Andrea Walker is a dancer, director and founder of 201 Dance Company. His latest show ‘If You Leave’ is on at the Blue Elephant Theatre this month, and explores themes of ‘addiction, obsession and the true meaning of commitment’, through contemporary hip-hop movement.
- Andrea, could you tell us a little about your journey as a director, where you trained, and how you came to work with 201 dance company?
I started dancing at the age of 15 in Rome, Italy, and continued my dance studies in London, where I also obtained a degree in Film & Television Production from the University of Westminster. I’ve been working as a dancer, choreographer and director since 2011, being involved mainly in commercials, tours and TV work. In January 2014 I moved to New York City to study dance at the Broadway Dance Centre – a place that strongly inspired me – and founded 201 Dance Company on my return to London in September 2014. We presented a work in progress of “If You Leave” for the first time in January 2015 at The “Resolution!” festival at The Place, and sold out to an audience of almost 300.
- What kind of work do you like to make as a director? What’s important to you?
I like to fuse hip hop and contemporary movement to create emotionally charged work. Having a background in hip hop and street dance and being gay myself, I always found frustrating that homosexuality is something that is still very rarely addressed in this dance style. With “If You Leave”, I wanted to create and direct a strong, unapologetic story about the relationship of two young men through hip hop movement. Ultimately, it was very important to me that this show would be accessible to dancers and non-dancers alike.
- What has the journey of ‘If You Leave’ been like so far?
Creating “If You Leave” has been an emotional, incredible journey, and without a doubt one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life. I’ve been working with 7 of the most talented dancers I know, who have made this show come to life. The events narrated are inspired by my personal events. It’s been tough to channel situations that have happened in my past and expose them to an audience. Most importantly though, creating the show has been an incredibly positive outlet for me.
- Can you describe a typical day in your rehearsal room?
We’ll spend the first 30 to 40 minutes warming up, working on our stamina and exploring different movement. The show is very physical, so we don’t go easy on the sit-ups and push-ups. We’ll then focus on either a choreographic set already prepared by myself, or devise new material through the dancers’ own movements. We always leave plenty of time for exploration and new ideas.
- What do you hope audiences will take away from ‘If You Leave’?
I hope people will feel moved, and enjoy the use of hip hop in a context that is still widely untouched by this dance style. Ultimately, I hope audiences will recognise a part of themselves in the story, independently of their sexual orientation.
- What else are you working on this year?
We’re bringing the show to Brighton Fringe on the 20th of May, and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from the 7th to the 22nd of August, 6:40pm, so we have some hectic and exciting months ahead of us! We’re also working with gay advocacy charities Metro UK and GMI Partners to develop an outreach and engagement program to get participants into hip hop dance, and get ideas going around the ideas of addiction, sexual identity, and how young people see gay or lesbian people represented in the media.
You are able to catch ‘If You Leave’ at the Blue Elephant Theatre (London) 16th – 18th April 2015. Also Brighton Fringe and Edinburgh Fringe later on in the year.
To find out more about 201 dance company, see links below:
Interview (C) Amie Taylor (@spoonsparkle) and Andrea Walker 2012