As the curtain rises and faces stare with anticipation, for the last time until you exit stage, you feel your heart beat through your chest. Countless hours have gone into training, learning, creating, perfecting, and bonding with others on stage. I am, of course, referring to how I felt back when I used to dance. If that’s how I felt whendancing as a hobby, I can only imagine how it must’ve felt for the six men I saw on stage last Wednesday night.
Created by the dancers of the company BalletBoyz, the pressure for Them/Us was definitely on as the reigns had been handed over from the founders Michael Nunn and William Trevitt. The show was split into two parts: “Them” and “Us”. The first act “Them” was choregraphed solely by the dancers of the company and was done so simultaneously with the score composition, by Charlotte Harding. You can see clearly from the choreography that it was created by the people performing it. The motifs amplify the incredible strength and fluidity of the performer’s movement ability, and flow beautifully together like a well-oiled machine that created itself.
The movement was fabulously controlled and never reached a fever pitch (I’d describe it as “dialled up to nine”). There were no great leaps, falls or lifts. Instead, the majority of the half hour run time was filled with large, bold movements that stretched the performers bodies, or close contact work that made it seem as though the dancers shared one mind. While I could not see any incredible innovation or presentation of flare, the show excels in presenting performers in complete harmony. The choreography was made by all members in a continuous collaborative way, the final product is a demonstration of their collaborative power.
Though she was not on stage, Charlotte Harding’s presence was certainly felt. The composition, just like the choreography, felt natural and weaved into the performance effortlessly. Her minimal use of instruments helped achieve the seamless combination of sight and sound. With few string instruments and the simplest percussion, her composition managed to match the unbroken energy of the dancers. In a very Imperialesque moment, the sound of Harding’s composition caused me to imagine the dancer’s fibres of skeletal muscle as the strings of the cello I was hearing.
Now I’ve managed to go this long without mentioning the elephant in the room, or more accurately, the giant cuboid frame on the stage. This was my favourite part of the show as it led to some incredibly interesting use of levels and space. As a frame it allowed the performers to move in and out, treating the space differently in relation to one another and even going as far as to impact the demeanour of individual performers. Alternatively, as a transparent cuboid it produced a kind of negative space in the stage where you could see through, but it felt as though you shouldn’t have been able to. I do think it could’ve been used more extensively and in different creative ways, but I must remind myself that it’s a ballet not a circus. The frame also led to my favourite moment in the entire show, hands down. As Harding’s score crescendos and the dancers begin to take form, a sudden change in lighting leads to a stunning silhouette. I couldn’t help but let out a small “wow” under my breath.
If it weren’t for spoilers, I’d go on for another page about all the moments I loved in that first half.
The second half “Us” was originally a duet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon for BalletBoyz. The company asked Wheeldon to come back and provide the story to what happened before the duet. It is a fantastic piece of choreography, ending with the phenomenal duet which is one of the most sensitive and compelling I have seen for a while. I will say no more about the second half because I don’t want to spoil all aspects of the show and also because I feel way more out of my comfort zone talking about Wheeldon’s choreography.
Them/Us is certainly not going to become an infamous, long-lasting ballet. However, it is an utter joy to watch such talented people create something purely from themselves and their friendship. I only wish that I could ever be part of such a show and join them(/us).