London’s Ballet Boyz, the company founded in 2001 by two principal dancers from the Royal Ballet, were in Portland Wednesday, Jan. 25, to perform at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
Co-artistic directors Michael Nunn and William Trevitt offered an eclectic, engaging evening of dance, featuring a company of 10 male dancers in a show presented by Portland’s White Bird Dance.
Opening the show, Rabbit, choreographed by Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg, took a thoughtful journey into a whimsical, at-times darker place, juxtaposing simple moments of interconnection with the focus and weight of group dynamics.
Although the costume designer isn’t credited, the piece is all about the rabbit heads, worn by nine out of ten dancers at one time or another. These heads are arresting and charming at once, with the scruffy, approachable ease of a well-loved favorite toy, but utilized with terrific effect by the dancers themselves.
A costume palette of grays and muted charcoals and browns gives the effect of yesterday’s schoolboys, late for class.
In a series of gentle interludes, the piece explores carrying and connecting, with sinewy, playful gambits into energy and force.
The mask work is first rate — dancing full-out while wearing a rabbit head cannot possibly be too fun — with dancers careening through intricate and bouncy folkdance patterns and lively rolls and falls, while maintaining their rabbit gaze.
Lighting design by James Farncombe offers an amber glow, or a gray glower, depending on the mood.
But the piece never tips over into the maudlin or scary, though there is something about the dynamic — between the central dancer and all these rabbits — that evokes a childlike response to the unknown.
Also on the bill, Javier de Frutos’ Fiction played with line, shape and pattern, as an access point to gossip, hearsay, even memoir.
In this cheeky exploration, the fanciful repetitions and ellipses in voiceover narrative — words provided by Ismene Brown and spoken by Jim Carter, Sir Derek Jacobi and Imelda Staunton — echo and reverberate throughout the fast-paced movement, like rivulets of electric current.
Centered around a portable ballet barre, used here as a climbing gym, a balance beam and even a wall, the ten dancers, clad in sweats and universal white t-shirts, seem to exhume a personal and public history, to redress masculinity only to subsume it all again and again in the fray.