Venue: York Theatre Royal
The Balletboyz are one of a kind. They change the rules of dance and have been doing so for a little over ten years. Their latest offering ‘The Talent’ pushes the boundaries of contemporary dance and choreographers Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant have created a masterful show.
The first half consisted of Liam Scarlett’s piece ‘Serpent’, an athletic and duet heavy programme which showed off the technical side to contemporary dance. Scarlett emphasised technical display and the duet work was characterised by complex, intricate lifts. Despite a focus on fluidity, there were times when the duets were awkward and stilted; the transitions into lifts weren’t always smooth.
Scarlett set his piece to a rousing score by Max Richter which allowed the dance to flow and highlighted the rare elements of unison. The lack of unison was an issue in Scarlett’s choreography and it was only accentuated further by the awkwardness in the duets. But Scarlett is a promising up and coming choreographer and his creation for Balletboyz showed off his experimental side, his inexperience at working with a large company was clear but ‘Serpent’ was still enjoyable and at times, awe inspiring.
The second offering from the Ballet Boyz was Russell Maliphant’s ‘Fallen’ which was set to a machinery inspired score by Armand Amar. Maliphant’s choreography had a distinctly industrial feel, and where Scarlett’s piece lacked a sense of togetherness, ‘Fallen’ used a wonderful blend of canon, unison and jaw dropping lifts. Maliphant used the entire width and breadth of the stage, leaving the wings bare of curtains. Bereft of hardly any staging, the dancers were able to connect intimately with the audience.
What was most striking about both Scarlett and Maliphant’s pieces was that there was no principle dancer- each member of the company was given equal weight and importance and this was not by any stretch a hinderance. The entire group moved as a cohesive and homogenous entity, feeding off one another’s energy, something which was particularly apparent in ‘Fallen’.
Maliphant pushed boundaries with the nature of his partner work, the lifts were breathtaking and there was an element of risk about his choreography. ‘Serpent’ focused on the technical side of partner work, on transitions and symmetry, but ‘Fallen’ was about raw power and strength.
Every male dancer was lifted, regardless of height and weight differences- consequently the gender binary so inherent in ballet was brought crashing down before our very eyes. The sheer strength of the dancers was highlighted with this athletic programme, but there was a constant sense of purpose about the dancers, every move was perfectly weighted to give the dance fluidity.
To put it simply, Russell Maliphant has created a breathtaking piece of dance showcasing all the best elements of the Balletboyz.