Founded in London circa 2001, Boy Blue, the award winning brainchild of producer Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante and choreographer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy MBE, encapsulates the pulse of the city it was born in and that runs through this unique mélange of dance theatre.
Weaving their frontline stage and screen work around the elevation of hip-hop culture, from the offset, artistic directors Asante and Sandy have created works that challenge common perception while delivering a new voice from the streets and clubs that have long inspired a generation.
It was just over a decade ago, in 2007, that Pied Piper (a contemporary performance fusing dance and narrative looking at mortality, described by one journalist as “breakthrough, breakdance interpretation”) propelled Boy Blue to new heights in the world of UK theatre; first performed at Theatre Royal Stratford East who supported Asante and Sandy through its creation, it found a further home at the Barbican, London, and won a Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliated Theatre.
By 2009, Boy Blue had joined the Barbican as an Associate Artist, where the company is still based, going on to present Touch (2011), The Five & The Prophecy of Prana (2013), A Night With Boy Blue (2013, 2015, 2016, 2018), the now critically acclaimed Blak Whyte Gray (2017) and Outliers (2018).
With attention firmly on the next run of dates for Blak Whyte Gray, Asante credits the theme to a conversation with his father about the origins of identity and how it forms who we are; in turn the work aims to pursue the idea of reaching a space of freedom that’s based upon a true understanding of self. Nominated for Best New Dance Production at the 2017 Olivier Awards and in the Critics Circle National Dance Awards for Best Modern Choreography, while the UK Theatre Awards noted Dickson Mbi’s performance with a nomination for Achievement in Dance. Having been included in the Edinburgh International Festival, a broadening of horizons beckons the company’s production. Described in The Stage as a “searing triptych… with the precision and musicality of a corps de ballet…” The Guardian (featuring Blak Whyte Gray in their Top 10 Dance of 2017) found “Political dance with heart, soul and muscle” with “issues of loss, displacement and fractured identity central to Boy Blue’s powerful hip-hop work…”
New for 2018, Outliers, a multimedia meditation on social, public and political consciousness, dedicated to those that change other people’s points of view by standing up for their beliefs, featured as part of the Barbican’s 2018 Season, The Art of Change. Part inspired by Asante’s life experience and his changing worldview, it combined music, dance and video, and stars an ensemble of musicians alongside elements of choreography from Sandy.
Outside of the theatre, Boy Blue collaborated with Danny Boyle and contributed to the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, Sandy leading hundreds of young dancers before staging the handover of the Olympic torch and the lighting of the Cauldron.
With a company ethos befitting of the founders roots, and a long-term commitment to education, Boy Blue can be found running a highly respected dance education program in east London. Using a typically unique approach, they enable more than 100 young dancers to train weekly alongside professionals. In addition, their work Emancipation of Expressionism is now part of the AQA GCSE Dance syllabus – the first hip-hop dance theatre piece to be included. Boy Blue’s founders have also found themselves hosting the National Dance Awards at Sadler’s Wells – another first for hip-hop.