Dallas — There are ballets that are beautiful and then there are ballets that go beyond beauty. The Sleeping Beauty fits the first category, and in a way, so does Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s Rice. But the second category describes Mesmerics, one of two works performed by BalletBoyz Saturday at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House, on the TITAS season.
BalletBoyz, as the name suggests, is an all-male troupe, making it something of a curiosity. Yes, we have the Trocks and a couple of other all-male companies—mostly from England, where BalletBoyz is based—and then there was Ted Shawn who introduced the idea of an all-male dance company as far back as 1933. Still, the idea is an oddity.
When principal dancers William Trevit and Michael Nunn broke away from the Royal Ballet in 1998, they did so to experiment on their own. They wanted new and fresh choreography, and BalletBoyz emerged three years later.
As you might expect, strength and masculine energy play a bit part in the repertory, but judging by the two works on the program, Alexander Whitley’s The Murmuring and Christopher Wheeldon’s Mesmerics, each ballet goes far beyond that.
The Murmuring is dark and brooding, with shifts in mood from combative to cooperative. In dim lighting and to grating and ominous electronic music, nine men in everyday clothes are constantly claiming their own space as they eye each other. But then they temporarily join forces, like a rugby team. Certain images are repeated. In one, they gather on the far side of the stage, stack on top of each other pyramid style, and stretch far out holding hands with the tension of a rope. In another, they lean forward and propel their bodies in spiraling turns. In yet another, several men grab hands, lunge forward, and swing a man at a tilt, his limbs stretched out. But the most persistent motif is that of a single man breaking away, falling, struggling and getting upright. The others look on, immobile.
It is that persistent tug of war of mankind: the individual wants to make it on his own while also needing to feel part of a larger unit.
In contrast to the gritty Murmuring, the balletic Mesmerics is seamless, aerial and luscious. The transitions are uncannily smooth, the partnering devilishly complex and elegant. The music, by Philip Glass, stops and starts, setting each segment of dance apart. Mostly, there are duets of long, arcing lifts that look perfectly effortless, as one man hoists his partner overhead and returns him to the floor only for the second man to do the same.
In ensemble sections they move as one or fan out in pairs, playing off each other in subtle ways, as in a musical canon. Outfitted in pale blue and silver tights and the tiniest of skirts, when they pirouette in unison, the edges of the skirts flip in the wind. It is hypnotically beautiful—as is everything else about Mesmerics.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine