The 10-member, all-male BalletBoyz company comes to entertain this weekend with physical questions about what it means to be alive.
The company’s 80-minute performance, Life, is split into two halves, separately choreographed by Swedish artist Pontus Lidberg and Venezuelan Javier de Frutos. Edmonton marks the last stop on the North American leg of its current international tour.
Michael Nunn is one of two founding directors who started BalletBoyz in 2000 after he and his partner wrapped an illustrious 12-year-run at The Royal Ballet in London, England. Every 12 to 18 months, BalletBoyz takes another show on the international road, and with Life, Nunn asked his choreographers to take the one-word theme and run with it.
“The two choreographers treated it very differently,” he says. “The first piece, I think, is about childhood and about how we try and fit into society, and the second piece is about death and how that effects other people.”
Lidberg’s piece showcases the dancers in chic neckties, vests and suspenders, as well as surreal rabbit masks. The men dance around a tree swing, hanging from the sky. De Frutos’ choreography, meanwhile, dresses the dancers in exaggerated versions of their usual practice gear as they perform lifts and contort around a central ballet bar.
“They both chose to work with all the dancers, which is interesting,” Nunn says.
That decision shines, he says, because the dancers have worked together for years, creating an intimacy that pulls their expressiveness to the fore. He selects his dancers based on individual company fit, rather than solely on their technique.
“Our guys are all very different from each other with very different backgrounds and very different trainings,” Nunn says. “I think that makes them meld as a group, and it keeps the texture of the company more interesting, more diverse.”
That cohesion is crucial to success in a performance like Life, he says.
“Sometimes with dance, actually, we can say much more than with dialogue. It appeals to a deeper part of your brain… With dance, I think it’s more often about what’s not said than what is said,” he says.
One BalletBoyz dancer, Bradley Waller, studied at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London before he apprenticed his way into a full-time position dancing with the company. In school, he usually supported female dancers, but in Life, he says the give and take between each dancer is more balanced.
“When you see a pas de deux in a ballet company, the man is usually there to make the woman look pretty,” Waller says. “In the BalletBoyz, it’s completely shared. There’s no one person doing more of the lifting than the other.”
That nuanced equality opens up new avenues of expression for the dancers, and Nunn says it’s perfect when you’re tackling questions about the meaning of life.
“Everyone has a very specific idea about what it means to them,” he says. “I think that’s what’s good about dance, how it can sort of convey those very complex emotions without the use of words.”
Fri., Feb. 24 and Sat., Feb. 25
Northern Alberta Jubliee Auditorium 11455 87 Ave.