A lot can be said about a performance before it’s even begun, and the atmosphere at The Roundhouse preceding the BalletBoyz performance speaks volumes. A swarm of eager audience members queue on the stairway, eagerly waiting for the doors to open. Once in, a hubbub of excited murmurs fill the theatre on the opening night. There’s a grandeur that pervades the space. Perhaps it’s the extravagant beams that stretch across the domed ceiling giving off a feeling of splendour. Maybe it’s the scattering of small dining tables and golden chairs that litter the floor in front of the stage. Whatever it is, it was a clue as to what was to come once the show began.

Liam Scarlett's <i>Serpent</i> © Panos
Liam Scarlett's Serpent
© Panos

Two of the three works that BalletBoyz presents incorporate video footage of past rehearsals and accounts from the choreographers - an effective choice as it gives a greater understanding of the piece to follow, and it immediately initiates a connection to the dancers and the piece as you view it in its pre-performance state. Liam Scarlett, choreographer of the opening piece Serpent, touches on the intention for his work. Although theTalent is a company of ten physically muscular men, Scarlett wanted to “focus on the subtlety” of their movement. The men perform Serpent with a delicacy that contradicts their strong stature, and at times a fluidity that blends each individual movement into a vision of beauty. The absence of women doesn’t hinder the company even though many of the duets adopt a soft, feminine quality. However, some of the material is slightly unfulfilling as, occasionally, the repertoire doesn’t illuminate the ability that the company owns. And with a score by Max Richter, whose music is rich with strings, intensity and emotion, the accompaniment occasionally overshadows the performance.

As the triple bill progresses, you begin to realise that theTalent’s style is incredibly distinctive. Naturally, their bodies ooze a silk-like quality making all that emanates from them graceful. The silken texture that inhabits Serpent appears in Russell Maliphant’s Fallen, but instead of the continuous surge of sinuous movement, sharpness punctures it. It’s striking. If the stage floor was water, then theTalent wouldn’t make a single ripple. But when needed, they spike the flow with abrupt movement. The contrast produces a sweet and sour mix of solos, contact work and lifts – all things that theTalent excel in ordinarily. But Maliphant amplifies the collective to an even higher degree.

Russell Maliphant's <i>Fallen</i> © Panos
Russell Maliphant's Fallen
© Panos

His contact work is unconventional but remarkable. Lifts that would begin majestically, with a man standing aloft another’s shoulders, would suddenly adopt a sombre tone as a shift in position leaves the once majestic man, hoisted high above the supporting men’s shoulders. The positioning is similar to that of a person residing in a coffin – a reference that gently alludes to the title of the work.

Maliphant retains all that theTalent possesses but brings difference. But the most significant divergence of the evening arrives in the form of an excerpt of Young Men, a piece by Ivan Perez that premières in January 2015. Themes of war is the focus and for the first time within the triple bill, noticeable emotions manifest. Gone is the refinery, and in its place is a performance that is vivid and honest. Men grapple each other to the floor and shout at one another – a clear hierarchy beginning to present itself. Young Men acts as a demonstration. The performance proves that theTalent are a versatile company as they can do soft and supple, but in a matter of minutes, can produce a magnitude of masculine force and raw emotion.

But a vulnerability contradicts the masculine force. A man with contorted limbs is bought on stage by another, his movement peculiar. The quality to his movement screams fragility and the notion is heightened by the fact that he is wearing nothing but black briefs. His naked form acts as an illumination to what his broken body produces. Each contortion that twists from his body creates an ugly beauty. It’s strange but arresting and is the highlight of Perez’s work, and the highlight of the night.

BalletBoyz presents a remarkable triple bill of works at The Roundhouse, and although each work has a different choreographer, it’s interesting to note that they all share similarities but contain differences that make them stand out on their own accord. This is a company that staged their first ever show  as BalletBoyz 13 years ago, but are still producing contemporary work, and there is no doubt that their performances in 2015 will be just as spectacular.