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Britain's "Ballet Boyz" are touring the U.S.


October 3 & 4 – Royce Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA

October 10-12 - Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fl

October 23-25 – Dance Affiliates, Philadelphia, PA

October 27 & 28 – Washington Performing Arts Society, Washington, D.C.

October 30 – Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Performing Arts Center, Albany, NY

October 31 – Pittsburgh Dance Council, Pittsburgh, PA

I saw them last week in DC and liked them very much (I have a review up on www.danceviewtimes.com )

Very gifted dancers, a contemporary ballet-modern dance program, and the works are solid, by major choreographers, that suit the dances. I had read so much about them -- how they're going to bring ballet to "normal people" (????) meaning those who never saw dance, etc., that at first I expected them to do ballets that were aggressively pop -- light, no substance works, etc. (I then read more and realized this wasn't so.)

There are films in between the dances that have been criticized by some for not being up to the standard of other people (like Van Manen, say) who've been doing dance-film work for years, but I don't think they're trying to do that. These films are home movies about dance, and touring -- breaks in between three works that, otherwise, would have made for an interesting evening, but a rather dark one, and not likely to interest people not already interested in dance.

The dances seen here were Forsythe's "Steptext," Christopher Wheeldon's "Mesmerics" and Russell Maliphant's "Torsion." "Steptext," like "In the Middle Somewhat Elevated" is a ballet about dancers working. I find this vein of Forsythe irritating -- I like to deconstruct things myself, and don't find watching someone else deconstruct it very interesting, and the "dancing is hard" "let's stop and trick the audience into clapping" shtick gets old, for me. But there was one solo for William Trevitt that was stunning (and beautifully danced).

"Torsion" was the most interesting for me -- a slow motion duet for two men (Michael Nunn and Trevitt, the Boyz; there are two women and one other man in the company). Much of it looked like contact improv (weight and balance; I put you on my shoulder, then bend over; now your feet are on the ground and I am on your shoulder; what happens if you kneel), but I found the movement absorbing.

The Wheeldon was the most traditional -- in a deliberately unconventional way (it's a post-Diamond Project ballet). Three men, two women, no one would dare form a relationship, it's just not done. But some lovely partnering work all the same. I liked this one too, and admired Wheeldon for not getting sucked in by the repetitiveness of the Philip Glass score (which so many choreographers do).

Did anyone else go in DC? Anyone see it in Philadelphia?

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Hi Alexandra,

I saw them in Royce Hall at UCLA, and loved them. Definitely a dance highlight of this year, if not of all my dance-seeing time. Their commitment and technical ability impressed me most, as well as their courage to put relatively challenging work on stage. I wrote more about it on Criticaldance:

George Piper Dances presents the Ballet Boyz - Royce Hall, Los Angeles

Hope it's OK to post a link there here.


(in light of Alexandra's clarification below ...)

In summary, I liked Forsythe's Steptext the most, with its contrasts (movement style, sound vs. silence, order vs. disorder) providing a lot of interest, though like Alexandra, I found its dance-rehearsal scenario a bit self-conscious. Wheeldon's Mesmerics was physically beautiful and very well-polished, building up the vocabulary piece by piece before putting it all together effectively for the finale. Torsion looked like one of those difficult things that don't make me envy the people doing them, but you know someone has to do them. My analogy was like watching the great pyramids being built --- you're awed by the effort and difficulty, and by the result, but you probably wouldn't want to do it. The show was also challenging, and engaging with GPD being wonderful exponents of whichever choreographer is lucky enough to have them represent their work.

I got to ask Christopher Wheeldon at the San Francisco Ballet performances in LA about future work he's doing with GPD (as well as trying to put in a good word about GPD), and he said that they're going to work on something new next year. Hooray! Here's to looking forward to their continued collaboration.


Edited by Andre Yew
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We have two reviews on DanceViewTimes, actually, and since mine is no longer on the front page, here's a link to it:

A New Wind from Britain

Jane Simpson had reviewed them for DVT from London:

The Ballet Boyz

Thanks for your amplification. Andre Yew. I'm glad they're trying for another Wheeldon work -- he's busy, but they're persistent :clapping:

Several critics have written that the pieces were too alike -- that's true, I think, but that's why the filmed interludes are so brilliant. They break up the program in the same way that putting a fluffy or pop ballet would -- but the films have a totally different feel. I don't think they're trying to scream "We're Cutting Edge! We're doing everything new!" -- that's been a criticism too. The interview I read that made me interested in them was that they said, Right, we're ballet dancers, we love ballet, there used to be great classical choreographers, there aren't now, we want to dance, we're doing work that interests us.

Fair enough.

Has anyone seen the group in NY?

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OK, OK!!! I saw it---

I loved Trevitt when he was dancing with Royal Ballet and love him now. I wasn't familiar with Michael Nunn or the others, but they were absolutely brilliant. Wonderful wonderful dancers--Monica Zamora was an evening in herself.

Right off, I don't like the way Forsythe uses music sometimes, Bach in this piece. I find it contrived, aurally distracting, not tio mention self-absorbed and irritating. However, I like his choreography very much, and was not disappointed. He is always interesting to me, I like watching his work and I liked the short movie clips of him rehearsing the dancers in Frankfurt. I am always more alert visually after seeing Forsythe: he makes me think, too.

Wheeldon did not disappoint (especially since he used something besides Ligeti for a score). He makes beautiful shapes, he uses bodies and tension and interplay of space and form in ways which I find visually stimulating. I thought this work at least as good as what I have seen him make on NYCB dancers, really. He is getting better and better.....

I think Torsion needed a significant amount of editing, or perhaps what the choreographer was trying to say could have been said in two sentences, rather than a chapter. Contact improvisation stuff is rather the Emperor's New Clothes of ballet/dance for me. Do it once or twice and let's get on to something else, already. We know these guys are strong and beautiful, I don't need to see them hoisted one more time, or imitating a Pushme-Pullyou.

The dancers were splendid--superb training, strong performances with lots of personality evident, and clean, clean, clean. I could have watched them in clsssical pieces for days (sigh), but am happy that they are here, working at something they love, and wish them all success.

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Thank you, Juliet!

How was the house? Here they only did one night, a week night on a university campus, and so it was not a full house. A happy house, but not a full one. And, if you could tell, did it seem like ballet fans, or the regular Joyce audience (which I gather is contemporary dance fans)?

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Deborah Jowitt reviews the Ballet Boyz in the Voice (thanks to Ari for finding this one):

Breaking the Next Wave

I found the review very interesting. She saw things in the choreography that no one else I've read has (including me :wink: )

And what she wrote about Wheeldon is particularly incisive, I think:

Wheeldon's Mesmerics, commissioned by the Joyce, is more nuanced than the other two pieces. As usual, the choreographer makes audiences aware of compositional strategies without drying out the ballet. Even having a solitary man copy the moves of the male half of a couple seems natural, possibly revealing, rather than simply clever. To capture the ongoing quality of various selections of Philip Glass's music, Wheeldon feeds the three men, Zamora, and Oxana Panchenko in and out, speeding or slowing the rate of change without stopping the flow. This time he avoids hand gestures that announce all too trickily, "This is modern ballet," and lets his inventiveness with the classical vocabulary say it all.
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