There are many things that drag life down into the mire, like Amber Rudd, anal fissures and free-market capitalism. Luckily, along with most dogs, all cats and Brolga the kangaroo man, Balletboyz are around to uplift the spirits with artistry and imagination. Fourteen Days, which premiered in October, is a mixed bill that originated in the form of a challenge to four different dancemakers. Working with newly commissioned scores, choreographers Javier De Frutos, Ivan Perez, Craig Revel Horwood and Christopher Wheeldon were given just two weeks to come up with pieces on the theme of balance. Completing the bill is Russell Maliphant’s masterly Fallen, originally created for the company in 2013. There’s no choice but to sit there faintly slack-jawed at the cleverness of its construction; the linear and loping physical language, the hydraulic elegance with which adult men escape gravity’s pull via each other’s braced shoulders and thighs.
De Frutos’ The Title is in the Text responds to the theme with an impish irony: plonked in the centre of a bare stage is a giant seesaw. The company, clad in pale grey jumpsuits, make the forces of physics gleefully and gracefully incarnate. One dancer effortlessly finds the fulcrum with a deep plie; others unfold limbs through arabesques and attitudes or fall nonchalantly into the arms of their fellows. Brief moments of equilibrium are always unsettled, poses and clinches interrupted by the latest pretender – touches approaching tenderness give way to belligerent confrontations and configurations.
Scott Walker’s patchwork score heightens the unease – amid electronic rumblings, sopranos screech a “GTFO” refrain, a smarmy patrician voice alludes to financial collapse and a rapper repeats a phrase about being sacked. This is a world – visually and sonically – in which the ground is always shifting, where individuals scramble to gain traction amid the tumult. But there’s mischievous mirth in the final moments, as two dancers sit on the seesaw, playground- style, swinging their legs with schoolboy merriment.
Set to Joby Talbot’s colourful, canter-inducing score, Ivan Perez’s Human Animal has a distinctly dressage feel. One man, in a patterned shirt and pants, prances onto the stage and circles it, pawing the ground with a limber leg. He’s joined by a similarly attired ensemble – they look like they’ve been caught short by a minor emergency in the changing rooms at Burton Menswear while trying on outfits for a stag do. Despite this, they respond to Talbot’s rhythms in dextrous unison, their expressions oddly grave as the pace picks up.
Us, by Christopher Wheeldon, is a pas de deux that explores the possibilities of male partnering and its potential for lifts and balances, marrying muscular physicality to moving emotional delicacy. There’s a sentimental insistence to the strings in Keaton Henson’s score that misses the nuance of Wheeldon’s subtly-shaded visual conversation: grazing, faltering touches, the brief clasps of the neck that speak of tender intimacy, intimations of aggression and reconciliation.
Last of the bunch is The Indicator Line by Craig Revel Horwood, who’s widely known as Strictly’s snarkiest judge. An anticipatory cymbal beat sets the tone for a bit of Broadway razzle-dazzle, but instead of sequins and high-kicks we get a chorus line of oppressed clog dancers, battling it out in the arena of industry with a tyrannical overlord in a fox-hunting jacket. Soon enough, the balance of power shifts with the toff’s dispatch, and the clogging is embellished with daring slides and skids. The broadest piece in the bill, it’s nevertheless performed with slick brio as a percussive paean to unionised labour. Or at least, that’s what I took from it. Craig might be snide sometimes, but he certainly isn’t a scab.
Fourteen Days was performed at Sadler’s Wells from 26 – 28 April 2018. Click here for more details.