Michael Nunn's description of Balletboyz' latest offering The Talent is a little surprising, especially as part of a short film projected onto the stage at the Lowry's Quays Theatre and in muted colours to boot. He seems to be taking credit for the whole idea of holding open auditions whereas now we all take it granted that performers should have been people just like us.
Disappointingly, although the eight male dancers all come from different backgrounds, only one – Matt Rees – had no formal training and worked in River Island before joining Nunn and William's Trevitt's company. Just because they don't have a sob story, though, doesn't mean they don't have talent. The three works on display at this touring production spin the concept of ballet on its head – instead of romance and fantasy, you find aggression. More control and core strength than fancy footwork, particularly in Russell Maliphant's 'Torsion' which ends the night.
The short films which open the performance and split up the first half are an interesting, light touch but the chopping and changing of tempo and mood is a little chaotic. The combination works well when talk of which dancer is the best segues into the testosterone filled 'B-Banned' by Freddie Opoku Addaie (billed as choreographer/enigma). Less obvious is why footage of rehearsals is interspersed with comedic scenes of the dancers pulling on their costumes and socks before the moody 'Alpha' by Paul Roberts with low key music by Keaton Henson.
Following the interval, the whole concept of 'behind the scenes' footage peters out yet the documentaries made in the 90s and BBC Three's more recent 'Ballet Boyz: The Rite of Spring' should cater to those interested in this aspect.
What it boils down to on the night is the power of the choreography and of the dancer's precision in matching the ideal that the creator imagined. The pairs of dancers in 'Alpha' find an intriguing balance between intimacy and violence. 'B-Banned' cleverly explores subservience, group mentality and male self interestedness in the context of a boy band, fitting well with the artistic directors' mission to make dance more accessible.
Joss Carter, who sits 'Torsion' out in the next seat along, talks about being part of Balletboyz as “hardcore”: rehearsals lasted for two months for around an hour and ten minutes of dance. In the Lowry's Quays Bar, t-shirts (modelled in 'B-Banned' by dancer Anthony Middleton) are sold which read 'Real Men Wear Tights' - I say, thanks to the Balletboyz' tour, real men are coming to a stage near you.