Interview: Ivan Michael Blackstock

Interview: Ivan Michael Blackstock

3 minutes, 58 seconds Read

The dance artist and choreographer on the extreme procedure and individual experiences that went into producing the acclaimed Traplord.

‘Dance is the method I interact’, states Ivan Michael Blackstock. ‘I’ve neverever idea of it as something different from me’, a fact that makes itself plainly felt over the course of an hour’s discussion with the 36-year-old choreographer and dance artist, whose acclaimed program Traplord was commissioned by and premiered at 180 Studios. Though the setup of our chat is standard – we sat throughout from one another on workplace chairs – the words he speaks communicate however a portion of the material of what he has to state. The rest discovers its voice through jaunty gesticulations, postures and physical illustrations, flexing an normal context with happy creative expression.

This function was initially released in Fact’s S/S 2022 problem, which is readilyavailable to purchase here.

The exactsame uses in reverse, with his work for both phase and screen taking the lived experiences collected over the course of a youth growing up in Peckham as its point of departure. The outcome of a procedure of self-allegorisation, his practice merges dance, physical theatre and spoken word to develop surreally poetic meditations on what he calls ‘Black masculinity in crisis’. It’s in Traplord, a cycle of phase and movie works that have appeared at Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention, Théâtre Paris-Villette and as part of Channel 4’s Random Acts series – and which was premiered in complete at 180 Studios in spring 2022 – that this makes itself most strongly felt, with Blackstock peeling back stereotyped exteriors to expose an psychological and mental texture that’s hardlyever seen in representations of Black males in the cultural mainstream.

That stated, stories of young Black guys growing up in London in the 1990s and early 2000s are rarely heard. ‘I understand it’s a story that’s been around for a while’, Blackstock yields, ‘but with Traplord, I was interested in checkingout it on a muchdeeper level – in considering what takesplace inside the minds of these guys in these environments, on these estates. We see movies and TELEVISION reveals that go inside the home, and you see these youngboys being raised by single momsanddads and all of that, however there are other layers that aren’t being permeated. You neverever see what takesplace inside their hearts.’

In lookinginto, Blackstock mined his psychological archive for memories of being cautioned about the hazard of racist Milwall-supporting thugs at the age of 6, of ‘seeing kids who were 8 to 10 years old next to Aylesbury Estate cigarettesmoking weed and getting captured up in a specific wayoflife’ and of the choice to guide his own life in a various instructions on finding dance at around the exactsame age. More than distinctively individual experiences, though, the memories he selected to gainaccessto were those that spoke to inactive socio-political realities. ‘I was attempting to produce something that was authentically Ivan, however likewise something universal – possibly even stereotypical – that other individuals might resonate with’, he states.

Accordingly, the procedure was then broadened to consistof the pointofviews of his peers by method of what’s possibly best explained as a cathartic group treatment session in2015 ‘It was like a bros’ circle. I simply got a lot of males together in a area, and we began speaking about our shit’, he shows. They talkedabout fondmemories – hazy dreams of endingupbeing dancers, music manufacturers and MCs – familypet irks and injuries – tales of household members killed on London’s streets, stabbing survivals and youth sexual abuse. ‘I simply collected all that energy and put it into a piece of work’, Ivan states, which was veryfirst carriedout in2015 As befits the subject matter, the action to the work was seismic. ‘Everyone was shook. They were like, “What the fuck is this?”’ And we even had to call an ambulance duetothefactthat somebody was in shock.’

There’s no rejecting the distinctively apprehending, anxiety-inducing qualities that specify his work. This is especially exhibited in Traplord Have Mercy (2020), a brief movie that integrates irregular cam work, poignant spoken word reflections by poet Magero on styles of desertion and loss, and susceptible representations of males captured in the balance inbetween fiery machismo, anger and anguish. ‘Reflecting on that movie, it was actually about summoning an energy, an strength, that I keepinmind’, Blackstock states. ‘You truly puton’t understand what may takeplace – what they may state or do. You discover your mind leaping over obstacles attempting to figure out what it all indicates.’

What does he desire his audience to take away from Traplord? ‘I can’t state much about the audience’s journey and what they feel – however I simply desire them to truly feel’, he states. ‘For some individuals, it’s all too much’, he confesses. ‘It feels too real,

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