One of the hottest tickets in this year's White Light Festival is the U.S. premiere of Blak Whyte Gray, an electrifying dance theater work from Olivier Award–winning East London company Boy Blue. Here's a look at 5 reasons not to miss this exciting performance, presented for two nights only (November 16 and 17) in the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College.
1. Boy Blue has been changing perspectives of hip-hop dance since the beginning of this century.
The award-winning hip-hop dance company has been shaping the cultural landscape in London since its founding in 2001. Boy Blue is the brainchild of producer Michael "Mikey J" Asante and Kenrick "H2O" Sandy, who are pioneers in redefining hip-hop and ensuring its rightful place as an art form on the world stage. With works performed in spaces ranging from the Barbican, to classrooms, to the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, they have proved that hip-hop is a powerful medium for bold storytelling.
2. Blak Whyte Gray is a timely political piece centering around identity, oppression, and transcendence.
In a move away from Boy Blue's more explicit narrative works, Blak Whyte Gray is the company's first, full-length abstract piece. It is distinctly political, questioning the meaning of identity through a three-part journey that tackles issues such as oppression, personal understanding, and a celebration of roots. Expressed in a physical juxtaposition of harsh, juddering movements with more fluid choreography, and intensified with a layered score and beautiful lighting, the piece puts the tension in today's society center stage.
3. Ambiguity and perspective are central.
The power of Blak Whyte Gray lies in its abstract nature. Questions are posed, but not answered. Ambiguous narratives give way to an understanding of perspective. Asante cites a conversation with his father about his African heritage and recent political events at home and abroad as influencing this work. He explains, "The more you delve and uncover what is history, what is your personal history, what is political history—it becomes deeper, to fill your work with purpose."
4. It sees beyond color.
Describing the name of the work, Asante says, "The colors are specifically written that way because they're not meant to be colors per se, but personalities or individuals: someone could have those names." The title reflects the open-endedness of the work, leaving the audience to reflect on their identity and the human experience.
5. The relationship of movement, sound, and light.
Virtuosic choreography isn't the only element that produces Blak Whyte Gray's powerful political bite. Bold lighting and a driving score intensify changes in movement, creating space, tone and mood, and also highlighting the introspective nature of the piece. A pulsing, multilayered electronic score deepens moments suggesting unrest, oppression, and instability. African chants indicate the origins of identity and a celebration of African roots. The interplay of dark and light illustrates physical and metaphorical boundaries, strengthening and softening moments of tension and transcendence.