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Review 2, 4-2: Boys will be Boyz
For George Piper, it's a Male Thing
By Josephine Leask
Copyright 2004 Josephine Leask
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LONDON -- Performing
new work by William Forsythe and Russell Maliphant at Queen Elizabeth
Hall last weekend, as well as Christopher Wheeldon's "Mesmerics"
(previously reviewed here),
George Piper Dances demonstrated its skill at taking on diverse
and demanding material. While the company members, William Trevitt
and Michael Nunn (who launched GPD through their success with their
BBC Channel 4 documentary 'Ballet Boyz') with three other Royal
Ballet protegees, share an ingrained balletic way of moving, they
make brave attempts at the deconstructed ballet style of Forsythe's
work and the fluid gluey characteristics of Maliphant's.
Sonata, I, 5" starts as a solo that resembles an imitation of Frankenstein's
monster walking down stage. After pulling ghoulish faces to an equally
ghoulish sound score, Trevitt stops to ask an imaginary director
if he is doing okay. The 'director' (Nunn) replies, and the two
men banter about how Trevitt is going to scare the children in the
audience. Trevitt's grotesque solo then develops into a spoofy duet
with Monica Zamora, who is as deadly serious in her demeanor as
Trevitt is comical. It is clear that the effect is meant to be that
of a rehearsal as they both suddenly stop and Trevitt asks her to
repeat a particularly tricky section. He is the relaxed jokey one
dressed in electric blue satin pants, while she is unamused and
deadpan in a severe black leotard, the straight woman to his humorous
role. Forsythe's choreography is interesting; the movement seems
to run through the dancers' bodies like an itchy rash. It consists
of fast fragmented phrases, the articulation of limbs which creates
angles and broken lines, as well as the juxtaposition of tense upright
positioned torsos with floppy released ones.
Sonata" is George Piper Dances's characteristic film documentary,
which takes us behind the scenes in order to reveal what the life
of 'jobbing dancers on the road' is really all about. The company
always travels to the home country of the choreographer they choose
to work with, so this first clip shows Nunn and Trevitt in Germany
with Forsythe. This is up close and personal; we see Trevitt in
the bath, in his car, in the studio, in bed -- nearly every detail
of his and Nunn's working day accompanied by their droll, casual
conversations. The transmission of such anecdotal, off-the-record
information is what audiences love about these ballet professionals,
as it breaks down the image of dancers being stuck up, pretentious
and aloof. This down-to-earth, boy next door image is one that is
cultivated by Nunn and Trevitt and is an essential part of the company's
It was Maliphant's "Broken
Fall" (which has already won a prestigious Laurence Olivier Award
in London) that I found really captivating. The cool, detached look
of Maliphant's previous work changes to one which is highly sensuous,
glamorous and theatrical in "Broken Fall." The lighting is sensational;
hung spot lights in an otherwise dark stage reveal the figures of
Nunn and Trevitt and bathe them in a hot, steamy atmosphere.
They dance subtle slow
movements separately, before Oxana Panchenko appears out of the
shadows, dressed in a sequined crop top and tiny skirt, walking
on stage with the feline presence of a super-model. For the rest
of the piece the dancers perform as an intense 'menage a trois'
in which she literally climbs all over them, perches on a shoulder
or a thigh, then falls in abandonment, only to be caught quickly
by either one. The group of three hardly break contact throughout
and Panchenko is like the lynch-pin that binds the men together.
Trevitt's and Nunn's grounded muscular appearances contrast to her
fine fragility and her slight frame seems to soar above their heads
as she is passed from one to the other. There are more dramatic
lighting moments, such as when a whole bank of bluish spotlights
appear again suspended low and change the environment to one that
looks cooler and less claustrophobic. The filmic soundscore by Barry
Adamson changes from being theatrically forceful to spiritually
uplifting while the dancers regroup, breaking off their contact
momentarily to pace around the stage in a group formation.
It's gripping but my
only gripe is that Panchencko doesn't have any other role except
as that of a body to be lifted, caught and carried until the very
end when she has a few moments of her own glory as she performs
an astonishingly articulate solo. All in all it's work for the boys
centered around Nunn and Trevitt, whereas the women have secondary
roles, roles that are typical ballet ones which position women as
mainly decorative. While George Piper Dances seeks to break down
some of the hierarchies within the ballet world, it doesn't really
challenge the aesthetic.
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