Snakes and Ladders: the Boyz are Back in Town

More than a year after their premiere in London, the Ballet Boyz’ double bill of Liam Scarlett’s Serpent and Russell Maliphant’s Fallen arrived at the Sydney Opera House this week.

The short season that ends on Saturday at the Drama Theatre is almost sold out with only standing room available. What’s the attraction?

Well, obviously the beautiful bodies, especially as they’re revealed in Scarlett’s work. The nine dancers (there were supposed to be 10 but one was absent) are bare footed and bare-chested and wear flesh-coloured stretch tights that highlight their glutes. (A perfectly toned backside is a prerequisite if you want to be one of the Boyz.)

No matter how much we admire the choreography and the music, there is more than an element of cheekiness about these guys despite their so serious faces.

Serpent begins and ends with the men’s arms held high as they form the shape of a snake’s body. Each arm is lit to emphasis the serpentine line, and that’s just the start of Michael Hull’s major role as lighting designer. He turns the stage from a glow of orange to green, lavender, blue and turquoise as Max Richter’s music, with its suggestion of rainfall, underscores the choreography in which the men, en masse, resemble a Grecian sculpture.

Most have trained as classical ballet dancers but the choreography is contemporary, with ripples and contractions, and partnering involving a great deal of trust. Their holds and lifts seem to indicate both sparring and an underlying impulse to care for one another.

If Serpent represents flesh, then Fallen represents metal, tension, and force.

Danced to a compelling score by Armand Amar, Fallen is a work of circles. From the first rotation of four men moving in a Zorba like wheel, encircled by five other men, the revolutions never cease.

Shoulders rotate, legs trace circular patterns in the air, on the floor. The men roll around the floor in circular patterns and they take flight into another’s arms, or his back, or upwards, step by step along his spine.

Their ritualistic dances are set in an industrial, claustrophobic space in which splashes of emerald illuminate a back wall while side and overhead lights focus on the maze of dancers, dressed in khaki pants and sleeveless shirts.

Fallen is one of the most exciting dance works I’ve seen in years.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Ballet Boyz in Liam Scarlett’s Serpent, photo © Michele Mossop

Ballet Boyz in Liam Scarlett’s Serpent, photo © Michele Mossop

Ballet Boyz in Russell Maliphant's Fallen, photo © Panos

Ballet Boyz in Russell Maliphant’s Fallen, photo © Panos

Ballet Boyz in Liam Scarlett’s Serpent, photo © Michele Mossop

Ballet Boyz in Liam Scarlett’s Serpent, photo © Michele Mossop

Ballet Boyz in Russell Maliphant's Fallen, photo © Panos

Ballet Boyz in Russell Maliphant’s Fallen, photo © Panos

Ballet Boyz in Liam Scarlett's Serpent, photo © Panos

Ballet Boyz in Liam Scarlett’s Serpent, photo © Panos