Written by Mariya Majid
Blaze is one of the most successful street dance shows in the world. It is directed by Anthony van Laast, who has worked as a choreographer and director for a number of hit musicals, concerts, television performances and films, and he has also directed Bounce the Swedish break dance show. The show aims to mix West End Broadway with the urban night club scene resulting in a 90 minute blast of highly energetic dance routines with the use of strange props, sophisticated video imagery and dramatic lighting. The show has six choreographers and 12 of the best dancers from the UK to Brazil, three of which are break dancers.
Kofi attended the first London audition in 2010, a huge number of dancers had turned up hoping to be part of the Blaze cast. Due to there being so many dancers auditioning the elimination process lasted two days. The auditions consisted of learning most of the shows routines and ending with the dancers having to freestyle. After each section had been auditioned, dancers were told if they had been successful. Kofi wasn’t initially selected however the following year he was asked to do the Germany and Holland leg of the tour.
So far Kofi has toured in Australia, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Russia and Thailand, with the potential of more shows being added in Asia and some of these countries being revisited. Kofi found touring Holland and Germany most enjoyable adding that he has however learnt and grown as a dancer in every country he has toured in.
The show begins with spot lights on a line of funky and colourful trainers, boots and dancing shoes. The dancers then stroll on to the stage finding different items of their costumes and changing their tops from a wall covered in half opened draws and wardrobes, full of jumbled clothes. They then gather at the front of the stage and together put on their trainers. From that point onwards there is a mix of group, duo and solo performances with the use of props such as fridges, televisions and even a large movable sofa that doubles up as a door. The soundtrack switches from R&B to Beethoven to add to the bizarreness of the whole show. At the end the dancers come together to free style, which of course is Kofi’s favourite part, as he is given the freedom to explore the different themes of the show and loves it when during the free styling a dancer performs a move that everybody has seen them practicing hard adding that at that point ‘the vibe, excitement and appreciation that we feel is incredible’.
Rehearsing for the show is tough, for the first tour Kofi did he rehearsed for two weeks. This has completely changed now and rehearsal time depends on many factors like how close the last tour was from the current one or if dancers have been changed. Kofi has even been added on to a show two days after it had been fully put together! They usually rehearse for full days from 10am to 6pm and occasionally half days. Sometimes they have a half day of rehearsals followed by a show that evening.
Kofi describes working with the cast of Blaze as effortless as they have bonded well and created what feels like a family unit, which only grows stronger with every performance. They all encourage, support and learn from each other. ‘Each dancer that I’ve worked on this has been a very positive influence on my future as a dancer, we’ve all supported, shared concepts and styles, and developed whilst sharing the time on each tour’.
Working on Blaze for Kofi has been a fantastic experience that he greatly appreciates but says it’s important to be weary of all obstacles that come your way whilst on tour. So below is a list of Advice from Kofi for those of you that are hoping to one day be a dancer touring on show:
- Know exactly what you’re putting yourself into. A long time away may feel like a working holiday, so you have to be strong willed and constantly aware of the positives and negatives of touring.
- Pack carefully. Don’t over pack as you have to carry your own luggage
- Manage your own finances. Make sure your good with money and you know the worth (price) of your skills
- Always be humble. You’re not a superstar!!
- Try to travel around the country you’re working in. Hip hop is everywhere, so learn as much as you can if you get the chance to.
- Be fit for YOU, not the job. Train to keep fit in general, not just because your talent got you the job
- Finally remember it’s not just a job, it’s a passion. So take in each opportunity.