The Talent, the offspring of the BalletBoyz, are back for their fourth season, proving that the idea that “real men wear tights” is very far from running out of steam. On their first night in Richmond Theatre, Billy Trevitt, one of the original BalletBoyz, walked up and down the auditorium with absolutely no-one noticing him – perhaps testament to the fact that it’s all about the next generation now.
Long-time BalletBoyz collaborator Russell Maliphant has created one of the two pieces for this tour. The boisterous, drum-heavy score by Armand Amar, together with Michael Hulls’ eerie, green-tinted lights and the dancers’ casual outfits (reminiscent of those in Torsion, which Maliphant made for the BalletBoyz and reworked for The Talent’s debut tour), make Fallen look like a dangerous impromptu gathering. This feeling is compounded in the somewhat overlong opening section, which saw the ten dancers huddled in two circles.
The central pillar of Fallen at first seems the opposite of what its name suggests. In pairs or threes, they jump and land on each other with incredible lightness and ease. But their upward-reaching arms suggested a yearning for something.
The lifts are not easy but the dancers pull them off with aplomb. But with the frantic drums soundtrack, the fact that they were mostly executed one at the time and in quick succession – whether due to space/safety issues or not – made them feel too stunt-like. And, as impressive as they are, that sense of artistry is sadly lost.
Much better was the evening’s first work, Serpent, created by the Royal Ballet’s artist-in-residence and choreographic wunderkind, Liam Scarlett. Having received much praise for his refreshing take on classical ballet, here Scarlett shows his considerable talent with a piece that is far from his previous work.
In the video clip that preceded the performance, as is BalletBoyz tradition, Scarlett said he wanted a “sense of fluidity, constantly moving quality”. This idea, and that of a serpent, were manifested in an opening scene that saw the dancers lying down with one arm reaching up, peculiarly half-snake, half-green shoot. Big, waving arms and slow rippling bodies were scattered throughout the choreography. But Scarlett hasn’t fallen into the trap of being too literal, and the only time there was an obvious idea of a “serpent” was a brief glimpse of the dancers lined up and connected like a spine.
Clad in only flesh-coloured leggings to enhance the animalistic feeling (which provoked much giggling from certain audience members), the dancers’ sustained lifts and falls slowly built in urgency.
Scarlett gave significant weight to the duets, which marked a big departure from the male-female pas de deux he is used to creating. It was refreshing to see an equal partnership, the lifts and falls equally split between the dancers – although there is also an underlying aggression. Matthew Rees (who, incidentally, has had no formal vocational training) and Taylor Benjamin were a particular highlight, with beautiful control and their different frames complementing each other.
That said, at roughly half an hour in length, Serpent wavered a little at times and had a little too much partner work, giving the impression of a duet forcibly expanded into an ensemble piece.
Most importantly, the dancers have a beautiful rawness to them – a not quite straight knee here, an imperfectly timed move there. But it all adds to the charm of their individual personalities – they are no classical corps de ballet and the boys clearly respond to Max Richter’s hauntingly beautiful score differently.
The Talent fill a much-needed gap between classical ballet that may not appeal to boys and “hip” companies such as that of Hofesh Shechter. And now they have their own headquarters and rehearsal space for the first time in the BalletBoyz’s history, surely the best is still yet to come.