By Merilyn Jackson
For the Inquirer
The first time I reviewed London's BalletBoyz in 2003 for their American debut, I said they were too cute for words. Though I did think of a few: gymnastic, marvelous, elegant. Now I add exciting. Their new show theTalent, now touring worldwide, kicked off with its American leg at Dance Celebration's 2014 series at Annenberg Thursday night, and it's more than exciting. It's thrilling.
Former principal Royal Ballet dancers, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, left the Royal in 1999 to form their own company, George Piper (their middle names) Dances. But a BBC-imposed nickname, BalletBoyz, was harder to flick away than toilet paper off a wet jazz shoe. It stuck.
For this company iteration, they have ten breathlessly matchless men with the most exquisite foot, torso and arm articulations and noiseless landings.
In Liam Scarlett's ethereal Serpent the men wear tights with built in kneepads for the arduous floor work. To a riveting Max Richter score, they lie on their sides, backs to the audience, waving their perpendicular arms like sea snakes. Once on their feet, their athletic lifts and drops are measured and as couples, they face off adversarially in hand-to-hand contact improv and head butts.
Facing upstage, the tallest, Adam Kirkham, begins a chain of men in descending height, locking arms around the next one's neck and leaning back, until Matthew Rees arrives, looks them over and decides he's not joining.
For his mucho macho Fallen, Russell Maliphant uses the beautifully driven rhythms of film score composer Armand Amar. In what could be military or prison garb, five dancers form a tight wheel turning clockwise while the other five circle around them in the opposite direction. Elevated fishdives required a third dancer to hold the chest of the upended, perfectly rigid dancer. And Andrea Carucciu's sinewy solo, his impeccably pointed feet, mesmerized. The dark work ends as it began. No one has escaped the circle, whatever it represents.
Michael Hull lit both works creating many sculptural effects on the muscularity of the men.
Shows today at 8 p.m. and Saturday 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets: $20-$60. Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut St. 215-898-3900 www.annenbergcenter.org