Dance : London's Balletboyz at The Yard
Martha's Vineyard Times File Photo
Incorporating a mix of dance and video into their performances, as well as a mix of dance styles, London's Balletboyz make serious dance about as accessible as it gets, without at all compromising the art form. Contemporary ballet, created by some of dance's top choreographers and performed by a troupe of 10 young men as big in personality as they are in talent, paired with witty behind-the-scenes videos, has proven an irresistible formula that has garnered critical acclaim, as well as broad public appeal in Great Britain and beyond.
Now, thanks to The Yard's affiliation with filmmaker/writer/artist and arts patron Francesca Kelly, the 10 talented and, according to Ms. Kelly "disgustingly good looking" young dancers will bring their unique talent to The Yard in Chilmark for three performances this weekend.
Artistic directors and founders Michael Nunn and William Trevitt were principal dancers with London's Royal Ballet for 12 years before the prospect of performing the same traditional roles night after night encouraged them to expand their horizons. "We've always been very interested in videography," says Mr. Nunn. "Between us we bought a video camera and made a video about our lives in the Royal Ballet." The video ended up as a popular four-part series on UK television and the dancers were christened the Balletboyz.
The success of the video paved the way for the two to form their own dance troupe. Mr. Nunn recalls, "We were about to go on the road and the repertoire wasn't very exciting. We wanted to work with different choreographers and different styles. A dancer's career is very short and we decided the time was right to make the break."
The dancers performed as a two-man team for a couple of years before dropping out of the lineup and recruiting a troupe, which now numbers 10 dancers aged 18 to 24.
"We wanted to create a group and mold them into the state that we wanted," Mr. Nunn says. "We had a huge audition and didn't look at CVs or experience or training. We were looking for raw talent and drive and a work ethic."
The two artistic directors have recruited some of contemporary ballet's top names to choreograph pieces for the troupe. They will also include one piece that the dancers have created themselves during their two weeks here.
Mr. Nunn and Mr. Trevitt have made their mark on the world of video as well as dance. They have a number of documentaries to their credit, including one on the Bolshoi Ballet that won an Emmy in 2008. Combining their passions for dance and video has proven a very successful way to broaden their audiences. An up-close-and-personal short video of the dancers precedes each performance and another covers a costume change. The troupe shot some footage on the beach on Chappaquiddick earlier this week, which will be included.
"We find it makes a closer connection. Contemporary dance is quite impersonal and quite serious," says Mr. Nunn of the use of video with dance.
Mr. Nunn met Ms. Kelly in Boston in 2000 and was persuaded to come to the Vineyard to shoot a short film with her that she describe as "a series of moving poems with dancers and horses." He and his wife maintained a friendship with Ms. Kelly and have paid a number of summer visits to her home on-Island. Last summer they discussed the possibility of the Balletboyz performing here. This weekend's show will mark the first collaboration between Ms. Kelly and The Yard.
Ms. Kelly has interest and connections with dance in many parts of the world and hopes to continue adding international dance to The Yard's repertoire.
"I would like to once a year bring dancers from outside the U.S. There are so many people on this Island who are well traveled and have been exposed to multiple cultures," she says. "My wish is to have international performers of the highest caliber from all over the world."
London's Balletboyz 8 pm, Fri., Sat. (4 and 8 pm), Sun. (6 pm), The Yard, Chilmark. Friday show followed by dessert, champagne. dancetheyard.org; 508-645-9662.
Gwyn McAllister is a freelance writer who lives in Oak Bluffs.