The Talent, ten male dancers selected by the BalletBoyz Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt, is maturing into a top contemporary ballet company. This is perhaps most evident in their selection of repertoire for the current season: two brand new works by world-renowned choreographers. One feels the diversity of The Talent (backgrounds range from San Francisco Ballet to no formal dance training) is being embraced by the company and the pieces created, with dancers working to their strengths and propelling each other to greater heights.
Serpent, by the Royal Ballet’s Liam Scarlett, is a fascinating piece with surprising depth. Following an introductory film (snippets of Scarlett pointing out that the all-male cast is new territory for him) the dancers appear lying on the floor against a plainly lit background. A single arm rises in the background, sensing its surroundings, progressively joined by others.
As the piece develops, Scarlett uses the concept of fluidity to create a piece that never truly stops, yet doesn’t overwhelm with its momentum. Two duets and solos seem central to the piece, playing on different characteristics of masculinity.
The first duet exhibits the strength and power of the dancers through a sequence of smooth lifts which become almost tender, yet never stray into femininity. Some movements are familiar from Scarlett’s works for the Royal Ballet, but it was revelatory to see them in an all-male context, altering both meaning and execution.
The second duet concentrates on attack and speed, showing us an unfamiliar side to Scarlett. With small movement tics that seem to echo Wayne McGregor (perhaps it’s Max Richter‘s stunning score that makes such comparisons inevitable), Scarlett also manages to include his now trademark variant on 5th position arms. As the music swells, the couple are joined by four more dancers, but Scarlett shows his choreographic maturity with a well-timed moment of stillness to avoid overwhelming the audience.
The solos had more narrative substance than the duets; the performers constantly resisting the group conciousness, pulling away from a seething mass of bodies at the rear of the stage. Scarlett is unafraid to take advantage of arresting snapshots, but again, refrains from overuse. In sum, I thought that Serpent is a superb debut from Scarlett for the company, and hopefully the start of a blossoming partnership.
Russell Maliphant has choreographed multiple pieces for the BalletBoyz and returned to create Fallen. With no set (the bare rear wall of the theatre clear for all to see), the lights rise to a moving structure of eight dancers in the centre of the stage. As four men peel off, the remaining foundation of dancers undulates but remains strong. When the structure finally breaks we are treated to a stunning solo by Leon Poulton, balletic in roots and enhanced by towering shadows on the rear wall.
The pulsing drum beat of Armand Amar’s cinematic score pushes the piece along, and there is a pleasant parallel with Serpent as the same movement is echoed – dancers supporting each other by placing their heads on each other’s shoulders. This theme of mutual support ran throughout the whole evening and could be a byproduct of such a close-knit company.
The piece culminates with a sequence of supported, pivoting lifts reminiscent of Maliphant’s Torsion. After repeating the sequence of moves, perhaps once too many, the crescendo suddenly drops before climaxing with a high-octane sequence where dancers throw themselves at each other with half reckless, half calculated abandon. A fitting end to an intriguing piece offering much stimulation, but somehow still reluctant to indulge its deeper meaning.
Watching The Talent mature, it is natural to ask what lies in the future for the company. Obviously it would be great to see them expand from its compact size (currently only 10 dancers) and explore new territory. I would also be thrilled to see them take on pure narrative dance, perhaps some male-driven ancient mythology tale. It is unclear how they would approach such a challenge but, judging from this evening, there is no doubt they’d tackle it with great aplomb and maturity.
The Talent will be performing Serpent/Torsion on tour around the UK, including dates at Sadler’s Wells (8-13 March 2013). For booking and further information, visit the BalletBoyz’s website.
About Dave Wilson:
Having never danced before in his life, David took his first ballet class at age 23 on a whim. He quickly became addicted and has since been blogging regularly about his journey. Alongside many classes, he recently started performing with a local ballet group and takes any opportunity to watch ballet.