Directors: Michael Nunn and William Trevitt
Choreographers: Pontus Lidberg and Javier de Frutos
Music: Ben Foskett and Henryk Mikolaj Górecki
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Life, the new double bill from the all-male dance company Balletboyz combines the absurd with the macabre to stunning effect.
Dance always relies on co-operation and partnership between the performers to achieve the full potential of the artform. Rabbit, choreographed by Pontus Lidberg, goes even deeper exploring the extent to which the desire to fit in can provoke pathological efforts to achieve participation and involvement.
Pontus Lidberg’s choreography is extreme; the dancers, although athletic even acrobatic, remain firmly rooted to the ground twisting and turning in corkscrew manoeuvres. On the massive Lyric stage, a sole dancer twists and turns perhaps trying to attract the attention of the only other occupant who sits on a swing wearing a, well, full-size realistic rabbit mask. The overwhelming desire for companionship prompts the dancers to mimic each other’s movements. The perils of trying to belong to a group are not ignored as further masked dancers join in generating a uniformity of style and compulsion for conformity.
There is even a sense of being forced to mature against your will. Górecki’s musical score throughout is discrete – gentle piano and chiming bells until there is a full-on blast of energy as the dancers perform like Madcap March Hares before shedding their masks and leaving their childlike pleasures behind.
When choreographer Javier de Frutos wanted to explore the themes of mourning and remembrance he thought it only fair to commemorate his own passing and commissioned the critic Ismene Brown to write a fictional obituary, which is read aloud as Fiction progresses. It lends an air of black comedy to an already dark piece as the obituary is constantly being revised and does not always reflect well on the choreographer.
The concept lends itself to a degree of self-indulgence; even self-congratulation. As the obituary recounts the achievements of de Frutos the company performs excerpts from his ‘greatest hits’.
Javier de Frutos’s style is a form of controlled anarchy. The dancers seem to be constantly on the verge of falling over or are pushing and shoving each other yet somehow always hit the right mark. This fits well with the two pieces that form the bulk of Fiction. One of the dancers is devastated by the death of de Frutos and staggers around the stage being constantly supported by his companions until his grief becomes so complete the mood changes to a threat of gang violence. In a second piece a clumsy member of the troupe is bullied until other members, not without aggression, help him to raise his standards. There are moments of stunning beauty – the cast dressed in white tee-shirts tumble across the stage one after the other looking just like a crashing wave.
The latest production from Balletboyz is dark, complex, funny and completely engaging- just like Life really.
Reviewed on 28 March 2017 | Image: Tristram Kenton