BalletBoyz: Them / Us (4 stars)

BalletBoyz: Them / Us

credit: George Piper

A connected double bill celebrating both pack and individual

The first piece, Them, in this double bill from London-based BalletBoyz was devised by the company in collaboration with composer Charlotte Harding, while the second is an expansion of a previously performed duet, Us, by Christopher Wheeldon. This contrast in creation methods adds an extra dimension to a programme that explores the fluctuation between individual and group: people as part of a pack, gang, cogs in a machine; and going solo or coupling up.

Them is a hugely enjoyable piece, showcasing the fluid, poetic and athletic style of the BalletBoyz. Dressed in Katherine Watt's jewel-coloured tracksuits they sometimes look regal and classical, sometimes menacing and street-tough. For much of the piece the dancers use a hollow metal cube frame, leaping circus-style through the spaces, rotating weightlessly on the poles.

In one electrifying moment they hoist the limp body of a dancer as he dangles precariously over one of the poles. It's a lovely shape-shifting set that could stand in for an industrial wasteland upon which a gang makes its own performance space, but also forms a symbolic barrier between inside and outside – this comes into focus during a beautiful duet where one dancer within the cube and one outside mirror and echo each other.

But there isn't much focus beyond these loose ideas, and in the second half, Wheeldon's much tighter Us, shows the anchoring force an individual choreographer can bring to a piece.

Us begins with the same pack, this time clad in starker, bleaker colours. Watt's cemetery-grey costumes haunt under Andrew Ellis's low melancholy lighting. Again the clothes play tricks on us, jumping between worlds, looking sometimes like prisoner-of-war shirts, then like elegant gentlemen's tails as the group flutter and spin.

The connection between the men is palpable – a flicker can run like a current through them all, or they can pull each other into a tangling chain. As their dark grey shirts are replaced by white, one individual breaks off into a solo, his great crow arms spreading – a protective embrace, or something more menacing?

The final duet by two bare-chested dancers, lit to catch the warmth of their skin, connected by a puzzle of arms, shows them at their most vulnerable, and also their most powerful.

Reviewed at Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Sat 23 Feb.

BalletBoyz: Them / Us

Double bill of new works by BalletBoyz. Them is the choreographic debut of the company dancers and set to music by Charlotte Harding, while Us by Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon is set to a score by Keaton Henson.

Festival Theatre Edinburgh

Sun 8 Mar 2020

Prices to be confirmed / 0131 529 6000

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