INTERVIEW: BalletBoyz

INTERVIEW: BalletBoyz
Interview
Posted on 10 Oct 2016

BalletBoyz Artistic Directors Michael Nunn and William Trevitt talk about the dance company’s latest production, Life.

Can you tell us a bit about Life. and how the idea for the project was first developed?
We imagined a show called Life, a title that would be very open-ended in terms of meaning, but that would spark an idea in the minds of the choreographers. They were both given the title and asked to use it in any way they wanted, and what you will see is the result of that spark. There are predictable ways to create for a group of 10 young men, but we were looking for something beyond the obvious. In Life., we’ve been delighted to find solutions to the problem that couldn’t be more different.

The show features two new commissions by Javier de Frutos and Pontus Lidberg. How did this collaboration come about? 
Variety has always been important to us, and in the past we’ve wanted the two acts of a double bill to be in complete contrast to one another. But for Life., we were looking for more of a connection between the works. Javier has had a fascinating career, ranging from small-scale dance works to huge National Theatre productions, and it’s a great thrill to work with him. Pontus was much less known to us. We’d seen his work in some really beautiful dance films and thought that we’d at least have a connection with him on that level. Our dancers have proved themselves creative artists in their own right, collaborating on two unexpected and wholly original works which, in a strange way, are mirror images.

Javier and Pontus are prominent figures in contemporary dance, but they have different styles and approaches. What can we expect from each commission?
We obviously had some preconceptions about what Javier and Pontus might create, but actually, how they’ve created has been equally interesting. Pontus built up layers of movement until he saw what he’d imagined, whereas Javier chipped away, revealing more and more ideas until they began to form into a shape that none of us had expected.

You met at the Royal Ballet Upper School and joined the Royal Ballet together in 1987, where, between you, you played all the principal roles. What was that experience like?
The Royal Ballet was a great place to work and a great place to learn. We were able to stand on the sidelines watching our heroes and slowly learning our trade. We toured all over the world. And we really made the most of our privileged position to develop our other interests in photography and film. 

BalletBoyz was formed in 2001. How did the idea for the company develop?
In a big ballet company, what often seems to happen is that visiting choreographers turn to the younger, fresher dancers when they’re commissioned to create - and at that time, that was us. We always loved collaborating and creating, so when we left the Royal Ballet, we wanted to spend all our time commissioning and creating new dance works. 

In 2010, you retired from the stage and developed the first edition of The Talent. Tell us a bit about this ground-breaking project...
The Talent was a bit of an experiment at first. We knew that choreographers and audiences were intrigued by the idea of men dancing together, so thought we’d try and push that to an extreme by having a company of 10 young men. We never really imagined that it would be as popular as it’s been. We thought it might last a year or so before we would need to think of something else. Instead, the interest remains and there seems no end to what they can achieve.

Following its hugely successful run at Sadler’s Wells in 2014, Young Men has been developed into a feature-length film. Describe the project and the process of creating dance for film...
The film is a silent movie with a score by singer-songwriter Keaton Henson. It’s the story of young soldiers in or around the time of the First World War; no specific army, battle or nationality, just young men facing death every day. It uses Iván Pérez’s choreography from our stage version that we adapted for film. We took the entire company to Northern France in November 2015 for two weeks to shoot. It was an incredible experience and has given us a taste for making movies. We can’t wait for the next one!

Life. by BalletBoyz takes place at Leicester’s Curve on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 October.

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