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Friday, 15 March 2019

Preview: BalletBoyz: Them & Us at Newcastle Northern Stage


BalletBoyz are back with two brand new works, both set to original scores by world-class composers.

BalletBoyz: Them & Us
Newcastle Northern Stage
Friday 22nd - Saturday 23 March 2019

Photo: Hugo Glendinning

Hugo-GlendinningThis spring, the internationally lauded dance troupe BalletBoyz will bring their new show to Newcastle. Them/Us is an innovative double bill and a brand new collaboration from the company’s own critically acclaimed dancers and the Olivier Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.


BalletBoyz are known worldwide for their ground-breaking live performances, films and TV appearances. The new productions are both set to original scores by world-class composers and asks where we see ourselves in relation to the “other”.

Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Marking a first for BalletBoyz, Them is the work of the company’s very own in-house talent, and set to a score by emerging composer Charlotte Harding. Us is inspired by the critically acclaimed Christopher Wheeldon duet featured in the company’s last show, Fourteen Days. With an extended score by cult singer/songwriter, Keaton Henson, Christopher Wheeldon develops this new work which explores the possibilities of before, during and after. 

Christopher Wheeldon, choreographer for Us, said: “I’m relishing the opportunity to work with BalletBoyz again to create a new work that expands on my previous work with the company, Us. It’s a pleasure to be working with Keaton Henson once again after his music for Us inspired me to investigate a new style of movement.”

Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Charlotte Harding recently composed for Craig Revel Horwood’s The Indicator Line in BalletBoyz’ Fourteen Days. She graduated from the Royal College of Music, London with a first-class honours degree and won the prestigious Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother Rosebowl, presented by HRH Prince Charles. Charlotte is passionate about the role music can play in both health and education. She is also an accompanist with BalletBoyz, working for the Parkinson’s CAN Dance classes. Charlotte has also been involved in leading and assisting educational workshops for BBC Symphony Orchestra and Teenage Cancer Trust.

Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Keaton Henson is an English folk rock musician, visual artist and poet from London. Henson has released six studio albums. His music video for “Charon” was shortlisted for a UK MVA award in Best Budget Indie/Rock Category. “Small Hands” won Best Music Video at the Rushes Soho Shorts Film Festival in 2012. In November 2012, Henson designed a t-shirt for the Yellow Bird Project to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Henson also composed the score for the multiple Award-nominated film Young Men by BalletBoyz and BBC 2.

Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Christopher Wheeldon is a British choreographer who trained at The Royal Ballet School and danced with the Company between 1991 and 1993. With the New York City Ballet he performed as a soloist and became the company’s first-ever artist in residence and first resident choreographer. Christopher has created productions for all the world’s major ballet companies, and in 2007 he founded Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company and became the first British choreographer to create a new work for the Bolshoi Ballet. His awards include the Tony Award for Best Choreography for An American in Paris, and he was made an OBE in 2016. Christopher has worked with BalletBoyz on numerous occasions in the past, including Mesmerics.

Photo: George Piper
Sarah Crompton, Writer & Broadcaster, met up with the choregrapher to discuss this production. “I have never found it hard to turn a corner and walk down a new pathway without a map,” says Christopher Wheeldon, with a grin.  “I know most people like to know where they are going, but I struggle with that notion.  It’s not who I am at all.  Maybe I will turn the corner and there will be a precipitous drop that I’ll step off, but the risk-taking and the potential for disaster in the end is actually quite good fuel for creativity.  And maybe too that’s why I enjoy working with the BalletBoyz because they’re that way too.”

Photo: George Piper
He laughs.  When you first meet him, Wheeldon is the man least likely to be branded a risk taker.  He is calm, polite and – despite years living in New York – still has the demeanour of the nice boy from Somerset that he is.  But in more than 20 years as a choreographer and a director, he has changed directions numerous times.  This means he has built a body of work that is essentially uncategorisable from the Broadway musical An American in Paris, to pure classical ballet works for the Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet among other companies, to more contemporary pieces such as Us for the BalletBoyz.

Photo: George Piper
It all started in 1993, when, at the age of 19, he defied his destiny. Having trained at the Royal Ballet school and seeming to be on track to spend his entire career with the company, he used the airline flight he won in a competition to go to New York and talk his way into NYCB.  Four years later, he became their first resident choreographer.  

Photo: George Piper
Since then he has been constantly busy, but his career has taken many twists and turns.  He has founded his own dance company and watched it fold due to lack of funds; he has won a Tony for best choreography, for his award-winning rethinking of An American in Paris, which he also directed and which has enjoyed worldwide success.  He is an Artistic Associate of the Royal Ballet, where he made the hugely popular The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, a three-act ballet, as well as numerous smaller works. 

Photo: George Piper
“I love doing such different things and being all over the place.  I have to use my brain in different ways, and I think that’s what’s stimulating about being able to jump between different forms of dance and theatre.  I think that is probably what allows me to work as much and as consistently as I do without getting exhausted.  I have quite a lot of belief in my ability to achieve things.”
Wheeldon is also capable of working at incredibly high speeds.  For his new piece for the BalletBoyz, Us, he is expanding a duet to the music of Keaton Henson, that took him 14 days to create.  Its expansion has taken 10 days.  “I have to say that there is a kind of excitement contained within that breathlessness. There’s no time to mess around.  You just have to get on with it.”

Photo: George Piper
He has known the company’s founders, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, since they were all at the Royal Ballet School together.  “They were both seniors when I was a junior.  And I love being able to say that now,” the 45 year old says with another laugh.

Photo: George Piper
They bonded when Nunn and Trevitt accompanied him to Moscow in 2006, where Wheeldon was choreographing his first piece for the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet.  The commission turned into a saga of disaster, only retrieved at the last minute and the story was recorded in Strictly Bolshoi, an engrossing tale of triumph snatched from the jaws of defeat.  Since then Wheeldon has been a regular contributor to the Boyz’s endeavours.

Photo: George Piper
His latest piece will be presented in a double bill, alongside a piece called Them choreographed by the all-male company themselves.  “I love the way that they are always thinking a lot about how to make their programmes entertaining.  How can we make challenging, complex dance more accessible to a broader audience,” Wheeldon says. “They are very creative in the room and really hands on in a way that I think contemporary dancers tend to be more than ballet dancers anyway.  Ballet dancers wait to be told what to do, and there’s an etiquette and a politeness about rehearsals that doesn’t exist so much in the contemporary dance world and certainly doesn’t exist with the Boyz. Which is not to say they are impolite.  I think they are about the most polite group of gentlemen that I have ever worked with, but they’re hands on and they like to roll their sleeves up and be part of it.”
 
Photo: George Piper
The current BalletBoyz Company includes: Sean Flanagan, Benjamin Knapper, Harry Price, Liam Riddick, Matthew Sandiford and Bradley Waller.

On The Web:
Twitter: @BalletBoyz
Facebook: /BalletBoyz
Instagram: /BalletBoyz

Tickets:
Tickets are from £10 and can be booked from the theatre on 0191 230 5151 or online: https://www.northernstage.co.uk/Event/balletboyz-them-us



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