George Piper Dance/Ballet Boyz
23, 2003 -- Annenberg Center, Philadelphia
and Michael Nunn, a.k.a. the Ballet Boyz are traversing the globe like
wild animals, hunting down choreographers for new works and filming fresh
footage of dancemakers for an upcoming series on Britain's Channel 4 that
will follow up their breakaway "reality" show about The Royal
Ballet. They are also dancing their hearts out with three guests artists
-- Hubert Essakow, Oxana Panchenko and Monica Zamora -- comprising a fab-five
embarking on all points west in the US.
Kicking off the Annenberg Center's 21st Dance Celebration Series a week
before performing at the Joyce Theater in New York, the troupe's energy
carried a terrific evening of dance. The concert was interspersed with
film snippets of their up-close and personal travelogue that took us everywhere
from running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (ala Rocky)
to Trevitt slipping into a tub somewhere in Germany after a punishing
day of rehearsal with William Forsythe, whose work "Steptext"
was re-tooled on the troupe by the choreographer.
"Steptext" looked starker than ever with the house lights up
at Annenberg's sterile amphitheatre but was all together danced in brilliant
form. Scored to Johan Sebastian Bach's "Chaconne No. 4 in D minor
for violin," Forsythe devised a dance sketchbook which derails music
and dance into fragments which essay a dynamic tutorial.
And even with the jarring first half danced a little heavily, when the
company locked it into Forsythe's abstractions, it was a hypnotic and
challenging dialogue between ballet and modern dance, dancer body and
dancer mind- framing lyrically course moments mining the group's visceral
approach and committed artistry.
During the piece, the music is cut off unexpectedly and is played in sound
shards, which strand the dancer. Forsythe decomposes, which builds a bare
bulb expose from the practitioner's point of view. This seemingly unscripted
virtuosic dancing brought brilliant moments from each dancer, especially
Trevitt, whose central solo of dramatic tours en l' air, razor-sharp positions
and lyrical arm work is thrillingly articulate. Later, Panchenko, flies
in a furious trio, using her legs like sabers with Trevitt and Nunn, who
trade off positions and pace her to breathtaking hyperextensions.
BB's ex-colleague from the Royal Ballet Christopher Wheeldon made "Mesmerics"
for the them, and from its opening isometric movements by Hubert Essakov,
this hypnotic piece builds and is completely realized on these dancers.
Philip Glass' score (from the film "Mishima") is circuitous-
atypically serene for the composer -- and Wheeldon has the dancers oscillating
in dramatic upper torso patterns and sumptuous tableaux with duets prone
on the floor creating sensual bodyscapes and sculptural friezes. A simple
canon line is formed and Wheeldon has his dancers ebb and flow in soft
Not surprisingly, the disappointment was Russell Malliphant's "Torsion"
a ponderous exercise mixing disciplines set to a jarring techno-industrial
score "Firefly, Choice, Man and Finalefly" by Richard English.
Malliphant studied capoeira in South America and uses it as a springboard
off of the BB's classical background. The choreographer studied this dance
art, but even with dramatic moments, this is a dubious transfer on the
Boyz. The flesh is willing, but the dance spirit is adrift. Indeed, the
inverted movements are too underlined and the playful pugilism of this
style is lost in studied execution. There is no velocity in the throws
or any ease in the power moves.
Trevitt takes center stage with a pirouette run on his knees, difficult
enough, but still is a pale imitation to say the Georgian State dancers
who execute this with fearless velocity. Capoeria's signature kicks are
usually done with menacing speed or in slow motion. Trevitt and
Nunn are paced in the middle and the dynamic is erased. There seems
to be a build-up to a breakout segment, but that does occur.
There is an effective phrase that has them hold each other like a gun,
but the capoeira moves are performed as tableaux. Real practitioners
move faster, more daringly and hit those inverted friezes with a magician's
sleight of hand or body, in this case.
Edited by Holly Messitt
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