Ever since the company was founded by Michel Nunn and William Trevitt, BalletBoyz has never shied away from toying with convention, no more so as the eight strong troupe make their West End debut at the Vaudeville Theatre with their enchantingly captivating double bill, Them/Us.
The production has already completed a tour and a run at Sadler’s Wells, who co-produced Them/Us, and it’s a testament to the piece that it’s now enjoying a stint in the West End.
The first piece, Them, has been choreographed by the dancers themselves alongside rehearsal director, Charlotte Pook, and the artistic directors. In the short film that serves as a prelude, the dancers describe it as a bolognese or a pizza, signifying the different ingredients that have come together to form the final dish.
Dressed in brightly coloured tracksuits there’s a natural and acrobatic style to the piece. The dancers form chains of bodies which pull each other in various directions, against the bare backdrop of an unset stage. There’s a real sense that the Them comes out of improvisation, the dancers free-styling their own unique interpretations of the score.
The acrobatic elements come in the form of a large cube, which allows the dancers to create a stage within a stage before dragging and moving it across the space, it’s a bit like taking a cyr wheel to the next level. The original composition from Charlotte Harding has tones of Jazz and eighties funk, it comes in fragmented pieces with space and depth between each new element.
The second piece is from renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, it was originally a short duet from a previous show, which has now been expanded out for Them/Us. You can clearly find the dividing line between the old and the new, the beginning of Us, which features all the dancers, has a regimented feel, the dancers in a kind of futuristic authoritarian outfit. It’s tight and in sync, the dancers working together but displaying moments of individuality as they try to escape the hive.
The second half sees us return to just two dancers, it’s a love story, or perhaps a close friendship and it really is beautifully done. Keaton Henson’s original composition for Us is reminiscent of soldiers galloping in to battle, a classical score with an edge of daring modernity. It is this second piece which really grips the audience.
Them/Us could be summed up in a similar way to Heaton’s score. It’s classical ballet but with an audacious contemporary streak, the simplicity and splendour of it washes over you, and has you wishing these two short pieces could last just a little bit longer.