The most successful theatre gives the audience images that stay with them long after the curtain falls. The latest offering from the Balletboyz, a two-part dance show called “Life”, gives us three.
The first is of two men on an empty stage, one standing, the other sitting on a swing, a rabbit mask secured on his head, all whilst the chime of death bells can be heard in the distance. This is where “Rabbit”, choreographed by Pontus Lidberg, begins. The two figures notice each other, tentatively moving closer, mimicking one another’s movements, before finally making contact.
The opening two-man dance is an absolute joy to watch, the figures supporting each other effortlessly as they weave in and out of each other’s bodies, simple melodies by piano and strings playing delicately in the background. The dancing is well choreographed, proving a testament to the pure skill required in ballet as an art form.
As the piece continues, more dancers join the fray, some with masks, some without. The piece at first grows upbeat, the finely detailed animal heads and cheery orchestration conjuring up images of “Peter Rabbit” or “Wind in the Willows”. However, underneath the major key of the strings is a threatening quality and as the music itself grows louder and violent, so too does the dancing.
It is a disturbing affair, and becomes somewhat tired towards the end, but is nonetheless still effective. However, the most pervasive image from “Rabbit” is that of the beginning, which is shown to us again before the interval: the two dancers and a swing proves to be at once simple, powerful, beautiful, and sinister.
At the beginning of the second performance, “Fiction”, things become more complex. We open with several figures leaning on a ballet barre, dancing on and around it to a fictional obituary of Javier de Frutos, choreographer of said piece. In stark contrast to the simple and powerful presentation of the first show, the second seems at once both comedic and also inaccessible. Just as the audience is on its way to grasping the meaning behind Javier’s vision, he pulls it in an entirely different direction.
Flitting in and out of these two narrative strands, the piece is evidently more complicated than the previous one and would be much more appreciated by an avid fan of ballet than your average theatre-goer. While aesthetically pleasing, the majority of “Fiction” gets lost amidst the dual stories and overabundance of theatrical features. In contrast, the final image of the show simply features one man dancing freely and unpretentiously to the 1978 classic “Last Dance” by Donna Summer, while a heavenly orange light shines down on him. It is this image which becomes the production’s most powerful.
In “Life”, the Balletboyz do not try to answer any unanswerable questions or provide meaning in an unfathomable world, but rather attempt to offer a glimpse of life, as beautiful, complex, and flawed as it always is. Whilst becoming tired and convoluted at points, the two pieces still succeed in all they set out to do, proving to be truly powerful performances of dance in the process.
Guest Reviewer: William Byam Shaw
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