BalletBoyz believes in truth in advertising.
There are no Galz.
Direct from London, the 10-member BalletBoyz ensemble, one of the United Kingdom’s most innovative dance companies, will make a stop in Fresno on its latest North American tour. The dancers perform Friday at the Saroyan Theatre thanks to the Lively Arts Foundation, whose mission includes presenting the best in dance to residents of the central San Joaquin Valley.
“This popular cutting-edge contemporary ballet company is certain to appeal to all dance lovers and especially to millennials,” says Lively Arts artistic director Diane Mosier.
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I checked in with one of the original “BalletBoyz,” co-founder Michael Nunn, by phone from England, to get a rundown on the show.
The concept: It’s pretty simple, actually: The company is all men. The choreography can vary from athletic to tender, from amusing to searing, and it includes duets and lifts – all the things you’d expect from a co-ed dance ensemble. But don’t get the wrong idea: These dancers aren’t in drag. “When we first came to U.S., people assumed that we were female impersonators, something along the lines of Les Ballets Trockadero of Monte Carlo (an acclaimed company that Lively Arts brought to Fresno in 2014). That isn’t the case.”
The background: The first incarnation of BalletBoyz was founded by Nunn and Billy Trevitt in 2001. Both were hot-shot principals at the Royal Ballet who quit to start their own cutting-edge company in which they also starred. After retiring in 2010, they rebooted BalletBoyz with a group of eight men dancers, now expanded to 10.
The aesthetic: Nunn and Trevitt are known for bold instincts and often commission works by innovative choreographers. Often they pair such works in interesting combinations, which is what they did with “Life,” the program to be performed in Fresno. “I’m not really interested in seeing the same choreographer all evening,” Nunn says.
The first work: The Fresno program starts off with Pontus Lidberg’s “Rabbit,” which features a man in vaguely Edwardian dress. A similarly dressed man – but wearing a rabbit head – appears. As the dance unfolds, more rabbits appear. Judith Mackrell, a critic for the Guardian newspaper, wrote: “This imagery, with its overtones of Lewis Carroll and the nonsense tradition, is key to the compelling strangeness with which Lidberg explores his theme: the dynamic of loneliness and the power of the group.”
The second work: Following this surreal outing, the company returns with Javier De Frutos’ “Fiction,” in which the choreographer imagines his own death. (He’s killed by a falling piece of scenery during the piece’s premiere.) While that might seem a somber topic, it’s “funnier than any dance I’ve seen in ages,” Mackrell wrote. Nunn adds: “For a non-dance audience, it’s an enjoyable experience.”
The movie: BalletBoyz is busy. Besides the tour, an innovative dance film titled “Young Men” is in theaters across the United Kingdom and at international film festivals. The feature-length film, shot without dialogue, explores the theme of war and “the bonds that develop between the men consumed by it.”
The audience reaction: Response to BalletBoyz can vary from large metropolitan areas to smaller cities, Nunn says, and he’s interested what the reaction will be in Fresno. “Normally, when you go to places that don’t see that much dance or contemporary art, the audience is far more focused. They’re trying to understand the work. They’re not assuming anything. I just hope the people of Fresno enjoy the show and go there with an open mind.”
The laugh: Nunn is nearing 50, and I can’t resist asking him what he thinks of the name used to describe him that is floating around the internet. Do his dancers ever address him and Trevitt as BalletDadz? “They might,” he says. “But not to our faces.”
- 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3
- Saroyan Theatre, 700 M St.
- www.livelyarts.org, 877-608-5883