Commemorating 100 years of the end of WW1 in a ballet performance is not something you might expect; War is a difficult subject to approach without cliche, but the delicate and touching show Young Men by the Ballet Boyz, performed at the Wilton’s Music Hall in East London was as authentic as it was uncomfortable.
To convey emotions in acting is one thing, to translate this to dance is a completely different experience, and that is why this show blew me away. Without words, just emotive dance, the troupe of ten men and two women twirled, span, pirouetted and pivoted their way through a heartbreaking story of friendship, love, deceit and death.
Known for making ballet films, the Balletboyz have been around for a while, but the show of Young Men at the Wilton Music Hall was an adaptation of their original film which was shot on location in the killing fields in Flanders. Working with choreographer Iván Pérez, the footage was transformed into an extension of the stunningly crafted screens clips and translated into a beautiful, haunting stage performance. Operating in tangent, the stage show used the same dancers as the film, and provided a background for the footage- allowing them to leap seamlessly between the two outlets.
It’s not an easy watch, but when is war? Having been explored by every medium from glory bloodbath movies, to poetry to war stories, there is no way of escaping the reality of gunshots and bomb blasts which exterminated millions of young soldiers. However, watching this as a ballet performance, without words, allows the viewer to create their own intimate connection with the soldiers on stage, and relate to the misery and bravado they address.
Carefully cast, each soldier looks the part of a first time veteran – innocent, exhausted and petrified, and echoing the movements, the viewer gets an understanding of the repetitive daily routine.
The scene with the shell-shocked soldier is one of the most memorable for me. Contorting his body into bizarre shapes, this epilogue is harrowing and uncomfortable, and you are glued to his performance, whilst at the same time being completely powerless.
A poignant way to mark the 100 years Armistice, the performance is complimented by a live haunting soundtrack of Jeremy Young on the piano and Reinoud Ford on cello. Creating a real-time hysteria, you are transported to 1918 where foghorns blare, and heart beats race; As the dancers’ energy on stage reaches a climax, and the audience can’t avoid the electricity which unravels before them.
With two female characters in the cast, the Artistic Directors Michael Nunn OBE and William Trevitt OBE have chosen to represent how important women are to the soldiers and the vitality of relationships. Acting as mother and wife, the roles might be secondary, but you can see the pain and torment the officers have suffered during their time away from loved ones. The jerky movements not only represent pain, but the difficulties of accepting reality, and the torment he faces in separating the two emotions. Another young soldier is reunited with his wife, but is suffering a mental breakdown and won’t leave her side until he dies, is a haunting image which will bring a tear to the most hardy viewer.
Mind blowing- this show is a harrowing insight to all aspects of war. From bootcamp training, to lost love to murder, the Ballet Boyz are a force to be reckoned with; There is no experience like this live experience.
Find out more about the BalletBoyz see online.