A Night with Boy Blue was a 21st anniversary celebration, and at times it felt a little like a family party, with the raucous sold-out house hooting and shouting and clapping and calling out performers’ names. 'Oi, Bismarck!' shouted a guy behind me the moment the first set of dancers, all wearing identical blue T-shirts with XXI across the front, set foot on stage. 'Oliver!' shouted his friend.
Boy Blue, A NIght With Boy Blue. Photo: Phil Robertson
The show itself was a combination of extracts from salient Boy Blue pieces of the past 21 years and some new work. Divided into two parts, each started with a quick medley, its original date projected onto the back screen, each group of dancers’ handover to the next one a smooth overlap, so that there were no dead moments.
Street dance has its own variations, and these performers – a healthy, heart-warming mix of races, ages, genders and body shapes – are in command of them all. With a number of crews taking part – in all some 130 performers took to the stage – some specialised in breaking, others in robotics, yet others krumping or any of the many subtle variations which have emerged within the hip-hop genre.
All were vibrant, their syncopated, rhythmic movements perfectly drilled, challenging each other with thrilling feats of acrobatics and flooding the theatre with extraordinary energy. And the programme offered an interesting range of moods, some simply ludic, others laden with meaning.
So, in Prince Skit, danced to a remix of funky Prince songs, a hapless male in a white vest comically tries and fails to impress two leather-clad women; that segues into Alpha House, in a guest performance by New Movement UK, a dark piece about a troubled man danced to a rap with the refrain, ‘my mother keep praying for me/but there ain’t enough beads in the rosary.”
Part One ends with a new piece, Uhuru (the Swahili word for 'freedom') danced against the background of a warm African sun, a work that riffs on the continuing influence of Africa as an ancestral ideal for so many Black people living in European and American inner cities (pictured top).
To be able to create shows of such technical polish – Hector Murray’s splendid lighting design is worthy of special mention – without losing any of the raw power, defiance, menace and meaning of street dance is a remarkable feat.
A final word for the next generation of hip-hoppers, who put on their very own impressive display.
Boy Blue, A Night with Boy Blue. Photo: Ruby LDN
Now, if you could take your eyes away from the fizzing six-year-old girl whose dancing absolutely stood its ground against that of her elders – and then some! – you're a stronger person than me…
|What||A Night with Boy Blue review|
|Where||Barbican Theatre, Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, E2CY 8DS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Barbican (underground)|
05 Mar 22 – 06 Mar 22, Sat at 20:00 Sun at 15:00 Dur.: 2 hours 30 mins inc one interval
|Website||Click here to book|