Ballet Corps: Young Men At Sadler's Wells

By James FitzGerald Last edited 33 months ago
Ballet Corps: Young Men At Sadler's Wells ★★★★☆ 4

BalletBoyz' Young Men at Sadler's Wells. Photo credit George Piper

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

This show wasn’t meant to be about war — until choreographer Iván Pérez realised who he was working with. The present troupe of BalletBoyz — a contemporary dance outfit founded by William Trevitt and Michael Nunn — were coming of age. In another time and place they’d have been ordered to the front line; tonight they’re sent to the stage for a visceral enactment of the trauma of modern warfare.

Dashing, sliding, twisting, kicking, shooting, dying — the actions of the battlefield are knotted together into a fluid performance which dramatises the link between combat and a soldier’s psychological struggles. In the scenes ‘Shell Shock’ and ‘Nightmares’, the Boyz writhe and wrestle in personal agonies to Keaton Henson’s score, which blasts from an orchestra at the back of the stage.

And when it comes to the fight itself, there are simple expressive devices on hand. Gas from a canister distorts the dance patterns as well as relating the dismal fug of no-man’s land, while a deposit of sand lets the Boyz draw scars on the stage.

Young Men developed from a short produced for Channel 4 to commemorate the D-Day landings, but in essence it speaks to any modern conflict in which young men are discarded like worthless toy soldiers. The meticulously choreographed ‘Training’ scene forces the Boyz into robotic rhythms as a general screams at them. Their moves are often hypnotic, always ambiguous — a melee between enemies contorts into a hug between brothers; a parachute mission turns into a deadly plummet.

It’s enough to make you think there are no certainties in war. The inclusion of (only) two female dancers, who in one scene stowaway to the front line to find their lovers, throws into relief the roles of men in war. These and other ‘characters’ make for memorable vignettes, but it’s the more pervasive techniques of anonymity — mechanical, syncopated anonymity — that communicate the sadder truths.

Young Men runs until 18 January at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4TN. Tickets from £12. Londonist saw this performance with a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 15 January 2015