Dancers show abs and attitude

April 17, 2010

Dancers show abs and attitude

By Ellen Dunkel

For The Inquirer

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Think dance isn't manly? Most male dancers have ripped, highly muscular bodies, the strength and power of a top athlete, and the stage presence of an actor. And they spend their days surrounded by beautiful women.

Rasta Thomas' Bad Boys of Dance, which opened Thursday night at the Annenberg Center, drives home that point by skipping the tights, ballet slippers, and classical music. The troupe of six guys, including artistic director and international ballet star Thomas, dance in T-shirts or bare-chested, in jeans or black pants. They wear jazz shoes or no shoes. They dance primarily to rock.

And they show off, big time. They pump up the volume - so loud that ushers offered ear plugs during intermission - and sail through the air in grand jets. They lift a leg high above their heads, and turn and turn and turn in pirouettes until the rotations slow down naturally, then end in a split jump.

They mix a little tap, some hip-hop, touches of jazz, and quite a lot of acrobatics - aerials and handsprings. But mostly the dance is strong, confident, strictly classical ballet technique.

Adrienne Canterna-Thomas, Rasta Thomas' wife, was a guest artist from the Bad Boys' sister troupe, the Pretty Girls of Dance. She also did much of the choreography - and at one point, when the music went out, even sang.

During some of the group pieces, the dancers got so involved with trying to pump up the audience that the performance devolved from concert dance into something more like aerobics routines. The strongest sections, particularly in the second half, were solos and more carefully choreographed group numbers, including dances to Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

One of the dancers, Kevin Mylrea, was a finalist on So You Think You Can Dance Canada, and the whole evening felt a bit like a performance reality show - dance for the masses.

Indeed, the Bad Boys of Dance do offer far more tricks than artistry. But they're also lot of fun.