Rasta Thomas' Rock the Ballet starring Bad Boys of Dance – review
Peacock Theatre

Published: Sunday, June 15, 2014 7:46 AM | Review by: Mike Scott-Harding |
Bad Boys of Dance   in Rock the Ballet  (c) Irina Chira Bad Boys of Dance in Rock the Ballet (c) Irina Chira

The production, 'Rock the ballet', is a choreographed 'jukebox' of a piece. It boasts seven classically trained dancers, a selection of songs from the 70's through to the present-day, and a back-drop for projections. That's it.


The cast's name, 'Bad Boys of Dance', is something of a misnomer; the male performers in this production certainly look young, but otherwise spend an inordinate amount of time aiming to please. Maybe they know something that (they think) we don't?!


Initially, the signs did not look promising; as the five-strong male ensemble entered to The Chemical Brother's 'Block Rocking Beats', it felt a bit like an end-of-term dance recital. There was lots of energy but, in place of heart-felt performances, we got vacuous grins (the facial equivalent of 'jazz hands') and, instead of individual style, we got ropey unison and a so-so routine.


The energy changed somewhat when, at the end of the first song, James Boyd came out to play. Brimming with charisma, personality, and great technique (both ballet and jazz), he upped the ante for both the cast and the audience and, with the introduction of the dexterous (female) artistic director/dancer, Adrienne Canterna, the first half began to take shape.


Bad Boys of Dance   in Rock the Ballet  (c) Irina Chira Bad Boys of Dance in Rock the Ballet (c) Irina Chira

Backed by the ensemble, and a selection of songs from various popular music genres, the two principals enacted the classic 'rise and fall of a love affair' experience. Most notable was a lovely exploration of Donny Hathaway's extraordinary 'A song for you', a piece which finally allowed the ensemble to contribute individually. Although Mister Boyd and Miss Caterna's clean, technical duet remained the strongest element, there seemed here to be a more satisfying marriage between song-choice and coherent emotional expression; it was certainly the highlight of the first half. At other times, especially in the more well-known songs, the ensemble element seemed bolted-on; the choreography feeling more like obligation than inspiration.


In act two the ensemble, freed from the shackles of the 'chorus-line', were allowed to present/impose themselves more, both in terms of personality and individual interpretation. I'm not sure if irony was intentional or not, but the second half kicked off with an interesting exploration of the 'ghost in the machine' myth. Set to Olafur Arnalds' 'Brotsjor', it featured Mister Boyd as an ever-more- erratic 'ghost', striving to escape the emotional confines of the very technology that defines him/us. Another highlight.


Rasta Thomas' fusion of jazz, ballet, and hip-hop was technically well-executed. There were enough songs to satisfy most tastes, and the technically talented dancers work extremely hard to entertain.

Thereafter, performing to the backdrop of a seemingly random selection of pop-music, the dancers executed/exhibited their studied ballet-lines, jetes (leaps), chaines (turns), hand-claps, somersaults, and hip-hop tricks as if trying to disguise the paucity of narrative and/or emotional depth. Having pulled out all of these hitherto dance-related (crowd-pleasing) 'stops', the production finally succumbed to the ultimate temptation of… (yawn) sex!


After a flirtatious naked-torso reveal by Mister Boyd, all the male dancers performed naked from the waist up for the last song, LMFAO's 'Sexy and I know it'. Of course, this generated the expected shrill response from certain members of the audience and, hastening to its inevitable 'climax', the production slipped into, what was ultimately a technically-proficient 'Chippendales' schtick... Beyonce-like 'booty-shake' and all(!)


In summary, choreographer Rasta Thomas' fusion of jazz, ballet, and hip-hop was technically well-executed. The lighting was good and, although the projected images didn't add up to much narratively, they certainly enhanced the ambience. There were enough songs from various genres to satisfy most tastes, and the technically talented dancers work extremely hard to entertain (especially in the second half). However, I can't help but feel that this particular marriage of cast and programme is one of (marketing) convenience rather than something more... fulfilling. For now, the juke-box jury is out!


Info: Rasta Thomas' Rock the Ballet starring Bad Boys of Dance is at the Peacock Theatre until June 28th, 2014 | book tickets




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