The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, is a pervasive influence in Rasta Thomas’ ‘Rock the Ballet’ either in choreographic tropes or Thriller-styled suits and preppy polo shirts. Behind the ‘bad boys’ strap-line, the peacock is undeniable. Yet it’s tamed, emasculated, by Resident Choreographer Adrienne Canterna’s tight rein: the bad boys become the lost boys. They relish the opportunities to ‘do their thing’ before mama gets home; the problem is, she is never too far away.
The seven dancers are at the top of their game; their virtuosity and athleticism is breath-taking. Kicks, pirouettes, flips seem to come from nowhere; the finish as brilliantine as French Polish. Ballet meets contemporary, meets hip-hop, meets street jive with a loose time-line of sorts from the 60s to the present day.
The high-energy show shuffles through its ipod playlist from The Chemical Brothers to U2; Olafur Arnalds to Basement Jaxx, and with a pumping bass and MTV inspired projections, it’s like being trapped inside a lava-lamp. Colours of deep purple, lush green, sky blue, flaming red and tangy orange play amidst pixellated abstractions, sky-scrapers or waterfalls; the choreography hot-wired for excess.
The architectural conception with its star-trek, shafts of light (Dieter Bucco) fill the space while dappled patterns on the floor dazzle like a brilliant fireworks’ display. The Verve’s Bittersweet, in a contemporary ‘rose adage’ leads into the red explosion of Coldplay’sEvery Teardrop is a Waterfall; a pure joyous response in a fusion of sound, light and movement. Equally, Olafur Arnalds’ Brotsjor, becomes a black and white, dystopian vision of industrial machinery, testosterone-packed, with metallic, futuristic lighting.
Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger leads us back to red corpuscles, trapped in a warp and weave from a bad acid trip. ‘Rock the Ballet’ is exuberant entertainment. There are hints through song titles, With or Without You, Aerosmith’s I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing or Sonny Bono’s Shot Me Down, at some ‘story’ but the attempt, good-humouredly, is abandoned.
The company has fun and the audience have fun in a collective whoop-de-doo. ‘Rock the Ballet’ with its interchangeable format, accommodates different playlists for different towns. It is high-octane, high-calibre, but I am looking forward to seeing what they do with Romeo and Juliet next year.