BalletBoyz: Deluxe review – striking dances packed with talent

Lyndsey Winship

With their 20th anniversary tour now on hold, BalletBoyz rise to meet the challenge of theatreland going digital, taking their new show Deluxe online to launch the Facebook Premieres series from Sadler’s Wells.

No strangers to the screen, directors Michael Nunn and William Trevitt often use behind-the-scenes video to connect with the audience, and this show’s opening dance was always going to be a film. The Intro is a short by new choreographer Sarah Golding. It’s a striking piece with jazz dance flavour, its camp edge offset by the blokeishness of the six dancers, an enjoyable dissonance that whets the appetite for more of Golding’s work.

Nunn and Trevitt are never predictable in their choices of collaborators, giving us the first UK commission for Chinese choreographer Xie Xin. Her piece Ripple would probably have benefitted from being seen live (or at least on a large screen with the lights off), being all about tapping into an energy state, a continuous ebb and flow of rolling tides, the dancers crossing each other’s paths like warp and weft to the raw strings and electronics of Shaofeng Jiang’s score.

Maxine Doyle’s Bradley 4.18 fares well on screen. Renowned as the choreographer behind immersive theatre megastars Punchdrunk, it’s great to see Doyle’s work stand by itself. Rather than a free-roaming experience, there’s focus with just one camera, and it’s beautifully shot and framed (great lighting too, from Andrew Ellis).

Inspired by Kate Tempest’s poems, it gives us Bradley, a man awake at 4.18am. Six different Bradleys in fact, all the facets of a troubled man, wearing one black eye and a slim-cut suit, moving from frustrated testosterone to tetchy anxieties to a compelling solo from a lipsticked Liam Riddick, with echoes of flamenco in his scrolling hands and sinuous self-possession. There’s a ragged energy to the men’s bodies, which mercurially switch mode and direction like racing thoughts in the wee hours, all enhanced by the fantastically atmospheric sound of saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi’s Seed Ensemble, providing cinematic drama and jazzy 4am paranoia.

As a company BalletBoyz has shed many skins over the last two decades, but this latest incarnation is packed with forward-looking talent from every direction, and that’s clear whether on stage or screen.

• Available from Sadler’s Wells for seven days from 7.30pm on 27 March. Deluxe will also be screened on BBC Four as part of the Culture in Quarantine season.