Life – BalletBoyz: Sadler’s Wells, London, 20 April 2016

Hare we go again

It's a bunny old life. BalletBoyz brace themselves for Pontus Lidberg's Rabbit. Photo by Hugo Glendinning

It’s a bunny old life. BalletBoyz brace themselves for Pontus Lidberg’s Rabbit. Photo by Hugo Glendinning

It’s a short show but the BalletBoyz Life is proof positive that length isn’t everything – this double bill of new work suited them down to the ground. Furthermore, the first piece, Pontus Lidberg’s Rabbit, may well be the first to explore man’s relationship with our Leporidae friends, that prodigious bringer of life, the rabbit.

Lurking mysteriously in Harvey and Donnie Darko movie territory, it opens with a chap languidly soloing while another fellow with a beautiful bunny head and a cute little bunny tail sits on a swing with his back to us. After a while they dance together and then eight other bunny-headed men roll in and start marching around and pinging about. Thus the work’s tone was set and a series of intricate solos and ensemble sections followed to no obvious conclusion against the aural backing of Górecki’s undeniably peculiar Kleines Requiem für eine Polka.

And I have to say, I really enjoyed it. Rabbit was odd but also funny and moving and it employed some really interesting choreography. The solos were a bit bland (a bit too much follow-the-hand going on) but the regimented leaps and floor-thumping of the group experience offered an exciting contrast. It was also confidently performed and constantly engaging.

For the other piece on the night’s bill, Javier de Frutos decided it would be instructive to announce his own death via three narrators reading his obituary out loud (Sir Derek Jacobi, Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter no less). As they did so the ten BalletBoyz squeezed a movement out of every syllable uttered while standing at barre.

This was literally choreography as language – every time a narrator made a mistake and repeated a line, the dancers repeated their ratatat ripples as well, growing increasingly frustrated with every failed utterance. The simultaneously self-deprecating/self-aggrandising obituary (including the unforgettable line about an early report from the Arts Council declaring his work to be the biggest load of crap they’d ever seen) was twice interrupted by sections wordlessly examining endless bullying at school and then, more inspiringly, watching the bullied victim find his voice and social acceptance through his choreography.

These two sections featured an outstanding performance from Marc Galvez. He was intense, athletic and totally focussed on the job at hand, the lynchpin of a tremendously complex work that’s full of invention and humour.

There was a lot of dazzling movement on display – the dancers’ arms reaching up one by one from the floor to the barre, for example, or their kaleidoscopic mirroring as they shunted themselves en masse from side to side – and it was executed superbly. Oh, and it was called Fiction, which would probably explain de Frutos’ appearance, alive and well, in the bar afterwards. Phew, I’d half-expected a coffin to be wheeled on at the curtain call.

Life runs at Sadler’s Wells until 24 April 2016. Tickets can be found on the Sadler’s Wells website.

Gerard Davis

This entry was posted in BalletBoyz, Javier De Frutos, Pontus Lidberg, Sadler's Wells and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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