of the dance world: the Ballet Boyz.
Hear It for the Boyz
By Mae G. Banner
Piper Dances presents Ballet Boyz
Egg, Oct. 30
Michael Nunn and William Trevitt have found the formula to
make ballet exciting. Mix new choreography with steely technique,
swirl in charm and good humor, and spike with a dash of reality
Their dish, co-created in 2001, is called George Piper Dances
(a blend of their middle names), but they’re better known
as Ballet Boyz, the name Britain’s youth-oriented TV Channel
4 gave to the duo’s fast-paced diaries of their working lives.
These video clips of airports and hotel rooms, rehearsals
and goof-ups—which Nunn and Trevitt film and edit every day—have
made them hot as rock stars at home.
Trevitt and Nunn showed 8-minute clips, including views of
downtown Albany and rehearsal scenes, as disarming lead-ins
to their program of three contemporary ballets last Thursday
at the Egg.
This works surprisingly well. One minute, we’re watching choreographer
Christopher Wheeldon tweak the steps of his Mesmerics
(2003). Then, before we know it, the on-screen sound of Philip
Glass’ cello music and the glow of stage lights have segued
to the living stage, and we’re watching the actual dance.
a chamber ballet for five, is formal, symmetrical. Yet, it
pushes ballet’s precision to the outer edge in its use of
pretzel arms, deep bends from the waist, falls, rolls, coils
and tangled trios in which two men pass a woman back and forth,
lift her, catch her as she jumps unimaginably high, and turn
her under their arms.
All the dancers, including Hubert Essakow, Oxana Panchenko
and Monica Zamora, have impressive international ballet pedigrees.
In Mesmerics, they are hypnotic and daring. The men
do skeins of pirouettes for action, not for show. All five
stand together in extreme fifth position for stillness, not
The evening began with William Forsythe’s Steptext
(1984), originally made for Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet. Set
to sampled swatches of Bach’s Chaconne No. 4 in D minor,
the dance pits Zamora against the three men. She takes no
prisoners. Snaky, but risky, Steptext is a contest
of pushes and pulls, big stretches and grand jetés. Forsythe
quotes briefly from Balanchine’s Apollo, but thrusts
this dance into quite another supple, edgy world, where everyone’s
threatening to go off-balance, but is saved from falling by
a last-minute turn or jump.
Nunn and Trevitt topped off the program with Torsion
(2002), a duet in denim choreographed by Russell Maliphant
to an original sound score by Richard English. Based on the
touch and response of contact improvisation, Torsion
is human physics: leverage, stretch, spiral. Two bodies grapple
gently or swing in rhythm like a two-headed yo-yo. One crumples
in on himself and twists up again like a coiled spring. It’s
smooth and powerful.
Tired of dancing classical ballet’s fusty prince and porter
roles, Trevitt and Nunn fled the Royal four years ago, videocams
in hand, to find rockier,
more interesting pastures. George Piper Dances will likely
have a long life on stage, but, someday, when their dancing
slows down, these guys have a great career ahead of them as
Museum of Dance, Nov. 1
TapFusion, a young and eager New York City-based company finished
a week’s residency at Saratoga’s National Museum of Dance
with a sampler of five
dances, including a new work in progress. The residency was
arranged by former museum director Jacques Burgering, who
was a colleague of founder-choreographer Barry Blumenfeld
at American University in Washington, D.C.
Blumenfeld’s new dance (working title Vacancy No),
like his other works, combines briskly tapping feet with elongated
modern-dance bodies and fluid arms.
Moving to music of Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass, Blumenfeld
and three women—Jeanne Schickler, Jennifer Uzzi, and Courtney
Poulos—danced without touching, each in their own space, performing
long phrases of varied moves in different planes. One dancer
would do a sequence, then two others would repeat it.
A nice bit was Poulos’ cross-footed traveling step from stage
left to right, taps clicking all the way.
Blumenfeld, who is a sketch comedian as well as a dancer,
did excerpts from two solo works, The Road Less Traveled
and Still Life With Dancer. In the first, he whirled
like a leaf in a windstorm, turning while traveling, punctuating
his phrases with sudden starts and stops. In Still Life,
he tried ballet, disco and Latin dancing, but never quite
fit in. His jetés or hip sways kept turning into tap.
To the recorded sound of a cracking ruler, the dancer was
repeatedly smacked on the head or zapped with an electric
charge. He was cartoony, but endearing.
Uzzi danced a barefoot, percussive solo, the Third Blessing
from a longer work called Seven Blessings that was
inspired by a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony. She began
in a deep squat, rubbing the earth with her hands and shifting
her weight from thigh to thigh. She slapped her palms and
feet on the floor, then built to a full-body symphony of heels
(of hands and feet), toes, palms, and body-slaps. Her hands
slapping on the floor would propel her whole body around in
a spin. Fast spatters of feet led to jumps and turns and a
final bold stance, her arms lifted high to heaven.
All five dancers did the final, jazzy Subway Observations,
part tap, part mime, all comedy. Dressed in slightly odd street
clothes, they were New York characters who leaned way over
the (invisible) platform, watching for a train, or strap-hangers,
swaying and lurching to the clickety-clack of the wheels.
I could smell hot steel on steel.
Performed on a bare dance floor in the museum’s Swyer Studios
and with the lights on, the concert looked more like a dress
rehearsal than a formal show. Blumenfeld gave informal introductions
to each dance, making friendly contact with the audience.
He thanked Burgering for the gift of time to make new work,
away from the pressure of the city.