The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Botis Seva's hip-hop 'BLKDOG' dives into youth trauma, depression

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : May 31, 2024 - 15:27

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"BLKDOG" (Camilla Greenwell)

Far From The Norm, the hip-hop dance company led by acclaimed choreographer Botis Seva, is set to make its Korean debut with "BLKDOG," an emotionally charged hip-hop dance theater piece, at the Seongnam Arts Center in Gyeonggi Province, June 22-23.

Premiered in 2018 at Sadler's Wells Theater in London, "BLKDOG" won the Laurence Olivier Award for best new dance production at the 2019 Olivier Awards. This year, Seva joined Sadler's Wells Theatre as an associate artist, marking another milestone in his rising career.

In an email interview with The Korea Herald on Tuesday, Seva described "BLKDOG" as "a metaphorical representation of depression."

“But it also looks at how the human mind copes with trauma, grief and existing in this world today. ‘BLKDOG’ is an energy that will compress your thoughts and feelings and you as the audience, or the performer, have to understand how to deal with the emotions that creep up on you. We all deal with intrusive thoughts, and this is the BLKDOG we are fighting.”

Botis Seva (HelenMaybanks) Botis Seva (HelenMaybanks)

"BLKDOG," inspired by Seva's experiences of discrimination and oppression as a child, delves into how today's youth cope with despair and fear, fighting to find a sense of peace.

“My childhood was up and down. I saw a lot of positive things but also a lot of negative things I didn’t like,” Seva shared. “I chose to use my childhood experiences because I know many adults have grown up around violence or domestic abuse and I wanted to make the work for them -- to tell them that you are not alone. Many of our pasts have stuck with us and this piece allows you to acknowledge and release yourself from the pain.”

The choreographer said the show is for everyone who has dealt with trauma and grief.

“We live in a society where speaking about our emotions may never be understood; I spent my childhood never speaking about my emotions and now, at the age of 30, I can finally speak up.”

"BLKDOG" (Camilla Greenwell)

Seva's dance style is rooted in hip-hop culture, using street dance styles and playing with the form and foundation to create a language that becomes much more freeform.

"Something I love about hip-hop is the idea of sampling and using inspiration from a small thing and turning it into something else,” said Seva. "This inspires me and it’s an element that we use in our work. We sample lots of movements and try to find how we can make it different, how far we can push it.”

Seva’s creative process starts with a clear intention -- why do I need to make this?

“I believe every work you make is a calling. I let my art do what it needs to do. Use your art for the right reason and reflect the times we are dealing with. There are broken humans all around us who are trying their best to cope; we need to show each other more love and humility.”

Still, the choreographer believes interpretation is ultimately up to the audience.

“We play a lot with memories, and we use this to take you on a maze-like experience. Some audiences will pick up the story, some people may just think it is a series of images. But it’s up to you as an audience member to take what you can. There is a story in everything. We just need to look deeper.”