Review: Balletboyz: The Talent – Arts Theatre, Cambridge

Real Mean Wear Tights – so proclaims the tour tshirts on sale in the foyer but, for the eight strong group of dancers in Balletboyz The Talent, tights are nowhere to be seen. Instead jeans, hoodies and silken breeches form the dress code in a production determined to shake up dance’s traditional image.

The Talent proves to be an apt title – a company of young dancers assembled after open auditions, not all classically trained but all displaying an abundance of dance skills that makes the impressive choreography seem deceptively easy. If the pedigree of dance on display here is anything to go by, the future of dance is in very strong feet.
The Talent itself comprises a trio of pieces, designed to demonstrate the strengths and agility of the company. It’s an evening that interweaves traditional ballet with modern and even elements of street dance and boxing in an impressive fusion from an on-fire company.

Kicking off the evening is Russell Maliphant’s Torsion – a study in balance, strength and powerplay. When Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, the original Balletboyz, broke away from the Royal Ballet to form their own company, Torsion soon became the duos’ signature piece. Now expanded from a duet into a larger company piece, it loses none of its energy. Duos segue into a synchronised sextet and solo sections highlight the skills of the dancers, including an impressive series of kneeling pirouettes from Miguel Esteves.

The centre piece of the programme is possibly the strongest piece of the evening. Paul Robert’s Alpha sees the entire company coming together to create a piece of incredible beauty and grace yet still showing real power and strength. A symphony of silk and muscle, there is a constant motion here as the dancers throw each other around the stage with breath-taking energy. There are real jaw dropping moments as a dancer is thrown high into the air before being caught and re-integrated into the company. Accompanied by an evocative score by singer-songwriter Keaton Henson, Alpha is the perfect showcase for this young company.

The final piece of the evening juxtaposes the beauty of Alpha with the gritty, monochrome reality of inner city street life. Janek Cemerek’s Void was created especially for the company and looks at gang culture and street crime as a group of hoodie clad dancer’s battle against a video backdrop of inner city life, accompanied by a pulsating score from Ondrej Dedecek, Yoav, Ismael De Garay. The piece, while full of frenetic energy, seems slightly repetitive and while you can admire the skill it is hard to maintain attention.

For dance fans, the three pieces will give much encouragement that the future of Balletboyz is assured with a highly skilled new generation. For those new to the genre, the excitement, accessibility and energy will thrill and shatter many preconceived ideas.

Some attention to the blocking of the pieces for the varying sightlines while touring would benefit as some scenes were lost from the sides of the stalls in Cambridge but, overall, this is a pulsating, thrilling evening of dance that frequently leaves one breathless in admiration of the skills on display.

Forget the artificiality of TV open audition shows – The Talent is the real deal, a synchronised showcase of the very best in male dancing. On this showing, the Balletboyz future is very strong indeed.

Review originally written for The Public Reviews

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