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A Night With Boy Blue review at Barbican Theatre, London – ‘exhilarating and joyful showcase’

A Night with Boy Blue – Karnival. Photo: Mark Allan A Night with Boy Blue – Karnival. Photo: Mark Allan
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Last year, hip-hop company Boy Blue Entertainment presented the searing triptych Blak Whyte Gray in London and Edinburgh, a performance that brought the conceptual clout of contemporary fare to the raw rigours of street dance. Now the company – lead by choreographer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy and composer Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante – are back at the Barbican for A Night With Boy Blue, an evening that not only demonstrates afresh the stellar talents of the professional crew but also showcases the phenomenal potential of its students.

The scale of this achievement is massive, both logistically (the show features 129 dancers, aged 8 and upwards) and artistically. There’s no school-show mediocrity here: these young performers serve hip hop’s foundational styles – popping, locking and breaking – with the precision and musicality of a corps de ballet. With the standard so high, it’s a delight to see the occasional performer with that ineffable extra quality of stage presence and skill, a complete embodiment of and immersion in the dance that goes far beyond the footlights.

Despite that, it’s a wonderfully egalitarian affair, a testament both to teaching and the power of collective movement. In the student and professional pieces, there are brief solos but never any stagey showboating. Asante’s electronic compositions are energetic and absorbing, while his remixes and arrangements tactfully remove Missy Elliott’s bawdier lyrics about depilation. He and Sandy make a charismatic pair of comperes, even presiding over a burst of incredible freestyling to the Birds of a Feather theme tune.

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Exhilaratingly first-rate and joyful showcase of Boy Blue’s junior and professional companies