Michael Clark began choreographing ballet moves to rock soundtracks in the 1980s, radically changing audience perceptions of what a classically trained dancer can, or should, do on stage.
And in Rock the Ballet, director Rasta Thomas and choreographer Adrienne Canterna have created their own style of peformance, known as pop-ballet, which fuses traditional disciplines with contemporary dance styles, all set to a rousing soundtrack of familiar hit songs and club classics.
While the result may not be groundbreaking, it's certainly an uplifting and thoroughly entertaining show which has clearly succeeded in appealing to a young audience – not least because it stars a company temptingly titled the Bad Boys of Dance.
The boys may be bad, but they're disciplined by the powerful Canterna, dancing her own choreography with passion and verve. In bare feet throughout, she demonstrates an impressive athleticism and sexiness, partnered with superb strength and grace in the first act, Beautiful Day, by principal dancer James Boyd. There's a narrative of sorts – lovers who find each other and then fall out – but this act is really a series of short, sharp bursts of energy as the music sweeps through The Chemical Brothers, Coldplay and Aerosmith, ending with U2's "Beautiful Day".
Video designer Joshua Hardy has found the right balance between animated scenery with enough interest to enhance the performance, but not to distract from the artists, and Dieter Bucco's stadium-rock lighting design adds to the drama.
James Boyd shines throughout the show, including an extraordinary quivering robotic display in the opening sequence of Act Two: Do Your Thing.
And it's in this second half that the show really takes flight, with more varied choreography which gives the dancers ample opportunities to show off individual skills including break dancing, flips, dives and turns – together with some bottom-shaking of the highest order from the charming Lee Gumbs.
There are no tutus here – costume designer Sally Canterna has enjoyed dressing Adrienne in flippy dresses or sequinned hotpants and a black leather bra, with vests, ties and tight trousers for the men. But the Bad Boys' real naughtiness is saved for the end of the show, where their bare, toned torsos (step forward Blake Zelesnikar) and saucy set-pieces in ‘I'm Sexy And I Know It' send the audience into an appreciative frenzy more reminiscent of The Full Monty than Sadler's Wells.
The company is already booked to return in 2015 with their take on Romeo and Juliet. This may be ballet, but definitely not as we know it…