The black dog of depression very rarely leaves. And for today’s youth, it seems to follow them everywhere, what with having to cope in a world that’s constantly at war, a place that’s seemingly not built for them. Addressing this issue is Botis Seva’s BLKDOG, a hip hop theatre performance that asks us – How do we fight through our vices and inner demons to find a sense of peace?
As Botis puts it, ‘BLKDOG is for everyone who has dealt with trauma and grief. For anyone who has had to watch family members go through depression or loss.’ Speaking to Botis Seva, we found out more about his path towards becoming an award-winning choreographer, youth culture, and the power of dance. Read the interview in full below:
Bakchormeeboy: How much has Blkdog changed from the version presented in 2018 in the UK?
Botis: BLKDOG has developed further 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.
Bakchormeeboy: Beyond depression, there are elements of hip hop culture, youth culture and other concepts that make up BLKDOG. How did you decide to bring these together, and what styles and ideas does the choreography draw from to present that?
Botis: Hip Hop culture has a big influence on my work – I grew up listening to Hip Hop music, I surrounded myself around the culture. I learnt a lot about storytelling and how to use the struggles around me to influence the work I’m creating. I think it is really important to speak the truth of the people around you – these stories can be suppressed and we don’t always get a chance to hear them. So my job as a creative is to provoke, but also to bring hope to a generation who feel forgotten. The choreography uses Krump and Popping, it breaks these styles down and pushes them to their limits but is driven mainly by the narrative.
Bakchormeeboy: Are there unexpected ways in which trauma and grief present themselves in today’s society that need not necessarily come from death or physical violence?
Botis: I think trauma and grief will always be hard topics to talk about. In today’s society many people are going through hard times, and this is also a reflection of the world and how we are living – I believe we have a generation of people who are finding it hard to cope in the world. Everything around us is so fast sometimes it feels like we have no time to breathe – we need to give people space to grieve, this is something I feel is missing. We are expecting people to just carry on as normal without acknowledging what people are going through.
Bakchormeeboy: Your path towards becoming a choreographer has not been an easy one – do you feel that the youth of today have more support, whether from the state, companies or their own families, when it comes to having the freedom and means to pursuing their dreams?
Botis: Yes and no – some Young people would love the opportunity but it just isn’t possible due to the lack of funding support and family dynamics. This is a government issue that everyone around the world may struggle with – my journey as a choreographer hasn’t been easy but if it wasn’t for the community I came from I don’t know where I would be. I had a dream and didn’t stop and this is something most young people are doing; trying to find new ways in a unfair system,
Bakchormeeboy: Is dance and choreography a source of depression, or an escape from it?
Botis: It’s an escape. Making work is therapy, it’s a way to let out everything you are holding inside – people are fighting depression everyday. Our aim is to hopefully create something people can connect to – we may not be able to change the world but we have the power to influence, to help and encourage someone to do better.
BLKDOG plays from 25th to 26th May 2023 at SOTA Drama Theatre. Tickets available here
The 2023 Singapore International Festival of Arts runs from 19th May to 4th June 2023. Tickets and full details of programme available here
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