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BalletBoyz in Santa Fe - The Murmuring, Mesmerics

by Judith Fein
February 11, 2016
The Lensic Performing Arts Center
211 West San Francisco Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501
(505) 988-1234
Santa Fe, New Mexico, with a population of 70,000, is the third largest art market in the country, draws international visitors and aficionados for the summer opera season, has at least eight major museums, and offers world-class performances from around the globe at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, a jewel-like, historic, downtown building that combines Moorish and Spanish Renaissance styles.

The latest dance offering was BalletBoyz, and the audience was abuzz with anticipation about the Kingston Upon Thames-based, male-only dance company that was founded in 2000 by Michael Nunn and William Trevit, and has spent the last l5 years innovating, experimenting, collaborating with composers, artists, designers, filmmakers, and garnering awards and renown. So what was it like to have ballet without ballerinas, and pas de deux with both halves being male?

The first piece, The Murmuring, with Choreography by Alexander Whitley and music by Raime, was brilliantly executed, and based upon observations of birds in flight. The dynamic movement went from dancers in clusters to small groupings to solo flights, and back to flock formation before breaking away again. The stage picture was constantly changing, and at every moment each dancer was acutely aware of his position in the group, and the movement of the whole group, while supporting and maintaining contact with the dancers next to him.

Stylistically, The Murmuring was all over the movement map—from street dance to acrobatics, from releases and falls to breathtaking suspension and lifts. Sometimes mechanistic, other times wild and edgy and unpredictable, it was always taut, muscular, and vibrating with energy.

When the end came, the audience erupted into waves of ovations. But despite the technical and conceptual brilliance, the overall impression was that it was very male with thrusting, muscular movements dominating, and little space for calm, quiet, or tenderness. Ultimately, the audience was a dazzled observer, but not emotionally seduced into the dance.

Whatever was missing, however, was more than compensated for in Mesmerics, the après-intermission piece. With choreography by Christopher Wheeldon and music by Philip Glass, the ballet is a tour de force on every level—physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually. Like The Murmuring, it is abstract, and there is no story, no plot, no characters. But this time the audience was drawn into the piece, sharing the intimacy, the eroticism, the shimmering spectacle of men supporting each others’ bodies in space, and the extended moments of union, love, and organic flow.

It was often impossible to tell where one dancer stopped and another began, whose body was whose, or if there was even one centimeter of space between the man on the floor and the one in the air. Their limbs jutted out in timeless extensions….hanging in mid-air…..winding through space…..twisting, bending, grasping, releasing. The dancers rolled over each other, pirouetted, carved pas de chat triangles, at moments appeared female, then male, then androgynous, then feline. They mirrored each other, nurtured, seduced, breathed into each others’ bodies, spun or leapt away, and invited the audience into the intimacy of deep male bonding.

At several points, the music stopped, as though catching its breath, before accompanying the dancers through the next sequence of what ultimately was love. Love for dance. Love for the human body. Love for other men. Love of being alive.

Perhaps, in retrospect, the pieces successfully complemented each other. The first was robust, athletic and male, and the second transcended all categories and existed in the realm of beauty, passion, art, and movement through space.

BalletBoyz is a company to watch, and to follow. In an accompanying short video, one of the dancers says that the work they are doing now bears no resemblance to what they were doing ten years ago. They evolve, they mature, and wherever they go, they will have an enthusiastic audience to follow them.

“I never saw an all-male ballet before, except once, in New York, with Maurice Béjart,” exclaimed the man next to me.

“I missed the ballerinas, especially in the first part,” said a woman in front of me.

There were differing opinions, to be sure, but one thing united the audience: they all leapt to their feet for a standing ovation that filled the Lensic for long minutes.
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