Disclosure: Dance Dispatches received complimentary admission to write an open and honest review of Boy Blue’s REDD show.
Boy Blue came to perform at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls as part of the 2019 London Dance Umbrella festival. Following Mythili Prakash’ Here and Now performance the previous evening, Boy Blue’s REDD performance capped off the Dance Umbrella’s Fairfield Halls takeover. Other dance festival events included a recital featuring local Croydon dancers, dance workshops for little ones, a choreography installation and more.
About Boy Blue Entertainment
Choreographer Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy MBE and composer Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante founded Boy Blue Entertainment. The London-based hip-hop dance company is well-known for provocative hip-hop theatre productions. Boy Blue was nominated for a coveted Olivier Award for their Blak Whyte Gray piece, and their other productions include Emancipation of Expressionism and Outliers. Boy Blue’s one-night run of REDD at Fairfield Halls follows their longer REDD run at London’s Barbican, where they are a Barbican Artistic Associate.
Boy Blue: ‘REDD’ Review
The printed programmes at the venue share the poem that inspired the piece, 143 Word on Grief by R. Moulden. It speaks of grief’s tenacity, this “shadow tethered to joy’s light”. But the description of Boy Blue’s REDD show is a little more transparent on the Fairfield Halls website, which states: “Audiences are invited to take a leap into the void, as nine dancers begin an introspective journey exploring how, after trauma, we may find inner peace.”
REDD runs for 70 minutes straight, following choreographer Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy MBE as he struggles with despair. The dance uses hip-hop to reflect different stages of grief and coping mechanisms.
Despondence & Withdrawal
Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy MBE quickly establishes a safe space, a square of bright light, centered within a softer spotlight on the otherwise dark stage. A group of dancers rush towards him, but they stop short of the border. However, when two female performers approach him, he shrinks down onto the floor. He lies on his stomach, reducing his expressive dance to tiny, unobtrusive finger motions.
For a minute, Sandy buries his face in his hands, hunched over and rocking to calm himself. However, dancers storm in and haul him up to follow their lead. He moves, but without soul or conviction. As fog pours onto the stage, he and his comrades cover their eyes and mouths, shutting themselves away to survive.
Catharsis & Questioning
Following one of the group’s male members, Sandy learns to communicate his pain. This section features krump, which is a hip-hop dance style characterised by strong, weighted movements that originate from a solid center. Sandy opens his mouth wide in a silent scream of agony and throws his shoulders forward, each thrust accompanied by a sharp exhale.
His focus turns skyward, as if looking to God for either an explanation of why this bad thing happened – or for the fortitude to cope with his depression and carry on.
Empathy & Engagement
A petite female member of Boy Blue begins the next section with breakdancing. She caterwauls throughout the space, occasionally popping into freezes, without taking note of Sandy as he watches her. Two red streamers in either side of her grey trousers trail behind her. He catches her as she barrel rolls into him and joins the rest of the cast in house dance footwork.
She bestows one of her red ribbons upon him before she leaves stage, so he matches the other dancers, who have already exited. Seen and heard, Sandy has fully reintegrated into their community; so even when the fog spills back onto the stage, he resolutely carries forward alone.
REDD unflinchingly promotes empathy and understanding of trauma and PTSD. Duets and small group choreography serve to make REDD less busy, but the hard-hitting show could cleverly incorporate some more breathing space.
If you enjoy powerful hip-hop theatre, you should see Botis Seva’s MADHEAD piece for the National Youth Dance Company.
Have you seen a moving piece of hip-hop theatre – either on stage or as a filmed screendance piece? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!