About Boy Blue

Emancipation of Expressionism Performance at The Barbican

Photo: @flashfil


“Dazzling choreographic invention and a sensational dancing spirit, Boy Blue was a total knockout” - **** The Times
“Their sheer stagecraft, and the balance of individual emotional expression with mighty ensemble sequences, is simply unparalleled” **** The Telegraph
“There can be few people to whom British hip hop dancing owes a greater debt than choreographer Kenrick Sandy & composer Michael Asante” - Evening Standard
Founded in east London, 2001 by composer Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante, MBE and choreographer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy, MBE, Boy Blue is the radical force that has defined the potential and power of hip-hop dance theatre across the UK since starting out.
Shaped by a multi-generational, multicultural community with seven regular companies ranging in age from 5 to 40+, Boy Blue’s achievements and accolades are as far-reaching as the community it has fostered and the hip-hop culture it has elevated. Some call Boy Blue a family, others, a nation, with most hip-hop dancers having called it home at some point of their careers.
Boy Blue recognised its superpower early on, young people hungry to make space for themselves and tell their own stories. Its access, opportunities and commitment provided a trajectory that spanned far beyond a passing fad, for hundreds of young people it has been transformative, nurturing their ambition and raw talent into craft that has propelled their careers.
A lot of their work explores social tensions and cultural identity, whilst creating space to celebrate the joy, hopes and dreams of the community it represents, building a legacy and telling rich stories rooted in history and experience.
In 2007, Pied Piper: A Hip-Hop Dance Revolution propelled Boy Blue to unchartered heights in the world of UK theatre. First performed at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Pied Piper found a further home at the Barbican, London, and won a Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre, setting the bar for hip-hop dance in theatre.
By 2009, Boy Blue had joined the Barbican as an Associate Artist, where the company is still based. The full company biennial showcase A Night With Boy Blue has graced its stage five times since 2013. Dancers from Boy Blue’s weekly east London Dance School form the cast, and the show has become a firm favourite of audiences and critics alike.
Their first global spotlight came with the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, where in collaboration with Danny Boyle, Sandy choreographed hundreds of young dancers for the award-winning segment Frankie and June say thanks Tim, before staging the handover of the Olympic torch and the lighting of the Cauldron.
A few years later, they went truly global with the Olivier-nominated Blak Whyte Gray which toured 9 cities over 4 countries and 3 continents, touching down in Madrid, New York and Manchester, amongst others.
Ever hungry to push their creative boundaries, in 2018, Asante and Sandy co-directed their first film, R.E.B.E.L, a Sky Arts / Art 50 commission. They took 12 young artists on both a physical and professional journey to Edinburgh International Festival to perform the dance theatre piece that became the film, this was screened on Sydney Opera House’s online platform, before being performed at Breakin’ Convention, Barbican, Saffron Hall and Latitude. Of those 12 dancers, 10 still dance and teach with Boy Blue, testament to the full circle journeys their dancers experience.
REDD, 2019, invited audiences to investigate those irreversible moments in life, led by nine dancers on an introspective journey exploring how, after trauma, we may find inner peace. Then amidst the pandemic in 2021, they worked with Good Chance Theatre Company to create a mass dance piece as part of The Walk With Amal project, performed in Trafalgar Square, London with over fifty volunteer performers. 2023 saw Boy Blue collaborate with Danny Boyle, designer Es Devlin and writer Sabrina Mahfouz to create Free Your Mind, a reimagining of the classic sci-fi film The Matrix, that opened the new cultural space in Manchester - Aviva Studios, home of Factory International.
With a company ethos befitting of the founders’ roots, education has been key to its journey and remains a long-term commitment. Emancipation of Expressionism is a set work of the AQA GCSE Dance syllabus – the first hip-hop dance theatre piece to be included – and was filmed in 2017 by Director Danny Boyle, notching up 131k+ views on YouTube. Over the last 4 years, they have delivered over 85 GCSE workshops in schools, whilst tutorials created during the 1st lockdown have been watched over 46k times.
Meanwhile, Boy Blue’s East London Dance School is a highly respected programme. This is the organisation’s talent pipeline and runs for 40 Sundays of the year, with 100+ dancers a week from the age of 5+ travelling from the likes of Manchester, Nottingham, Portsmouth and more to hone their craft.