The final week of April brought thought-provokingly contrasted dance performances to Oxford. On Tuesday 23rd at the New Theatre the BalletBoyz performed their latest programme Them/Us, shortly to be opening for their first West End season at the Vaudeville Theatre. This two-part programme involves all six male dancers in both pieces. Opening the evening Them was a collaborative choreographic venture by the dancers drawing on elements of their own individual movement, sharing them in a succession of often playful episodes and exchanges. Set in a twilight zone, a gleaming stainless steel tubular cube framework and sleek satin shell suits brought enlivening geometric dashes of light and colour, red, blue, green and purple. The cube defined shifting spaces which the dancers could manipulate, inhabit, swing from and climb up. Movement combined sharp crisp gesture with a lyrical contemporary idiom, integrating tumbling and floorwork in response to Charlotte Harding’s lively but dark toned score; suggestions of character and relationship were glimpsed and a feeling of camaraderie and group identity emerged, even if overall the episodic structure of the piece did not build a sense of narrative or situational development. The performers conveyed lithe fluidity and a smooth assurance, distinct from the rawness of previous BalletBoyz ensembles; no longer projecting a company narrative of emerging talent and inexperienced diamonds in the rough, but a polished professional group. (more…)

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BalletBoyz’ programme of two short works at the New Theatre on Tuesday showcased the hugely energetic talent of this all-male dance company. Them, a collaborative work between the dancers and composer Charlotte Harding, gave the cast an opportunity to display their considerable technical skills. Harding has worked with BalletBoyz before (she paired with choreographer Craig Revel Horwood for The Indicator Line), and this was an adventurous and exciting work built around the possibilities offered by a giant cuboid scaffold, which the dancers turned and manipulated about the stage. A prop, a piece of scenery, a climbing frame, or simply a space to dance in; it was all these things, and also a source of metaphorical and literal suspense as the dancers’ movement controlled, (or was controlled by) it. At one point, a dancer lay across its lower bar, and was lifted up, suspended like a rag doll; later, he gripped it with one hand and rose suspended in the air above the stage as the structure slowly turned over. (more…)

THE internationally lauded dance troupe BalletBoyz return to the New Theatre Oxford this Spring with Them/Us, an innovative double bill and a brand new collaboration from the company’s own critically acclaimed dancers and the Olivier Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.  BalletBoyz are known worldwide for their ground-breaking live performances, films and TV appearances. The new productions are both set to original scores by world-class composers and asks where we see ourselves in relation to the “other”.

Marking a first for BalletBoyz, Them is the work of the company’s very own in-house talent, and set to a score by emerging composer Charlotte Harding. Us is inspired by the critically acclaimed Christopher Wheeldon duet featured in the company’s last show, Fourteen Days. With an extended score by cult singer/songwriter, Keaton Henson, Christopher Wheeldon develops this new work which explores the possibilities of before, during and after.

Christopher Wheeldon, choreographer for Us, said: “I’m relishing the opportunity to work with BalletBoyz again to create a new work that expands on my previous work with the company, Us. It’s a pleasure to be working with Keaton Henson once again after his music for Us inspired me to investigate a new style of movement.”

The current BalletBoyz Company includes: Sean Flanagan, Benjamin Knapper, Harry Price, Liam Riddick, Matthew Sandiford and Bradley Waller.

Performance:  Tuesday 23rd April 7.30pm

Venue:  New Theatre, George Street, Oxford OX1 2AG

Tickets:  £13.00 – £35.00 plus £3.65 transaction fee

Book online here or in person from the Box Office, or call 0844 871 3020

Running time:  1 hour 20 mins (more…)

This is ‘not a conventional autobiography’ but it is a fascinating and inspiring account of 75 years of work in dance and theatre. Immensely humorous, Wright seems to have known almost everybody in the ballet world, and he conjures up vivid images of dips in the freezing January sea with Henry Danton at Eastbourne in the 1940s, Princess Margaret backstage at the Birmingham Hippodrome holding her breath to avoid the whiff from the gents’ loo, or of Michael Somes who could be ‘very difficult’, ‘particularly at full moon’.

For those of us outside the professional ballet world, the book sometimes ‘joins the dots’, and fills the gaps that other, more discreet, accounts have left in obscurity. I imagine that Wright’s colleagues and acquaintances will have looked for their names in the index with some trepidation, for he is almost as frank about the living as he is about the dead. (more…)

The Language of the Soul by photographer Rick Guest features images from his 2014 Exhibition at The Hospital Club Gallery, as well as many more in the series.  Working in collaboration with stylist Olivia Pomp, and featuring such luminary dancers as Edward Watson, Tamara Rojo, Marianela Nuñez, Steven McRae, Sarah Lamb, Sergei Polunin, Zenaida Yanowsky, Nehemiah Kish and Melissa Hamilton, it also includes portraits of Wayne McGregor, Kevin O’Hare, Liam Scarlett and Christopher Wheeldon.  With a foreword by Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, this book is in a limited first run of 1000 copies, exquisitely printed by PUSH Print, and is in a large format, 300mm x 370mm.

Rick Guest writes:

“Ballet as an art form has always been a collaborative medium, whereby composers, orchestras, choreographers, dancers, artists and impresarios have come together to create something new, something greater than the individual elements. With this in mind, I have deliberately turned away from using photography to document dance as it’s staged for the audience, as important as that is. Instead, I have concentrated on the bringing together of three separate disciplines, that of photography, fashion and dance, in an attempt to create something new and singular.
Away from the constraints of stage, role and costume, the dancers are able to demonstrate their breathtaking capabilities in an uninhibited atmosphere, one that ultimately leads to a purer portrait of the dancers themselves. These images aim to illustrate the key tenets of balletic technique; balance, strength and poise. They are lit and photographed to enhance each dancers’ power and beauty, both physical and emotional, and the images are infused with a fashion edge that is at the same time evocative and playful.”

The Language of the Soul is available from the 15th December 2015 from rg-books.com

Further work can be viewed at rg-dance.com

Grandstand seats surrounded by the Coliseum’s ornate ivory, gold and purple, a rare London visit by one of Europe’s major ballet companies showing a new production set to one of the 20th century’s most ravishing ballet scores played live by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia – what’s not to like? High expectations for a summer treat.

This being well known fairy tale Cinderella, although I bought a programme I did not read the proffered synopsis before viewing. I also did not have access to a cast sheet until afterwards. A salutary test for any narrative work; what was the story made visible through the dancing and stage action? (more…)

It is a great privilege to see one of the great ballets of the 21st century so early in its history. I did not witness the original production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, nor of The Rite of Spring; but I have seen the very first production of Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale and that is a truly special thing.

To explain why this particular ballet is so special is very difficult. It was danced beautifully of course, to a standard of excellence which we have come to expect from the Royal Ballet, and the costuming and scenery were meticulous, as they so often are. And yet, I have struggled immensely to write this review. In desperate times I draw on my old friend, cliché: words cannot begin to describe the exquisite nature of this ballet; it has to be seen to be believed! (more…)