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The DanceView Times, New York edition

The Ballet Boyz:

Athletic Dancing, Thoughtful Dances

George Piper Dances
The Joyce Theater
New York, NY
November 7, 2003

by  Eric Taub
copyright ©2003 by Eric Taub

It is hard not to sigh a bit reading of the vast success of Michael Nunn's and William Trevitt's venture after they left their careers as principals with the Royal Ballet to strike out on their own just a few years ago. In addition to launching their own ballet troupe, George Piper Dances (there is no George Piper--it's a combination of both men's middle names), they produced two seasons of a "video diary" for the BBC, as the "Ballet Boyz." I arrived at the Joyce Theater a bit envious of a country where any sort of dance series could be a hit on network television (or even get on network television), and a bit apprehensive of just what sort of popularized panderings to the Great Unwashed Nunn and Trevitt might be presenting.

Not, as they say, to worry. Although one might quibble with one part or another of the program, it was an evening of mostly lively and thoughtful choreography, superbly danced by Nunn and Trevitt, as well as Oxana Panchenko, Monica Zamora and Hubert Essakow, extremely capable dancers all. In William Forsythe's Steptext, to a rather rudely treated recording of a Bach violin chaconne, the three men, along with Zamora, alternated moments of annoying cuteness (what was the point of those semaphore arms?) with some typically athletic Forsythe duets and trios. One quality I've come to appreciate from Forsythe is his fascination with the sheer physicality of ballet technique—he doesn't present ballet dancers as sylphs or other ethereal creatures, or even the supercharged überwomen of Balanchine. Forsythe likes to present his dancers as matter-of-fact athletes, and his favorite exit, where dancers stop their more-balletic movements, turn and walk offstage, is a bit of a trademark, verging on clicheé. After awhile, I got used to Forsythe's almost-silliness, and could enjoy the great physical dexterity of Essakow and Nunn in their push-me-pull-you duets, and Zamora and Trevitt in their unashamedly athletic adagio work. Another trademark of Forsythe is the toe-shoes-and-bare-legs look, and seemed never more fetching than on the magnificent Zamora, who beautifully demonstrated the gutsy physicality of pointe-work.

Christopher Wheeldon's new Mesmerics was made for this company and uses all five dancers. Although it carries on Wheeldon's fascination with dim, atmospheric lighting, when the dances could be seen they were often fascinating, if a bit over-long. The dancers appeared, singly and in duets and groups, in somewhat slow-motion, weighty movement which flowed easily from upright to what you might call "rolling-around-on-the-floor," if it weren't for Wheeldon's familiar keen sense of visual construction. I liked Mesmerics because it showed me a Wheeldon looking beyond his explorations of Balanchine's Agon/Episodes world, or his winsome theatricality, towards a movement vocabulary more entirely his own.

The program finished with Russell Maliphant's Torsion, also a New York premiere, a duet for Nunn and Trevitt which has become something of a signature piece for them. Set to an often raucous musique-concrete score by Richard English, it presents the pair in the kind of floppy, flipping-over-hips-and-shoulders partnering one sees most often in contact improvisation, except for moments of virtuosity which remind us that these are, indeed, superb ballet dancers, as in Nunn's variation on chainé turns, circling the stage on his knees. A bit of pruning wouldn't have been out of order (after seeing one man drape the other upside down with his feet pointing to the heavens about the twentieth time it loses some of its effect).

Between the dances, the company presented two witty cinema verité videos, showing, with typical British humor, the company's various road tours to garden spots such as Albany. Although usually charming, there were moments when it seemed a bit like padding.

Originally published:
Volume 1, Number 7
November 10, 2003

Copyright ©2003 by Eric Taub



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The Autumn DanceView is out:

New York City Ballet's Spring 2003 season reviewed by Gia Kourlas

An interview with the Kirov Ballet's Daria Pavlenko by Marc Haegeman

Reviews of San Francisco Ballet (by Rita Felciano) and Paris Opera Ballet (by Carol Pardo)

The ballet tradition at the Metropolitan Opera (by Elaine Machleder)

Reports from London (Jane Simpson) and the Bay Area (Rita Felciano).

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last updated on October 7, 2003