minutes (Nunn on drums and lead vocals, Trevitt on guitar) to thrash through Take That's "Shine". But alongside such larks runs an unswerving seriousness. Russell Maliphant's Broken Fall is a sombre study of risk and trust that looks even more austere five years after the pair premiered the piece with Sylvie Guillem. Oxana Panchenko's lesser height may make the toppling falls less dramatic. But her model cool scores premium points as she's tossed horizontally, spinning like a log, or sits erect and regal, one buttock cupped in each of Nunn's hands, raised high above his head.
The cherry-red leggings in Christopher Wheeldon's Mesmerics bring a dash of colour to that lush experiment in fluidity. For this, the Boyz and Panchenko are joined by Malgorzata Dzierzon and the spectacularly lean and chiselled Edward Watson. The Boyz' dancing suffers by comparison – their edge has softened with age – but you still can't fault the physical awareness they exhibit, one for the other, that gives them the touching synchrony of conjoined twins.
For me, though, the evening only really took off when the music went live: Ezio Bosso grappling with his suspended cello as sexily as Watson grapples with Panchenko in Rafael Bona-chela's slinky EdOx, then a tango orchestra thrumming along to Craig Revel Horwood's light-hearted ballroom duet made for the Boyz last year. Comically, furiously competitive, full of macho kicks and flicks that degenerate into sly gut-punches, Yumba vs Nonino is, paradoxically, everything that this pair are not. A platonic male friendship that has thrived so long and yielded such riches is a thing to be applauded in itself.
Another steady dance pairing was on display in the one-off charity gala devised by the diminutive, Romanian-born Royal Ballet star Alina Cojocaru in aid of Hospices of Hope. Helped by her onstage-offstage partner, Johan Kobborg, she had not only persuaded other starry colleagues (some far-flung) to offer their services gratis to help the sick of eastern Europe, but had put together one of the most varied gala programmes I've seen.
Interspersed with lollipops – a scintillating Flames of Paris, with dashing variations by Berliner Marian Walter, an exquisite Coppelia from Roberta Marquez – were two stunning self-contained solos I'd not seen before. Tim Rushton's Afternoon of a Faun was danced with outrageous sensuousness by a bare-chested Kobborg, while a solo specially made for Cojocaru by Kim Brandstrup, Bird as Prophet, set to wistful Schumann piano music, caught the very essence of this ballerina's quail-boned delicacy, as well as her heart-stopping spirituality. Bird as prophet? This birdwoman aims for the sky.
'Ballet Boyz Greatest Hits' returns to tour this autumnReuse content