BalletBoyz, More than Just the Hot Boy Band of Dance

The British all-male ballet company dazzles Portland with inventive and graceful intensity. Thru Nov 12. Plus, 2-for-1 tickets!

By Matthew Schonfeld November 12, 2014

A shot from "Serpent" Photo: Dance Europe

Before we get into the beauty, let’s consider the name: “BalletBoyz” is misleading, if not tacky. It evokes two images for me: a fresh-faced, frosted-tipped boy band of the 90s or big-headed, beer-guzzling frat bros with a knack for dance. And of course, it’s neither one—not even close.

It’s the brainchild of two former principals for the Royal Ballet, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt. Their partnership began in 2000 and evolved through a series of made-for-TV documentaries—Ballet Boyz (2002) and Ballet Boyz II–The Next Step (2003). Presenting a diverse, all-male company of ten dancers, Nunn and Trevitt were quickly heralded as innovators. They were presenting modern, elaborate dance that appealed to both classically-versed ballet goers and curious outsiders. I identify with the latter.

Admittedly, I’m not an experienced dancer or ballet aficionado—I took a mere semester of Intro to Dance as an undergraduate—but I was intrigued, which makes me their target audience. I pictured ten toned men flaunting vibrant, explosive acrobatic routines. That expectation wasn't wrong; just, well, amatuer.  

Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall 
Nov 12 at 7:30 pm

White Bird is currently offering two-for-one tickets for tonight's performance. Use the promo code "thetalent".
Act one, “Serpent,” is fluid. There’s grace and force, with lifts and partnering that display balance and calculation. In a promo video, choreographer Liam Scarlett states: “With my other work, woman really drive the pieces, so with the absence of them, it was actually really nice to focus on the beauty of the male physique—the sensitivity, the physicality, the strength.” This sentiment resonates while watching Scarlett’s partnered routines. A traditional male and female duet is often powered by sexual/romantic tension, and while there is certainly dynamic energy between the dancers, Balletboyz is utterly nonsexual. It’s combative and athletic, the pas de deuxs taking the form of duels and unions. There’s a virile intensity that’s certainly present, but becomes swift elegance in seconds.

A shot from "Fallen" Photo: Dave Morgan

Act two is more aggressive, more blustery. It’s titled “Fallen” and choreographed by Russell Maliphant, a celebrated British contemporary choreographer who returns to Portland with his full company to perform Still Current in January. With a brawny drum-and-bass score, the routine comes off as fierce and animalistic. The men, shirtless in knee-length tights in the first act, wear instead tank-tops and green pants, appearing combat ready. The stage is smoky with dark green accents, depicting a jungle-like setting. The lighting is more deliberate, illuminating strong angles and shadows. It’s a ritualistic routine, with a central, circular formation rotating for much of the piece. It’s easy to lose sight of the raw prowess of these dancers in the midst of the boisterous performance, until a swift spin or grand leap reminds of their finesse and true facility.

BalletBoyz is thrilling for both the amatuer attendee and avid dance veteran. With a packed house at the Schnitz last night, whispers of awe at both the dancer’s sculpted physiques and forceful grace lined the aisles as we left the hall. It’s something much different than the traditional ballet, something rare and completely gripping. If only there was a way they could say that without adding the "z."

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