Dance review: BalletBoyz: Deluxe, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

The two pieces at the heart of BalletBoyz’ new show could hardly be more different, writes Kelly Apter

BalleyBoyz in Maxine Doyle’s Bradley 4:18
BalleyBoyz in Maxine Doyle’s Bradley 4:18

BalletBoyz: Deluxe, Edinburgh Festival Theatre ***

BalletBoyz were just seven dates into their Deluxe tour in March 2020 when, like everyone else, they were stopped in their tracks. A lot has happened since this double-bill received its world premiere, including an almost complete change of personnel. Of the eight dancers on this reconvened UK tour, six of them are new, yet this all-male company has already learned to move as one sinuous whole.

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Nowhere is that more evident than in Ripple by Shanghai-based choreographer Xie Xin. Using the movement of water as a metaphor for emotional connection and the impact we have on each other, Xie Xin’s piece has an almost spiritual feel. Dressed in loose linen costumes inspired by traditional Chinese work clothes, the eight men glide across the shadowy floor like waves tickling the shore. Sometimes they fuse, supporting each other with strong lifts and leans, before spiralling off alone in a blur of fabric and weightless tumbles. At other times the movements feel like rituals or expressions of mindfulness, with arms outstretched like a condor that’s caught the breeze, or held aloft like fronds of seaweed under the ocean. A sense of flow is everywhere, whether it’s the whole group moving in slow-motion unison or a pair gently clashing, capoeira-style.

Maxine Doyle’s Bradley 4:18 couldn’t be more different – all sharp angles and aggression, as the dancers attempt to embody various aspects of the same man. The smart suits and swagger can only mask the violence, narcissism and emotional impotence of the character for so long, before they slowly unravel. The cleverly choreographed fight scenes are precise and snappy, but elsewhere these talented bodies feel underused.

As is often the case with the BalletBoyz, film plays its part and the two short interviews with Xie Xin, Doyle and the dancers make for a fascinating insight into the creative process.

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