I’ve seen BalletBoyz’ latest production of Life twice now and I’ve been following the company for a year. About a year ago I did a workshop with two of the guys from the company and we learnt repertoire from both Life and Young Men (which I believe is available on iPlayer after being shown on BBC a couple of times over the Christmas period) and it was hands down one of the best workshops I’ve ever done. We did a typical company class lead by both of them and then a lot of contact/partner work followed by group tasks and working in an ensemble. It was really nice to get so much information and different ways of working in one session. I think the main thing they got across was tackling a notion of partner work being a female/male duet or looking most effective in that set up where there’s one tiny petite figure and the other a tall, muscular stature because their whole company is full grown men lifting and throwing each other around and making it look absolutely effortless and seamless.
I then did another workshop in the summer at an intensive and it was with two different members of the company again so I got even more of an insight to build on what I’d gotten previously. We did some similar things to the first one but learnt different repertoire and a lot more floorwork which they make look so easy when it’s actually bordering on impossible for some of us.
Anyway. Life. It premiered in April 2016 at Sadlers Wells, London. I saw it for the first time in May at Arts Depot in London, and a second time in October at Curve in Leicester. The show is split into two sections; it consists of two contrasting pieces by two choreographers – Pontus Lidberg and Javier de Frutos – who were just given the word ‘life’ as a concept to begin.
In the first piece the dancers wore massive rabbit heads, similar to the rats in The Nutcracker, which looked like absolute hell to dance in, this was later confirmed in the post show discussion. You wouldn’t know this when watching the production though as the dancers make it look so effortless. At Curve I was sat a lot closer to the stage than I was at Arts Depot and was slightly startled by how creepy and unsettling the rabbits looked from that distance; from further away they just kind of conjured up an image in your mind. If you’re wondering, ‘why rabbits?’ this is a question the dancers are frequently asked, and none of them know the answer as the choreographer never really gave them an explanation! I found it interesting that the costumes from dancer to dancer was very slightly different and each had little details which enabled you to tell them apart. They performed in socks as well which was brought up in disgust the next day by my technique teacher; but I liked the controversy of it. It meant their movements appeared even more mesmerising and smooth as they glided through the space.
The second piece is very different to the choreographed steps and classical music of the first; for starters it has a completely opposite approach with a focus on death rather than life itself. The dancers move to speech as well as music, and there is a ballet barre running through the centre of the stage which the dancers swing around and jump over and under, which is actually terrifying to watch at times as it lifts of the floor from the sheer weight from the dancers and stress they’re putting onto it with their adventurous choreography. There’s a distinct difference in choreographic approach between the two choreographers which is evident as an audience member, the second piece appears much more experimental and improvised material that came directly from the dancers set through a variety of tasks, rather than set steps handed to the company.
Both pieces allowed different interpretations to come from the audience and question what they thought life was about and what could be explored. I’ve tried to come to a conclusion to which piece I liked best but they’re so different I can’t really properly compare but it was refreshing to see such contrast in the same show, and bet it was nice for the dancers to have the chance to perform two different things too and work in different ways.
If you get the chance, I 100% recommend you go and see the show or any of their work, or go to a workshop because you will have your mind opened and learn something new, I promise.
Tour dates and more information can be found here.
Much Love x