Snappy title, admittedly, and borne out of a belief that choreographers work best when up against a time constraint, this evening by the BalletBoyz with four premieres, emerges as a curate’s egg. It is also a wildly unbalanced evening, with Russell Maliphant’s weighty 2013 work Fallen, counter-balancing the four short works of the first half. And it is all about balance, the four choreographers being given that as the theme for their creations.
Taking it at its word, Javier de Frutos riffs movement on, above and below a giant see-saw in The Title is in the Text (the title emerging as contrapposto, and the whole work plays on weights and combinations of dancers balancing or over-balancing. Clad in white boiler suits, the intrepid dancers gambol on and around the fulcrum in ever-changing patterns, all the while accompanied by Scott Walker’s challenging recorded score, a combination of industrial and electronic sound and the human voice played at ear-splitting volume. Hofesh Shechter’s uber-loud works have already put Sadler’s Wells’ sound system through its paces, but this is, in essence, a studio work which does not merit walls of painful noise. Indeed, while mildly engaging, The Title is in the Text, has an already-seen quality and feels as if it could have been made by an experimental dance ensemble of the 1960s or even the 1920s.
Human Animal is a pretty senseless 13 minutes of five men circling the stage in at times admittedly complicated step patterns, an under-baked work set alongside an busily overdone composition from Joby Talbot. Five men engage in distinctly unisex movement clad in black panties and a floral blouse; apart from good ensemble and prodigious memory, very little else of these young male dancers is revealed by a choreographer whose career seems set for the premier league with a commission next season from the Paris Opéra ballet. He will need to offer them more than the limited palette of Human Animal.
A classy duet, Us from Christopher Wheeldon showed fluency and a genuine sensitivity both to the dancers who interpreted it, and Keaton Henson’s engaging score. When two men dance together, it is difficult to get beyond the homoerotic side to their encounter; here Wheeldon does not shy away from that, but additionally gives genuine intimacy and tenderness between the two, without necessarily bringing sexuality into play – it could be about two brothers. Jordan Robson and Brad Walker were superb.
Closing the first half The Indicator Line, a frankly preposterous offering from the darling of Strictly Come Dancing, Craig Revel Horwood, who puts the lads in clogs and tells an unclear tale about a violent military jacketed foreman/sergeant. Cue much banging and crashing about to Charlotte Harding’s noisy score, macho posturing and squaring up, all bathed in Paul Anderson’s cruise ship lighting. Quite what was going on and what it had to do with balance – it all seemed at the over-the-top end of things – is anyone’s guess. As something worthwhile to do, it fell distinctly short of the mark.
Maliphant’s Fallen is a known quantity, an ensemble piece showing off the group’s maleness and their tight-knit quality. Starting with almost ritualistic circling, things spill out into an orgy of dizzying partnering, as dancers climb onto, are held aloft by and fall into the arms of their fellow cast members. A rumbling, angry score from Armand Amar and Michael Hull’s emphatic lighting design underpin the movement, the men weighty, dynamic, as they sometimes hurl themselves at each other. A powerful and successful work to close what had not always been a vintage evening.