Ballet and street dance – not the most obvious of bedfellows, I’m sure you’ll agree. But after watching Beats on Pointe you may want to reassess that opinion, as the two genres stand beside each other and are effortlessly blended together in a breathless display of dance. Australian dance company Masters of Choreography returns to the Peacock Theatre on tour, following a successful stint last year, before heading around the UK for a select few performances.
There’s a slightly tentative and disjointed start to the evening, as a member of the company struggles to make himself heard over an audience that’s largely unaware that anything’s going on, followed by an interminable wait before the lights dim and we are introduced to the show proper. Once that happens the fun also begins! A show with such a heavy emphasis on street dance of course has the obligatory dance-off soundtracked by RUN-DMC’s It’s Like That, with street and ballet going head-to-head for the adoration of the crowd as well as a fancy trophy.
The show is derailed slightly in the first act with some awkward scripted sections and attempts at comedy; though the beatboxing is very skilful, on the whole it’s best (and most engaging) when they stick to dancing. Thankfully by the second act it does settle down into this format and the audience is treated to some incredible sequences. The execution of the choreography isn’t always perfect, instead the company push themselves to the limit and deliver performances that are full of energy, capturing the character of the dance.
The ballet choreography isn’t particularly showy when you compare it to the rest, and could be featured slightly more – often it seems to be combined with street/hip-hop, generating what I would recognise as ‘contemporary’ (quite expressive & emotive, using modern music) rather than being pure ballet. And – as far as I could tell – the ballet performances are overwhelmingly female, whereas the street dance weighs more in the men’s favour; a bit more imagination could be employed to prove that ballet isn’t just a girly thing to do.
All that being said, Beats on Pointe is an infectiously enjoyable show. At my performance I was lucky enough to have a big group of teenagers sat a few rows ahead of me, and their vocal & visible enjoyment really made my night; cheering when they recognised their favourite tunes, singing along to the odd line or two, and screaming in response to some of the jaw-dropping moves they were witnessing – the atmosphere was electric by the end. The DJ section that kicks off the second act is definitely the highlight of the show for me, with various tracks being ‘spun’ in quick succession and each member of the company getting their own solo spot; I had worried that it was going to be all soundtracked by quite bland modern R&B/hip-hop music, but there’s a pretty good range of eras & genres – so there are treats for the ears as well as the eyes!
The whole company must be applauded for their persistence and stamina, performing a huge amount of choreography in a two-hour show. There was a clear crowd favourite in Brodi Chesher, however, who manages to steal pretty much every ‘scene’ he’s in; the Swan Lake compilation and an iconic Beyoncé track are the best of the lot, showcasing his comic ability as well as his dance skills. Overall, highly recommended night out.
My verdict? An infectiously enjoyable show, that’s at its best when it focuses entirely on the dance – highly recommended.
Beats on Pointe runs at the Peacock Theatre until 16 June 2019. Tickets are available online or from the box office.