Ballet, romance and the human animal: Fourteen Days Review

Ballet is about precise and highly formalized steps and gestures. BalletBoyz not only demonstrated high dancing precision, but challenged today’s preconceptions we have of ballet. Fourteen Days was a fully conceptualised contemporary compilation of pieces that transgressed from classical ballet. Using modernity as a base, Fourteen Days deconstructed the classical long ballet format and divided them into shorter and distinct performances. Traditionally, ballet sets us with a main narrative that is told through segmented acts, much like a play. But here, Fourteen Days uses a more experimental ‘short story’ interpretative dance approach.

At times however, this focus on the contemporary caused the narrative for certain pieces to be left neglected. The opening piece – ‘The Title is in the Name’ – was superbly executed with synchronised movements and acrobatics, yet the storytelling – or lack thereof – was underwhelming. As a spectator, I was searching for clues from the dancers to comprehend what the narrative of each piece was. Failing to evoke emotive facial gestures or any signs of individuality from them, some pieces were disappointingly merely a show of dancing ability.

Nonetheless, to choreograph Fourteen Days in the amount of time declared in the title is a commendable – and insane – feat. This is especially the case due to the added challenge of the BalletBoyz learning to dance in clogs – a skill that is heavily based on weight and thus alien to ballet dancers who are trained to be light-footed.

Conceptually many of the pieces were intriguing.  ‘Human Animal’ was an alluring performance that transformed a group of ballet dancers into an animalistic entity (or entities) that galloped in circles around the stage. The team demonstrated expertise in their fluidity, although the unusual costume choices left the aesthetics of the piece a little muddled. Wearing floral shirts and underwear, the dancers attempted to hint at something radical and post-modern but ultimately only evoked the aesthetics of a cheesy Topman commercial. As the music continued to a stronger tempo progressing toward a climax, I was left disappointed by the dancers’ failure to reflect such dramatic music in a visual crescendo.

On a more positive note, the clear show stopper of the night was by far the set entitled ‘Us’ with music by Keaton Henson, choreography by Christopher Weeldon and lighting design by Paul Anderson. The duet performing in this piece encompassed the passion and narrative that was lacking from the previous performances. The most ‘conventional’ of the performance, their interaction and Henson’s enthralling soundtrack produced a swift, romantic and graceful show.

In retrospect, creating this discrete set of performances was ambitious and although BalletBoyz performed excellently, they at times came off as mere dancing mannequins that failed to encapsulate the moving narratives they had intended.

Image Credit: Panayiotis Sinnos

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