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Co-Founder Of All-Male Ballet Company Talks About New Show
There will be no shortage of male testosterone flying around when the amazing Balletboyz dance company takes to the stage with its latest vibrant production. The Balletboyz, made up of ten energetic male dancers, is going on tour with new show, LIFE, which includes a performance at the Lichfield Garrick theatre on Saturday 28 May.
On the eve of the tour Weekend Notes caught up with co-founder Michael Nunn who, along with Billy Trevitt, created the Balletboyz from scratch in 2001. The two of them, who were made OBEs in 2012 for services to dance, met up at the Royal Ballet School as teenagers before going on to spend several years together as professional dancers at the Royal Ballet.
BalletBoyz introduce their new production, LIFE (credit Hugo Glendinning)
Michael, now aged 45, says he was a late starter to the world of dance. He reveals: "I started ballet fairly old at the age of 15, whereas Billy was about six. I didn't have a dance background at all. My sisters liked to do dance classes but not professionally.
Then someone took me to the ballet one day and I thought 'this is good, I like that'. So I enlisted in a local ballet school and said I would like to go to the Royal Ballet and they said why not."
So, are there still any barriers or stigma associated with boys becoming ballet dancers, as illustrated in the hit film Billy Elliot? Michael replies: "There are more boys taking up ballet than girls. I don't really know why it is but it has flipped the other way. It must be a generational thing because there are now fewer girls starting out than boys. You could say it's the Billy Elliot effect, or there is more male dance now on TV. It's still tough out there but there are more opportunities for male dancers these days."
BalletBoyz co-founders Michael Nunn (left) and Billy Trevitt
Michael admits it was a big gamble to leave the security of the Royal Ballet and strike out with Billy to form the Balletboyz. "We were a bit crazy, but we had been in a large ballet company for a long time and it just felt the right time to form our own. We wanted to have that freedom. So we upped and left to go to Japan because ballet was, and still is, very popular there. We toured in Japan for a couple of years and then we came back and started from scratch."
Balletboyz continue to tour worldwide, although Michael and Billy retired from dancing in 2010. Added Michael: "We had a really good career and thought it was time to stop completely rather than bow out slowly. Touring isn't so great for Billy and I because we are old. The lifespan of a male dancer used to be around 35, whereas I was 40 and Billy was 39 when we retired. Nowadays the younger dancers are so much more able to keep their bodies going."
Balletboyz back on the road with new production, LIFE (credit Hugo Glendinning)
Michael and Billy's retirement coincided with their decision to form a new ground-breaking project called TALENT involving a new group of young male dancers. "We didn't really have time to devote to the new project and keep performing ourselves. We selected eight young dancers from a variety of backgrounds but it's taken us six years to refine the company to where we want it to be now."
The new Balletboyz production of LIFE has been co-produced by Sadler's Wells in association with artsdepot. It features an original score and two new commissions by internationally acclaimed choreographers Pontus Lidberg and Javier de Frutos. The production promises an elegant, powerful and sometimes provocative look at life and death presented in BalletBoyz's inimitable style.
The Lichfield Garrick plays host to new dance production featuring all-male ballet company
We are constantly coming up with various projects we want to do and it's quite exciting to see who's choreographing now and take it from there. We approached Pontus, who is Swedish and from the classical world, and Javier, who is more contemporary. This latest show is pretty diverse with the second half more like dance theatre, which is new for us."
BalletBoyz, who won the National Dance Award for Best Independent Company in 2013, have already lined up around 70 performances, including a number of dates in the USA next January. Tickets for the Lichfield Garrick are available online or by calling 01543 412121.
UK Tour Dates
20-24 April Sadler's Wells, London 020 7863 8000
May 9 Connaught Theatre, Worthing 01903 206 206
May 11 artsdepot, London 020 8369 5454
May 13 New Theatre, Oxford 0844 871 3020
May 15 Northcott Theatre, Exeter 01392 726363
May 17 G Live, Guildford 01483 369350
May 19 Octagon Theatre, Yeovil 01935 422884
May 22 King's Theatre, Edinburgh 0131 529 6000
May 23-24 Dundee Rep 01382 223530
May 26 The Atkinson, Southport 01704 533333
May 28 Garrick Theatre, Lichfield 01543 412121
June 1 Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham 01242 572573
June 3-4 Cambridge Arts Theatre 01223 503333