Sunday, 27 March 2022

REVIEW: Ballet Boyz: Deluxe at Sadler's Wells

When I hear the word ‘Ballet’, my mind transports me straight to a front-row seat at the classic tale Swan Lake.

Last night, that traditional vision was shattered, by the dynamic, daring and delightful talents of the cast of Balletboyz: Deluxe, which I had the pleasure of attending during the Press Night performance at the prestigious Sadlers Wells. 

As someone who has had a passion for dance and choreography from a young age, I jumped at the chance to grab a ticket for a production performed and driven by a cast of male-identifying individuals. Even before the curtain had lifted, I took pride and inspiration in the knowledge that this cast and concept of production alone makes a bold statement simply by contradicting gender stereotypes historically seen within dance productions. 

Marking their first in-person live performance since the pandemic, Deluxe will embark on a nationwide UK tour from March to May. Originally planned for 2020 for the 20th anniversary of the ground-breaking all-male ensemble, the production was one of the first pieces of work to be adapted in lockdown for broadcast.

The performance consists of two original pieces presented across two acts. 

Act one, entitled ‘Ripple’ is choreographed by Shanghai-based dancer and choreographer Xie Xin, with an original score by composer Jiang Shaofeng. Described by the choreographer as a memory like an ocean, the piece explores movement inspired by the memory of a person and the energy that such memories possess.

Act two, entitled ‘Bradley 4:18’, is choreographed by renowned choreographer behind immersive theatre trailblazers Punchdrunk, Maxine Doyle, with an original score by composer Cassie Kinoshi. Doyle’s piece was inspired by Kate Tempest’s poems, in particular, Pictures on a Screen and it explores insomnia and modern western masculinity.

An instant highlight for me was the dynamic and innovative contrast between the two acts. Each piece is vastly different, and yet beautifully showcasing this cast's raw talent to adapt and thrive within their versatility, skill, and characterisation. From the minute the curtain lifted, I felt somewhat in a trance of sheer awe and astonishment of the meticulous control, precision and multifaceted ability presented by each cast member. 

Featuring a combination of solo, duet, partner, trio, and group choreography, both ‘Ripple’ and ‘Bradley 4:18’ successfully showcased a sublime variety of levels within tone, dynamics, artistry, and characterisation, while still maintaining their own identity, style and message. 

Credit, in particular, must be given to Luigi Nardone, who showcased an outstanding and undeniable level of talent and vulnerability on stage. 

I can confidently say with unwavering doubt that every member of this cast is a magnificent example of raw talent that cannot be taught. Albert Einstein once famously quoted that ‘Dancers are the athletes of God’, which is summarised effortlessly within this production and cast. 

If I would have been lucky enough to see this production whilst growing up with dreams of becoming a male dancer, I would have felt proud, inspired and unstoppable. If you’re lucking for a traditional ballet, you are looking at the wrong kind of show. However, if you want to see a dance piece that is fresh, revolutionary and powerful, snap up a ticket to see Deluxe this year! 

Review by Adam Tipping 

Rating: ★★★★
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