Co-founded in 2000 by ex-Royal Ballet dancers Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, BalletBoyz made their Edinburgh Fringe debut last month with double bill Them / Us, which stops by Reading in September. Them, the first half of the show, is created through a unique collaborative choreographic process by the company dancers. Tony and Olivier Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon concludes the evening with Us, exploring human connections and presenting BalletBoyz at its powerful best. From the Fringe, BalletBoy Bradley Waller tells us more about the show and how he started dancing.
Them is very much a collaboration between many people: the dancers, the directors, and Charlotte Harding who composed the music. We were fascinated by what could be created by a group of people instead of just one person, and thought it would be a great opportunity for us to get our own individual characters onto the stage – we wanted everybody to feel as though they had a sense of ownership over the work, which is about us as a group and our diversity.
The second half is an extension of a seven-minute duet Christopher Wheeldon previously choreographed for a show we did a couple of years ago, 14 Days. He was always interested in what took place before the duet, how the relationship between the two individuals came about. He came back and made it into a half-hour piece with four other dancers. Very intimate, it tells the story in an abstract way; the journey these two people took to arrive at the duet people saw two years ago.
All the way through school, I was never interested in dance. I was quite athletic, enjoyed PE, and I was very interested in art. And dance combines the two – this idea of art using your physicality and body. My sister took me to a local dance class, I was really reluctant to go for a long time, but one day I eventually gave in and said ‘ok, I’ll join you, I’ll go for one session and see how it is.’ From there I ended up going back every week. I fell in love with it. It was the first thing I was really passionate about. I would go to school and then in the evenings take ballet. Eventually I discovered contemporary technique and fell even more in love. I love the freedom of it, being able to express yourself through movement; with dance you can speak about things that aren’t always easy to speak about. At the same time, I love the discipline of it.
There’s a BalletBoyz Dancer’s Course of which Matthew Sandford and I are both directors. It’s a yearly course that takes place over three terms on weekends. It’s for young dancers, either post-graduate or looking to go into full-time training. It’s a brilliant platform for people to learn and find their interests and their passions, and develop themselves as artists and people.
And usually, when we’re on tour, we’ll deliver workshops. We always try to find time to go to certain schools that maybe don’t have access to dance. When I was growing up in Rotherham, there wasn’t that much dance – maybe that’s one of the reasons I didn’t get into it until I was 16. So I love being able to take this style of dance to people who aren’t aware of it. Maybe they’ll discover something they love and just didn’t realise existed.
We also do a lot of work with special needs schools – we have a strong relationship with Strathmore School in London. It’s something I’ve found incredibly rewarding. It feels like a real privilege to be able to work with special needs students in the form of dance.