Boxers will tell you that you have to be light on your feet in the ring. There’s as much grace and elegance as raw muscle power.
Compagnie Käfig kicked off a rare UK tour at Milton Keynes Theatre last night with its astonishing dance production, Boxe Boxe, a unique fusion of sparring moves, clowning, modern dance, hip-hop, street, body-popping and kick-boxing.
How does that work? Beautifully.
The performance is very French, from the artfully lit stage with spot-lights throwing pools of light onto a darkened canvas, down to the ornate Damask design of the gold back cloth and the burnished filigree designs of the set.
The performers, partially dressed in shades of grey and black with scarlet punch bags and gloves as fashionable accessories, form various tableaux throughout like images from a Jean Paul Gaultier commercial.
They’re handsome, muscled, tattooed and exceptionally agile, effortlessly moving from beautifully choreographed fight sequences with a partner to dancing cheek to cheek with boxing punch balls.
Before the show begins the expectant audience hears a loud grunt from the wings which I suspect was a group hug by the eight dancers.
It’s followed by a very sexy French voice reminding everyone to switch off their phones.
The 75-minute performance starts off with four musicians, three violins and a cello, playing in semi darkness before scarlet boxing gloves pop out of a box (or should that be Boxe Boxe?) and move with the music . They’re hypnotic.
Then the canvas surround drops away to reveal a tangled mass of bodies that slowly extricate themselves from within.
They perform a series of routines that are mesmerising, comical, immensely powerful and wonderfully co-ordinated by choreographer and director Mourad Merzouki.
The whole thing oozes machismo but with a Gallic twist. It’s dance but not as we know it.
In one scene Steven Valade waddles on the stage in a very well-padded boxing referee’s costume.
He looks like a red and black striped Weeble as he ducks, dives and wobbles as two boxers “fight” around him.
The whole performance is done in mime with only the players providing any sound with music by Debussy, Schubert, Verdi , and more.
David Rodrigues has the natural demeanour of a sad pierrot while Rémi Autechaud shocked theatre-goers by almost disjointing his upper torso and limbs in a body-popping “duel” with the show’s only female dancer Magali Duclos.
An extended solo by Teddy Verardo gives a thrilling finale that is then topped with an encore that will leave you spinning.
It’s on tonight before continuing to tour the UK before arriving in London in June.
Boxe Boxe is extraordinary and totally unmissable.