You put a body on stage, and you already have a drama. You put 10 young male dancers on stage, as Michael Nunn and William Trevitt (the BalletBoyz) do with their company of chaps, give them new choreographies from Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant, and you have almost more drama than you bargained for.
“The Talent”, which is the code-name for this brave ensemble now in its fourth season, on Friday took to the Wells stage in fine form. For Liam Scarlett they wear flesh-coloured tights that conceal which we are not supposed to reveal, and look like fugitives from Eadweard Muybridge stop-frame photographs. For Maliphant they wear tops and trews that would not excite interest in an urban setting. And the two choreographers explore their presences on stage in movement as different as their costuming, though both creators saddle them with scores of stupefying dullness – Doctor Gradus ad tedium.
Perhaps Scarlett needs them to be slightly more experienced classical dancers: his choreography bursts with ideas about male dancing – images vivid with drama that seem at moments clouded, even with the undeniable skills of these eager performers. And their apparent nakedness hints at a scenario about sexuality – why is he holding him so eagerly? – that is centrally not part of the action. The piece is, in effect, a bit of a tease for a tease-able public.
Maliphant is more direct in coping with the bodies, his style more familiar. His men dance, grapple, and support their companions, but the street-wise costuming both creates and sanitises identity, and we are fascinated by the physical urgencies, the calligraphies of urban action he proposes. Where Scarlett’s dances hint at emotional and sexual undercurrents, Maliphant’s chaps are a community, like acrobats caught up in the technical minutiae of throwing and manipulating another body. But whatever the implications of these two pieces, the skill of the 10 young men, their devotion and physical focus, are not in doubt. They dance because they must, and the viewer must cheer.
Design is, shall we say, minimal and no bad thing, and well lit. The presentation, with its BalletBoyz explanatory films, is needed for touring purposes. The performance is whole-hearted, whole-bodied, splendid.