BalletBoyz Deluxe at Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage
Edgy, moody and stylish, Maxine Doyle’s exceptional Bradley 418 – the first act of Sadler’s Wells filmed production of BalletBoyz Deluxe – is on first impression like an intriguing jazzy dance version of West Side Story, with a film noir vibe that morphs further into David Lynch-esque turmoil and eccentricity. The all-male troupe are smoothly in sync in white mechanics’ uniforms, then gyrate and undulate in black 60s-style suits, at times cool and sexy or aggressive, possessed and demented, with bruised faces – then frantic, like bedevilled entities in a horror movie. Exploring multiple aspects of personality from a male perspective, the piece is about the world of men. A very macho posturing alternates with tenderness, then increasing homoeroticism – in a tug of war with resistance to it – progressing to surrender. The work is part modern ballet, part quasi-50s jazz dance – the performers resembling highly strung dream-world Gene Kellys – or theatrical, seeming to mimic the dynamic choreography of the rival gangs in West Side Story. At varying points the movement is organic, emotional, instinctive and idiosyncratic. Verbalisations are included in parts, enhancing the show’s surreal quality.
Lighting is dark, with soft chiaroscuro illumination effects – and the superb sleek, powerful, driving jazz music by Cassie Kinoshi is an evocative accompaniment to a moving, compelling and brilliant performance by these highly talented dancers.
Short films featuring choreographers Doyle and Xie Xin precede each of the two acts in Deluxe. Xie Xin, the creator of the next ballet, the stunning Ripple, describes her difficulty working with an all-male troupe, as her artistic instincts are geared to a masculine/feminine duality and she had to adjust, finally compromising. Regardless, the piece is remarkable and as gentle, flowing and ethereal as could possibly be accomplished by this excellent ensemble – emulating the quality of water and emotion, while also incorporating Chinese ballet genres. About energy born of memories, rippling like a river within the realm of feeling, this sensual, sometimes eerie work evolves symbiotically via entranced dancers who at some moments appear to sleepwalk while they ebb and flow to exotic multi-instrumental music (Jiang Shaofeng) that sounds like water drops and other organic tones.
It would be wonderful to see this exquisite production, BalletBoyz Deluxe, live, but until then it is available for a few days online and very much worth a watch, or several.
Photos: George Piper