"Breathtaking portrayals of dark times"
by Jen Soame for remotegoat on 07/10/15

The first scene of Young Men seems to perfectly encapsulate the feel of the production and ironically it is the lone female that suggests the most. She writhes alone and scared across the stage, hopeless and powerless, as a line of soldiers advance sombrely and purposefully towards an inevitable battle. She, who is the symbol of the left-at-homes, the perhaps better position to be in but suffering equally, is disconnected from the men who have left her. Startling and memorable, this scene prepares for the dark and poignant times to come.

South London’s BalletBoyz initially performed Young Men in January of this year to wide acclaim. Developed accidentally though now fittingly through WW1 Centenary events, it offers a very new type of exposure to modern war that may otherwise be now leaving us saturated and numb. This production propels the viewer into the reality of war, making it relevant. British soldier to Syrian refugee – both breath exhaustion, struggle and trauma.

Young Men runs to an incredibly moving score which despite lack of clear narrative and no set to speak of, gives the impression of watching a film. It has grown in length since January and this makes it even more believable that it will be developed into a feature length film in coming months.

Choreographer Iván Peréz warned that his dancers would be exhausted at the end of every night, aided by his intimate choreographic style where dancers are demanded to be in close contact and in touch with emotion. The dance was flawless in movement and both smooth and strong, each soloist having an intense character which was easy to identify with. A grief-stricken lady watches ghosts, desperate to grasp memories, or perhaps searching for her lost soldier in the trenches. Men solid in camaraderie, broken from vigorous manoeuvres, haunted by sounds and memories; all ultimately altered by war. An almost contortionist movement of a shellshock patient showed the angle-defying chaos of trauma thrashing within the mind. Describing these stories however won’t bring to life the feel of the piece and the sheer spectacle on stage. This is perhaps a testimony to how hard Peréz is able to make his dancers engage and enrapture, and how that intimate choreographic style is so well suited to this idea.

BalletBoyz was built on a dream to challenge, excite and enlighten audiences and make dance accessible. Young Men is a production which exceeds all of the above with so much depth and beauty and haunting poignancy. A must see.

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