BALLETBOYZ: DELUXE | London, Sadler’s Wells

Resulting from two fruitful creative collaborations by choreographers Xie Xin and Maxine Doyle, involving poets, composers and the dancers themselves, and showcasing the huge versatility of the company, BalletBoyz: Deluxe is a phenomenal double bill that fleshes out the inner and outer lives of human beings.

The first act, Ripple (Xie Xin), takes us to the world of interiority, where feelings, thoughts and memories are compared to ripples (and their bigger or smaller derivatives, drops or waves) in a rich, but accessible allegory.  Jiang Shaofeng’s score encompasses the soothing sound of the sea, but also hammering, distressing noises, capturing the wide spectrum of our inner motions. The piece is measured, touching, well-breathed, fluid and almost cathartic, also thanks to the soft, billowing costumes by Kingsley Hall.

Taking its cue from Kae Tempest’s narrative poem Let Them Eat Chaos, the second piece, Bradley 4:18 (Maxine Doyle), describes the multifaceted personality of the character Bradley, as captured in a strange city at 4:18am (potentially after a night out). The contrast with Ripple is remarkable: the troupe is in smart suits, their movements are sharp, jerky, neurotic and the electrifying score by Cassie Kinoshi underscores the urban, fast-paced setting. Bradley is a “young man of the town”, someone whose personality is shaped by his surroundings and shifting from narcissistic to grotesque, flighty to vulnerable, spaced-out to seemingly self-assured. Offering the stage to each of the dancers in turn, but also opening up with group scenes (and fights!), Bradley 4:18 is shocking and exhilarating.

Each act is introduced by a (hilarious) video, where the outtakes are actually the best bit. Neither Xin nor Doyle shy away from laying bare the challenges they both encountered as they created their pieces, with one obvious additional challenge presented by the pandemic, which delayed a show that should have happened in 2020. But the creative process, much like life itself, is simply and wonderfully unexpected, and after two years of gestation, BalletBoyz: Deluxe couldn’t be more full-bodied, accomplished and utterly perfect.

Anna Zanetti

BalletBoyz: Deluxe is touring around the UK until 19 May.

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