Dance: BalletBoyz – Life (4 stars)

All-male company delivers compelling double-bill

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Review: BalletBoyz: Life

Thoroughly extraordinary, compelling and downright entertaining, Javier de Frutos' latest piece for the BalletBoyz explodes into life with a daring lie. Which is as you might expect with something called Fiction from the most badass, bad boy of all of ballet's bad boys.

De Frutos' audacity in centring his Fiction around the (thankfully premature) news of his death is another level altogether. His obituary – commissioned from dance critic Ismene Brown – provides the soundtrack to which the Boyz react with a literalism of athletic moves around a moveable barre. It is read by a tag-team of luvvies: Jim Carter, Derek Jacobi and Imelda Staunton, variously sonorous and incredulous in tone.

This is gloriously arch dance – clever and frivolous, even as it asks dark questions about life, death and, let’s face it, resurrection. Grey-clad in casual rehearsal sweats, the dancers flutter back and forth into the meaning of the words as the actors practice different inflections and meanings. Building into, irony of ironies, Donna Summer singing Last Dance, during which it can develop something a lot more concrete and anthemic in tone.

The evening's double bill opens rather more serenely, however. Up first is Pontus Lidberg's Rabbit, a darkly brooding piece which draws its energies and tone from Gorecki's Little Requiem for a Polka. At times frantic and energetic, with the dancers stuck in a repetitive stabbing, half-running movement – nine of the ten wearing rabbit masks – it moves into much more elegiac periods of calm reflection.

A swing suspended towards the rear of the otherwise empty, moonlight-bathed stage, provides focus. Around it, the dancers use their athleticism to create sinuous, slowed-down, almost slow-mo, movements to lingering, cello-heavy passages, as Lidberg seems to reflect on themes of alienation and rejection. The core, a duet between rabbit and non-rabbit headed dancers. All told, a suitably grounded preface to de Frutos' audacious rebirth.

BalletBoyz: Life

  • Written by: Javier de Frutos

The company of all-male dancers present two new works inspired by life and death, by choreographers Pontus Lidberg and Javier de Frutos.

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