Ivan Blackstock: ‘No matter what, people will still create art’
The dancer and choreographer’s work has ranged from hip hop to West End musicals. Georgia Snow finds out how he has married the two in his latest project for Sadler’s Wells’ hip hop festival Breakin’ Convention.
How does this piece fit in with the work you are interested in making?
It’s full of energy and has different parts to it. The visuals will be part of our online presence and there’s going to be an album that comes with the show, so it’s bringing together different genres and mediums. I’m really interested in being a multi-disciplinary artist and moving my career forward in that way. It’s something I have always wanted to pursue, but dance was the first one to really kick off. For me, I have always done music, art and dance, but I feel that, sometimes – it’s a British thing – we like to put people in boxes and label people. I just like creating art and that’s what I want to show. I think most artists – choreographers, directors – are multi-disciplinary anyway, but I want to go into the depths of that. It’s all about collaborating and learning on the way.
Is Britain a good breeding ground for that?
The UK is known for being very innovative and I want to push that within hip hop theatre – the realms of what people think is hip hop and what people think is theatre. My current thing is bridging the gap between the commercial dance world and the theatre world. They really complement each other and I don’t think they are brought together enough.
Do you think innovation is under threat because of the challenges facing the arts?
Yes and no. I come from a hip hop background, I come from nothing. I never really had much growing up, and I think that means that, no matter what, people will still create art. Unfortunately, the platforms available and the ability to get that work to a wider audience can be harder for us. We need funding to pay our dancers and pay our collaborators, or for props or set. So I think you can make anything without any money, but there is a limit to how far you can push that.
What is your dance background?
I have been a hip hop dancer since I was eight years-old. I studied musical theatre at Urdang Academy and then went to the London Contemporary Dance School. I have been in both hip hop and technical training styles since an early age, but I have gravitated towards hip hop. I have done some commercial dance for people like the Pet Shop Boys, Rita Ora and Kylie Minogue, and I’ve done some West End shows. I did Flashdance when Arlene Phillips choreographed it. Right now, I am not dancing as much as I am more interested in curating and creating – putting on work that is saying something. This new work is very politically charged, but I hope it is easy for young people to relate to.
CV: Ivan Blackstock
Training: Urdang Academy, 2004-06; London Contemporary Dance School, 2007-08
First professional role: BirdGang Presents: Who Is BirdGang?, Sadler’s Wells, London (2006)