Vital and gripping, BLKDOG is the Olivier Award-winning work from Botis Seva, exploring coping mechanisms in youth culture. On Thursday 19 March, MAC is preparing for the show to take it by storm. Here's an interview with Botis Seva - the mastermind and choreographer behind the performance - giving us the lowdown on what to expect...
Why did you start dancing and what inspired to you to start choreographing?
I started dancing at the age of 15. At secondary school, I was lucky enough to have an active dance department and we regularly had guest choreographers teaching, such as Tony Adigun from Avant Garde Dance. This inspired me to enter the annual school talent shows and from here, I presented small works through a variety of community dance platforms.
My reason for starting to dance was music. Before I was dancing, I was rapping at my local youth club and I was immersed in grime music. The school was tough and with the restrictions and conflict from many of my secondary school teachers, music gave me freedom but dance gave me an opportunity to unleash my frustrations.
You established your company Far From The Norm (FFTN) in 2009. Tell us more…
Far From The Norm is a collective of dance artists who are not only my soldiers in the studio and on the stage, but we are all friends. The current company has been with me now for 6 years and that is a highlight. Seeing the company grow and support each other both in and out of the studio – it’s really rare and we all know we have something special.
Starting in a youth club in Dagenham, one of my biggest challenges with the company was at the beginning, dealing with rejection from the industry and always working with an ever-changing line up of dancers because in the early stages people couldn’t commit.
How would you define your dance language?
My language comes from hip hop and the other street dance styles. I would describe it as free form hip hop as I use the core foundations physically, but I experiment with other theatrical devices, genres and artistic inspirations.
For me, hip hop on stage is about crafting and finding new ways to use the form and the culture. The idea is always to keep the energy of improvisation and use this as a tool to make the work.
I work a lot from visual imagery, paintings and movies. I try to animate the visuals I see with movement, exploring how I can extract movement qualities from my body or that of my dancers.
I use personal experiences, life encounters and tap into my childhood memories to find new references and ideas to bring into the studio. These references instantly change when they are transferred to my body or my dancer’s bodies, it becomes an abstracted idea that takes a new form - which is an interesting process in itself.
What can we expect from BLKDOG?
BLKDOG has developed since the Sadler’s Wells Reckonings extract in October 2018. There is light and shade, rather than just the dark side of the “story”. We delve further into the childhood references of the characters to understand how much of what we have to cope with now as adults has been engrained in us from birth.
But ultimately, you can expect poetic potency; an insight into how our younger generation are trying to survive in a world that is not built for them.
What excites you most about the tour?
For me, two things:
Meeting people. I hope BLKDOG will encourage people that don’t usually go to their local theatre to come and experience the work. I made this work for ordinary people like me, who have come from humble beginnings and have to fight to be seen. It’s important to me, as much as I want theatre lovers to enjoy the work, I want people to feel that they are represented on stage and that they can relate to what the work has to say.
Seeing the work breathe. I am very much use to working intensely for one big moment and the work doesn’t have time to marinate and develop afterwards. This is an opportunity for me to watch the work live, in performance mode and keep refining and playing to see what else the work could be - I am keen for there not to be a “finished” version.
Why should we come and see it? Well if I tell you everything then maybe you won’t want to come and see it. There is dance. There are real life struggles of trying to cope. But ultimately, there is hope.
What are your ambitions for the future? I would love to create more work on film, there is something about working with film that you can’t achieve in live performance and I would love to explore that further. I would also love to get back into my music more. I want to write a children’s book…