Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview

Botis Seva: BLKDOG

By | Published on Friday 23 September 2022

Coming up soon at Sadler’s Wells is a staging of ‘BLKDOG’, an acclaimed piece that offers a genre-defying blend of hip hop and free form dance, whilst exploring important themes.

First staged back in 2018 with two other works as ‘Reckonings’, it has since been developed into a full length show, and in 2019 won the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production. 

The show was created by – and features – acclaimed dance artist, choreographer and director Botis Seva, and is produced by the company he founded, Far From The Norm.

I spoke to him to find our more about the show, his past and the future. 

CM: Can you start by telling us what to expect from ‘BLKDOG’? What kind of music and dance is involved?
BS: Expect to feel a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the show. Musically it’s a pounding, brooding score. The music adds layers of meaning highlighting the inner working of the characters’ minds.

It has grown from a long standing collaboration with Torben Lars Sylvest and includes a mixture of original music and words performed by me and guests.

CM: What themes does the show explore? Does it tell a story?
BS: ‘BLKDOG’ was inspired by Sally Brampton’s ‘Shoot The Damn Dog’, a piece of work that delves into the notions of inner city coping mechanisms.

CM: An earlier version of the piece was staged in 2018. How much did it change and develop between the two versions? What can we expect?
BS: ‘BLKDOG’ has developed quite a bit since the Sadler’s Wells ‘Reckonings’ extract in October 2018.

There is light and shade, rather than just the dark side of the ‘story’. We delve further into the childhood references of the characters to understand how much of what we have to cope with now as adults has been ingrained in us from birth.

But ultimately, you can expect poetic potency; an insight into how our younger generation are trying to survive in a world that is not built for them.

CM: What made you want to develop it further?
BS: I started making this show before my son was born after going through a year of not knowing how to be a father.

We then watched people jump off a building on fire at Grenfell Tower; the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded; Ahmaud Arbery was shot whilst going for a jog; the Black Lives Matter movement ramped up with the murder of George Floyd… in the space of four years since my son was born all this has happened and that’s just the surface of it.

It’s hard not to be angry after being locked in for so many months and – whilst observing what was happening in the world – I revisited ‘BLKDOG’.

I decided to listen to God’s voice and let this piece blossom in its own way. I had many doubts about ‘BLKDOG’ before the pandemic but now I’m allowing you as an audience to take what you will.

I may not be able to change the world, but I can bring you into a world for you to deal with your suppressed past.

CM: Can you tell us about the creative process of making a show like this?
BS: The creative process is a crazy one. 

I spend lots of time researching, talking, watching and lots of time in the studio. The main thing every process starts with is a clear intention – “why do I need to make this?” 

I believe every work you make is a calling, it’s the feeling you get that won’t leave you alone, something that speaks to you and you know it’s the right thing to do.

During my process I also work a lot with the artists in the room. Every performer brings their story to the show so it’s not just about my thoughts, you are also seeing voices from the artist on the stage. 

CM: Can you tell us about yourself? What made you pursue a career in the arts? When did you start that journey?
BS: I started dancing at the age of fifteen. At secondary school, I was lucky enough to have an active dance department and we regularly had guest choreographers teaching, such as Tony Adigun from Avant Garde Dance.

This inspired me to enter the annual school talent shows and from here, I presented small works through a variety of community dance platforms.

My reason for starting to dance was music. Before I was dancing, I was rapping at my local youth club and I was immersed in grime music.

The school was tough, and with the restrictions and conflict from many of my secondary school teachers, music gave me freedom but dance gave me an opportunity to unleash my frustrations.

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far?
BS: The highlights of my career are having a family and working with the Executive Producer of my company, Lee Griffiths – it’s impossible for the artist to do all this work by himself.

You need someone who can push you and someone who cares about the work. This would be my highlight – finding someone who cares as much as I do – and Lee is an incredible producer, so I have to show her the love, she has made this show possible. 

CM: Talking about your company – Far From The Norm – how did you come to start that venture?  
BS: Far From The Norm started in a youth club in Dagenham, between a group of friends. I used to invite different artists to come down and train in a closed community session, as I was interested in exchanging with different artists’ styles and vocabularies.

Before I knew it, we were creating short works together and presenting extracts at local street dance platforms, one of Far From The Norm’s first performances was at an annual street dance competition run by Leanne Pero called ‘Keep It Moving’ at Fairfield Halls in Croydon.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
BS: I would love to create more work on film, there is something about working with film that you can’t achieve in live performance and I would love to explore that further.  

I would also love to get back into my music more.

And I want to write a children’s book…

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
BS: I can’t say too much, hopefully continuing our relationship with Sadler’s Wells and watch this space for something in film. 

‘BLKDOG’ is on at Sadler’s Wells from 30 Sep-1 Oct. Find out more and book your tickets here.

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