TALKING TO BALLETBOYZ
The award-winning BalletBoyz are back with brand new work Them/Us and perform at Richmond Theatre and G Live, Guildford this April. We caught up with one-half of the creative force behind the innovative dance company, Artistic Director Billy Trevitt, to discuss contemporary dance and the work that takes place at their studio space in Kingston.
FOR THOSE THAT MIGHT NOT KNOW, CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT BALLETBOYZ THE DANCE COMPANY?
It’s almost twenty years old, and originally it was formed by myself, and Michael Nunn the other Artistic Director. We had been principle dancers with the Royal Ballet, so we’re classical ballet dancers but we wanted to explore more contemporary ways of moving – contemporary dance. That’s why we set up our own company.
Inevitably we got too old for that, so we’ve now hired a much younger, much fitter and stronger group of dancers – all male for this project and they’re performing a brand new repetoire that was premiered just a few weeks ago.
THE BOYZ HEAD OUT ON TOUR THIS SPRING WITH YOUR NEW PRODUCTION THEM/US – WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE?
One of the inspirations was a duet that made up part of our previous production Fourteen Days. Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon had created a duet for us and we really liked it and audiences went absolutely crazy for it. There’s some kind of story going on and it was a little bit hard to tell exactly what was going on, but you knew that something had happened before you get to see these guys dancing, it’s like there was a prequel needed.
We asked him to extend the piece of work and to explore what might have gone on before, what the story was or what the context is. That duet was called ‘Us’ and we thought if that was going to be half the show, then wouldn’t it be great if the other half was called ‘Them’, so we had Them and Us and that’s how the show got the title and that was the inspiration to bring it all together.
The first act ‘Them’ is created entirely in-house by the dancers and our rehearsal director – lots of improvisation, lots of failures, and just the right number of successes to create a work.
HAVING WORKED ON YOUR PREVIOUS PRODUCTION FOURTEEN DAYS, YOU’RE BACK WORKING WITH CHOREOGRAPHER CHRISTOPHER WHEELDON AND COMPOSERS CHARLOTTE HARDING AND KEATON HENSON – HOW IS IT WORKING WITH THE TRIO?
Well I guess its slightly different every time, but we know each other well enough not to have to be too polite with one another; we can say “that just doesn’t work, have you got anything else”. Generally speaking it’s a really productive relationship. That ability to cut through the pleasantries is really useful. With Chris and Keaton working together, they know each other well and they’re on the same wavelength with this kind of work.
With Charlotte Harding, we had her come into the studio and as the dancers were inventing the movement, she was inventing the music to go with it. One would influence the other and it would flow backwards and forwards in a way, which is very unusual. Normally a choreographer has a piece of music they like and they play it in the rehearsal room and everybody works out what to do with it. Here we could create both the score and choreography in parallel, which I think, was really interesting to work on and very unusual.
HOW HAVE YOU BOTH BEEN INVOLVED IN THE LATEST PRODUCTION?
We find it very hard to keep our hands off, so were in the studio meddling and saying ‘no it doesn’t work, try this, try this or it needs to be longer, it needs to be shorter’, so we’re constantly kind of interfering with the creative work.
That’s always how it been with us. When we were the dancers we would be saying to the choreographer and we say “hey, have you thought of this, maybe we would try it like this?” or, “while you were out at lunch we tried this”. That really doesn’t stop once you stop dancing. We still have all of these ideas and ways in which we want to contribute.
We are in a position now where we have a better overview. When you’re the choreographer or the dancer you can’t quite see how it’s going to fit in with the rest of the programme or what its going to look like when the stage lights are on it, because those are the things that the artistic directors are thinking about all the time. So we have that wide view and we can say, “it’s really nice what you’ve done, but it’s not going to work for what we need”. We’re able to be a bit more prescriptive about what we end up with.
IF YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO THE BALLET BEFORE, WHAT CAN THE AUDIENCE EXPECT ON THE NIGHT?
The two pieces are very, very different, but at the very heart of it – because we’re not enormous fans of going to watch dance – what we’ve always wanted to make sure that our shows are entertaining.
There’s lots going on, lots of variety. The dancers are excellent and are drilled to within an inch of their life so that they’re step perfect. It’s very, very exciting musically and visually –the lightings fabulous and the costumes are great.
When we stopped dancing and we replaced ourselves, we were relying on their youthful exuberance, but these dancers are now seasoned professionals and you feel in extremely competent hands when they dance.
FOR ANY ASPIRING DANCERS OUT THERE, WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE? HOW DOES ONE BECOME A BALLET BOY?
The best thing to do is to see a wide range of dance so that you know that you’re heading in the direction that’s most interesting to you. There are lots of dead-ends and cul-de-sacs and what you really want to do, is to find out what inspires you. See plenty, don’t give up and don’t take no for an answer. There will be a place for you – it just takes tenacity.
YOU’RE REHEARSAL STUDIO IS BASED IN KINGSTON – WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT WORKING LIFE IN KINGSTON? WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO GET YOUR MORNING JUICE/COFFEE?
We’re eagerly anticipating the re-opening of The Canbury Arms, which is our nearest pub. It’s been closed for 6-months and they’ve built a whole new wing and a new kitchen and it opens imminently – we’re very excited.
We’ve done all sorts in Kingston. We’ve done stuff in the Market Square, other outdoor performances and we’ve performed at the Rose Theatre.
We do a lot of classes for local people. We obviously have ballet classes, but we have contemporary dance classes for teenagers, adult ballet classes, we do classes for young people with special educational needs, classes for people with Parkinson’s disease. A whole range of different classes go on here and we have an excellent connection between the company dancers and all the different groups that come and use our studio, so it feels like a really entwined community.
April 6 – 7 /Richmond Theatre / For more information, visit www.atgtickets.com
April 10 / G Live, Guildford / For more information, visit www.glive.co.uk
Image by: George Piper