Review: BalletBoyz, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
The Balletboyz were back in town with their muscle-rippling moves receiving warm appreciation from a packed Everyman audience.
Young ladies whooped with approval as the one-night show opened with the talented, tautly-torsoed troupe of 10 young men scantily-clad in nude tights alone.
And their athletic and graceful performance also won wows from some of the rest of the crowd which spanned the ages and generations, voicing how the company has fulfilled its aim of popularising dance across the social spectrum.
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But it was a slightly mixed reaction with some not raving about the show as much as after previous performances. Founded by ex-Royal Ballet stars Michael Nunn and William Trevitt to give ballet a 'friendlier face', a decade on BalletBoyz now features its own fresh faces, picked, Billy Elliot-style, for raw (and in many cases tattooed) talent over training; one member of the cast indeed had had no formal dance lessons and was on his way to joining the Royal Marines before landing a part.
Through sell-out live shows, TV performances and an extensive education programme the company has made the point that ballet's not just for skinny girls in pointe shoes and tutus but a real man's game requiring the strength and discipline of the greatest athletes.
Their The Talent 2013 show comprises two pieces only premiered last month. In Liam Scarlett's Serpent, set to hauntingly beautiful music and against a heavenly blue backdrop, pairs and groups create beautiful, fluid shapes, entwining their bodies and extending effortless arabesques before coming down to earth with more muscular moves and mock fighting, creating a unique balance of other-worldly grace and manly strength.
But despite the impressively high legs the piece at times felt a bit bogged down by repetitiveness. Russell Maliphant's Fallen, set to strong drum-rhythms interspersed with metallic sounds suggesting an industrial and at times military theme, reflected in less revealing work-wear-type costume, is more macho and features pacy sections and impressive lifts.
But, with what may be cultural weakness on my part, it left me craving some kind of storyline to give meaning to its beautifully unfolding shapes and muscular moves and its dramatic lighting effects. Talent 2013 has certainly got bags of it and wowed much of its Cheltenham audience. For some of us, however, the Boyz's Serpent and Fallen fell slightly short of giving the buzz we'd anticipated.