Boy Blue are Choreographer and Co-Artistic Director, Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy, Composer and Co-Artistic Director, Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante, Executive Director, Jo Stendall, Learning and Participation Producer, Shawab Iqbal, Assistant Producer, Olivia Douglass and a dedicated core of hugely talented artists, dancers, teachers, partners and board members.
East London born Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante is a renowned producer, composer, singer, dancer and DJ, whose history is firmly etched in the UK urban music industry, taking the sounds of sub-culture to a global audience over the course of his 20 year long career.
As co-founder and co-artistic director of Boy Blue, founded in 2001 with Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy, Asante is credited with the conception and composition of Outliers (2018), Blak Whyte Gray (2017), The Five & the Prophecy of Prana (2013), Touch (2011), Pied Piper: A Hip-Hop Dance Revolution (2007), and Legacy.
As a music producer, Asante boasts a diverse catalogue within his discography; creating music for films Street Dance 3D and All Stars, enjoying session work with new artists like Sony signing Ryan De La Cruz, to production for major label artists including Delilah, Raleigh Ritchie, Estelle and George The Poet (whose sold out Search Party tour he also delivered musical direction for). But it’s his work over the years with Kano, a Mercury Prize and Brit Award Nominee, winner of the MOBO Best Album Awards, that put Asante on the map way back in 2005; an early pioneer of the-then newly coined genre grime, a sound that would go on to shape a generation and knock down doors abroad, Asante’s influence can be heard across the capital and beyond. Trips to LA have seen him working with Kool Kojack (Ariana Grande/ Kesha) and Mike Free (Big Sean/ YG).
Beginning his career in the arts as a nine year-young schoolboy, starring in a production of Bugsy Malone, Asante in turn discovered a penchant for singing as well as acting, landing himself an agent in the process. While dance had always been a part of his life, it was at dance rehearsals with Ruff Stuff that 13-year old Mikey clocked Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy in the audience. Becoming friends, and with Sandy turning to dance, the two found themselves forming Matrix with a troupe of friends, inadvertently sowing the seeds for the birth of Boy Blue to follow. But as a teenager Asante had also acquired a taste for music production; largely attracted by the science of the analogue system, he set up a studio at his parents house, going on to sign his first publishing deal a decade later. The accolade led to Asante retiring as a dancer, driving his frustration with the requirements of creating short songs into developing longer pieces, taking hip-hop into a composer space, where, in his own words, the world would see it as “an application to creativity”.
With an overriding desire to create experiences, aided by production – lights, music, staging et al – Asante wants to drive fresh energy into the realm of expression that leave the kind of impression that can bring about change. “I’m inspired by the likes of Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Kristina & The Queens… I applaud people being themselves fully – I’m trying to be my most unapologetic self,” explains Asante. A creative at heart, he’s also grown to enjoy the business side of the arts, ensuring his peers have a great time via collaboration.
Outside of the studio, Asante mentors and delivers master classes in directing, choreography and music and is also found residing in the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s faculty as a Professor of electronic music.
Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy MBE, Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Boy Blue, Associate Artist at the Barbican London, is undoubtedly one of the most renowned choreographers and performers in the UK urban, commercial and theatrical scenes.
Sandy’s credits are extensive having worked in TV, film and theatre, at home and abroad, alongside Boy Blue’s 2001 inception. As a choreographer he’s responsible for Outliers (2018), the Olivier nominated Blak Whyte Gray (2017), The Five & the Prophecy of Prana (2013), A Night With Boy Blue (2018, 2016, 2015, 2013) and Olivier award winning Pied Piper: A Hip-Hop Dance Revolution (2007). He also co-directed and choreographed Unleashed for the Barbican (2012).
Off the main stage, Sandy collaborated with director Danny Boyle for the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, winning the Evening Standard’s Beyond Theatre award. Sandy also worked on the Closing Winter Paralympic 2014 Ceremony and the 2007 Tour De France opening in Trafalgar Square, London. On screen work includes choreography on the BAFTA Awards, for All Stars and T2 Trainspotting, plus appearances on Street Dance 3D, the BBC’s So You Think You Can Dance and CBBC’s Alesha’s Street Dance Stars. In 2015 he judged the inaugural BBC Young Dancer Competition. As a performer himself, his repertoire includes Legacy Re:Loaded at the Jerwood Dance House and Jonzi D’s Lyrikal Fearta Redux at Sadler’s Wells.
No stranger to the music industry, Sandy, a former UK Street Dancing Champion, has performed with Victoria Beckham, Fergie (Black Eyed Peas), Leona Lewis and George Michael to name a few. Accomplished in all styles of street dance – break-dancing, popping and gymnastics – Sandy’s also created choreography for an array of artists including FKA twigs, Rita Ora, Plan B, Dizzee Rascal and Alexandra Burke. Brands have also called for Sandy’s Midas touch; work with Nike, adidas, Castrol and ASOS starring on his CV.
Born in east London, perhaps the most surprising element to Sandy’s story is that he didn’t start dancing until he was 19. With long-held dreams to be a basketball player, the course of his life quickly changed when he joined his first dance troupe, Ruff Stuff, led by MTV’s Kat B, where he soon became the trickster, thanks to his acrobatic abilities.
Fast forward and in 2017 Sandy was an awarded an MBE for services to dance and the community in the Queen’s New Years honours list. Named by Time Out London and Hospital Club as an innovator for performance in the 100 most influential and innovative people working across the creative industries, Sandy’s reputation precedes him.
With his teaching skills much in-demand, his H2Ography classes in London running in addition to classes and workshops at youth companies, schools and art colleges across the country, 2018 promises more boundary-breaking additions to Sandy’s repertoire as Blak Whyte Gray goes on tour.
Executive Director, Jo Stendall, is an experienced dance producer who has worked previously with Michael Clark Company, The Cholmondeleys and The Featherstonehaughs and Theatre-Rites.
Jo is a judge on the Total Theatre Awards, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a mentor for Arts Emergency.
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Born and bred in East London, Shawab graduated with a first class honours degree from the University of Kent. He has held producing and administrative roles at Theatre Royal Stratford East and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and Re:Bourne as well as developing a freelance portfolio.
Shawab is also a qualified teacher and has been a counsellor for ChildLine. He is on the board of governors at Newham Sixth Form College, one of the largest sixth forms in the UK. Here, he leads on Equality and Diversity as well as sitting on the Audit and Scrutiny Committee.
Shawab has been a regular guest speaker on the MA Creative Producing course at Birkbeck, University of London and is currently completing an MA in Culture, Ethnicity and Diaspora exploring racism and post-colonial theory.
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Olivia is a recent graduate from Goldsmiths University London. She has worked within creative programming at the Albany Theatre and as Assistant Producer for The S+K Project at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, as well as developing a freelance portfolio. Olivia originally trained on a CAT scheme at Swindon Dance in urban dance styles, but has gone on to work in a variety of projects involving dance, theatre, film and poetry.
Currently, Olivia is on the board for the Albany Theatre, a hub for artists, communities and creative enterprise. She is also the lead programme curator for Earwax sound art collective.
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