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BalletBoyz - The Talent: 2012 Tour

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Triple Bill: Torsion, Alpha, Void

Cambridge Arts Theatre

Saturday 21 January 2012


“What ain’t we got? We ain’t got dames!” I fear that the lament of the USN Seabees in “South Pacific” had come to mind by the end of Saturday night’s performance by BalletBoyz – the Talent. I accept that it was an unreasonable reaction, as I had known full well that I had gone to see a show featuring an all-male cast, the 8-strong troupe formed in 2010 by Michael Nunn and William Trevitt to provide a follow-on second generation to the highly successful Boyz themselves.


The thing was that, by the end, the predominantly downbeat and narrative-free aesthetic was getting to me, and the show seemed to be going nowhere. By the final number, set initially somewhere on a London bus route, I found my mind straying to Ken MacMillan’s “Judas Tree” set on an East End all-male construction site, where the introduction of a single woman character drives the entire action. So, for me, there was something missing, but that did not appear to be a feeling shared by a sell-out audience that cheered all three dances to the echo, albeit I’d hazard a guess that the much of the sound was both youthful and female in origin.


The Cambridge performances on Friday and Saturday were the first of the company’s 2012 UK and Europe tour, and the generic programme infers that the same three numbers will figure at each location. The company has been drawn from a variety of sources, some members having considerably more formal dance training than others, but what they all have in abundance is athletic ability and strength and these characteristics were very much on display in the first piece, Russell Maliphant’s “Torsion.” Originally a Nunn/Trevitt duet, this piece has been developed for six dancers who demonstrate some considerable skills in balance and partnering. I did not care for the white noise type of musical background, but applaud Michael Hulls’ lighting effects, particularly the complete blackouts achieved in the opening solo sequences. (See the Arts Desk Q&A feature with Hulls in last Saturday’s Links.)


A short video with material seemingly from the open audition held to find ‘The Talent’ through to recent rehearsal footage paved the way for Paul Roberts’ “Alpha.” I regret to say that the whining voice of the young guitarist used on the background tape did nothing to endear the choreography to me and, from what I could make out from his lyrics, he is not a happy man. A pity, for once again the dancers worked hard, occasionally launching one of their number well up into the air, but there was an essential sameness in tone to the Maliphant piece.


After the interval, the scene was set for Jarek Cemerek’s “Void” by another video sequence, very grainy and in black and white, following a group of youths, hoodies much in evidence, around an inner city landscape. The film stopped somewhere on a bus route and one dancer, hood up, emerged onto a smoky stage, to be followed by a group of colleagues. What followed was, I would say, the nearest to narrative style seen all night and once again with a nondescript musical background tape. A series of antagonistic encounters of the “You lookin’ at me?” type ensued until, eventually, the group appeared to attack the single chap. He fell to the floor and we then had a routine not unlike the extended death of Mercutio, but minus Prokofiev and with solitary snare-drum beats instead. The gang finally lost interest and dispersed, whereupon the victim rallied strength and recovered – but perhaps I saw it all wrong.


The young men in the company have talent, beyond question, and it was evident on Saturday that they have found an audience. Yet I wonder how long they will remain happy with a diet of work of the kind seen then? And the addition to their number of, say, a couple of girls could open up all manner of alternative choreographic possibilities. I wish them all well and hope that they continue to impress and succeed as they have already done in their first year. It’s just that I think I would enjoy seeing them more if some increased variety were on offer. Wasn’t George Balanchine, generally adamant that he did not create narrative ballets, once quoted as saying that just putting a man and woman together on a stage created a story? Worth considering, I’d say, and better to watch.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Talent's tour continues and I have seen rave reactions on Twitter. Out of our 390 or so Forum members, and Heaven knows how many lurkers, is there really nobody else out there who has seen the show? I'm sure many must have done - so, is there nobody at all who feels strongly enough about what they saw, good or bad, to add anything here, from a full review to a short comment?

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Thank you for the review Ian. Unfortunately I haven't yet had a chance to see the tour so can't comment. I enjoyed the Ballet Boyz documentary about how they founded the Talent, when it was shown over Christmas.


I am a big fan of the 2faced dance company which is older than the Talent and I feel the all male company and the choreography work exceedingly well for them. I posted a review of their current work, which I saw at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, on the old site. Well worth a visit and I would be interested to hear of comparisons with the Talent.

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Cathy: Good to hear from you, and I hasten to say that I have no deep-down dislike of an all male troupe and the energy that one can demonstrate, as The Talent most certainly did that night in Cambridge. It was the staging overall that I thought did them less than justice.


However, moving on to 2faced - let's remember that the Balletco review archive is still available via the Reviews button on the Dance Tabs homepage. The Advanced Search function is available here and, if you enter '2faced' in the Company box, you'll get what's there with, I think, your review at the third from the top:




Happy Memories!

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I saw the BalletBoyz on tour here in Bath and thought there were fantastic. I was mildly dubious how a whole evening of male-only dancing would pan out, but they pulled it off with aplomb showing that dancing can be masculine and cool. I wrote a review for it on my blog but I don't know what the forum rules are for posting links to blogs - is it okay to do?

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