Dallas — For the past decade the UK-based, all-male dance troupe BalletBoyz has been captivating audiences all over the globe with its raw, masculine movement style and daring collaborations with some of today’s top international choreographers, including Alexander Whitley, Christopher Wheeldon, Russell Maliphant and Paul Roberts. Dallas audiences will get the chance to see the company in works by both Whitley and Wheeldon when TITAS presents BalletBoyz at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House this Saturday evening.
BalletBoyz is the brain child of former Royal Ballet principal’s Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt. They met at the Royal Ballet Upper School and joined the Royal Ballet together in 1987. Nunn and Trevitt left the company in 2001 to start up their own modern dance troupe, BalletBoyz. Today, the company consists of ten young male dancers from a variety of backgrounds who tour regularly across the UK and internationally. In 2013 BalletBoyz received the National Dance Award for best independent company.
In addition to their extensive performing and stage works, Trevitt and Nunn have also created numerous arts documentaries for television, including BalletBoyz I and II, Strictly Bolshoi, The Royal Ballet in Cuba, BalletBoyz: The Next Generation and BalletBoyz: The Rite of Spring. In 2012 Trevitt and Nunn came to the U.S. where they filmed a seven-part TV series for the Ovation network titled A Chance to Dance. Over the years the dynamic duo has won various awards for their film work, including an International Emmy, Rose d’Or and Golden Prague.
Trevitt and Nunn both live in West London with their families. They are Ambassadors for Children and the Arts, a charity set up by His Royal Highness Prince Charles, and were made OBEs in 2012 for their service to dance.
TheaterJones asks BalletBoyz co-founder Billy Trevitt about the company’s universal appeal, breaking down old stereotypes when it comes to male dancers and collaborating with some of today’s most prominent international choreographers.
TheaterJones: What were your reasons for leaving the Royal Ballet?
Billy Trevitt: At the time we left, the company was in a precarious position and that coupled with a realization that approaching 30 our classical ballet days were probably on the wane. We had always really enjoyed working with choreographers on new dance pieces and were interested in stretching our skills and exploring a much broader range of dance styles.
How were male dancers perceived by the general public in the United Kingdom at the time you started BalletBoyz?
Dance audiences have always understood and admired male dancers, but the wider public was just beginning to appreciate what men in dance could do. No longer restricted by outdated stereotypes, to see men dancing on TV had become much more common place.
What it hard as an all-male company to build interest within the local dance community?
When we remodeled BalletBoyz as an all-male company we imagined it being a fairly short term project but we have found that choreographers are fascinated by a challenge they rarely get and audiences totally respond to the physicality and aesthetic we offer.
You and Michael Nunn have been called pioneers in the press for making dance more accessible and for reaching a wider audience through your stage and television work. Was accessibility one of your goals when you and Nunn started the company?
We consider one of the prime reasons for what we do to be entertainment. It is easy for contemporary dance to become self-absorbed and for the audience to become alienated and we always want to appeal to the people who might be unfamiliar with the form. They might only try a contemporary dance show once and we want that to be ours so that we can convert them to become life long fans!
When did you become interested in film and making dance for the camera? Are you surprised with the popularity of your BalletBoyz video diaries?
We had always been fascinated by cameras and so we thought it would be really interesting to show what a dancer’s life with The Royal Ballet was really like—not just whimsical artists, but hard-working athletes—and that was around the time that video diaries became a more mainstream way for individuals to express themselves. Now we understand that an audience can feel included in what they are watching by letting them in to a few secrets about the creative process or what is on the minds of the dancers as they perform.
In an interview you gave to the Independent UK in 2012 you said your biggest regret was you wished you had gone and danced in other countries when you were younger. What difference do you think this would have made on your dancing?
Variety has always been important to us and travelling and working with new people in new ways gives you more information to draw on. The change is hard to describe, but when you work in a field that has a universal language it seems like a great opportunity to work anywhere.
Do you recommend that young dancers today travel as much as they can?
We feel the same about our own dancers, wanting them to have a really broad range of experience because many of the choreographers we work with look to the dancers for inspiration. The deeper the pool of ideas and thoughts they have to draw upon the more they have to offer in a collaborative, creative process.
How would you describe the type of movement Dallas audiences are going to see at your performance this weekend?
The performance we’re bringing to Dallas is a double bill of two very different works. Act 1, The Murmuring, is very physical, deeply layered and crafted piece in which the dancers have to imagine themselves with a flocking mentality, following the rules that govern flocks of birds as they create those incredible patterns in the sky. The second half of the evening, Mesmerics, is quite different, lyrical, gentle and the most balletic work in our repertoire. It is hypnotic and sensual, a beautiful piece.
What drew you to the work of Alexander Whitley and Christopher Wheeldon?
Coincidentally both choreographers are products of The Royal Ballet system, but both went in very different directions and that highlights what we look for when we are commissioning. We want to challenge the versatility of our dancers and present great contrast of styles to the audience.
What choreographers would you like to work with in the future?
We are currently working with another uncompromising pair of choreographers, Pontus Lidberg and Javier de Frutos, on a new show that will premiere in London this April. Beyond that we are eager to develop choreographic talent from within the company as well as attracting more collaborators from further afield.
» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com