Michael Asante & Kenrick Sandy: 'When Danny Boyle called about working on the Olympics, we were in shock. Things snowballed after that'

Asante and Sandy are co-directors of Boy Blue Entertainment, an award-winning hip-hop dance company

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Kenrick Sandy, 34

A co-director of Boy Blue Entertainment, an award-winning hip-hop dance company, Sandy (right in picture) is a choreographer. He lives in east London with his wife and three children

I've known Mikey since I was about 12. We met at secondary school. He was quite a character, loud and confident, while I was pretty quiet. It was a while before we really bonded.

By 16, 17, we were both well into our sport. I was playing a lot of basketball, but Mikey was also into his dancing back then. We spent a lot of time at Forest Gate youth centre, Mikey upstairs with my brother doing dance classes, me downstairs playing basketball. I used to go and watch them, and while it looked impressive, I wasn't that interested in joining in, not at first. But the more I watched, the more I realised there was a real gymnastics feel to what they were doing. So I gave it a go myself, and that was it, really: I was hooked. I stopped going to basketball altogether, and was doing dance classes four times a week.

That pretty much changed my life. I was supposed to do a graphic-design course, but went straight on to a performing-arts course instead, didn't go to university, and then went straight into dancing full-time as a career.

Mikey was also doing other things – in music, engineering and producing UK hip-hop acts – but he never lost his love of dance, and by about 2001 we started Boy Blue Entertainment together. I didn't really know what I was doing; I didn't have anything like a business plan. It was more a reaction to what was going on around us, on the street, in our neighbourhood. There were all these young people who also wanted to dance, so we started classes. It grew from there. We learnt on the job.

It was never a struggle, but it was certainly challenging. We weren't making much money at the beginning, but it wasn't about making money; it was about making things happen. I feel alive when I dance; it's how I express myself. And I feel just as alive when helping others express themselves in the same way.

We were doing well, all sorts of projects with all sorts of people, and then in 2012 it moved up to a whole other level. Danny Boyle called and asked me to help choreograph part of the Olympics opening ceremony. I quickly brought Mikey in with me, because we work so well together, and we needed both our sets of strengths for such a big job.

I am probably the more laid-back of the two of us. Not many people see me stressed, and even if I am stressed, you wouldn't be able to tell by my facial expression. It's not something I would show. That's important in a leader: if you panic, everybody panics. But Mikey knows when I'm stressed, and he is the problem-solver of the two of us. That helps. I'm quite fiery, passionate; Mikey is the voice of reason. Together, we pacify each other.

We've worked well together all this time because we've always had the same kind of fire, that sense of determination to see things through. But it's not just a friendship between us, it's a proper family unit: he's like a brother to me – and he's the godfather to all my kids.

Michael Asante, 34

A sound engineer and record producer, Asante has worked with UK hip-hop acts such as Kano, and co-runs Boy Blue Entertainment with Sandy. He is single, and lives in north London

Ken used to watch me dance when I was younger. I started early, he came late to it. Me, I was dancing from the age of five, always auditioning for West End theatre productions, and I went to acting school. I was always into some kind of entertainment, performing, self-expression, always singing, dancing.

We were at secondary school together, but we properly locked in as friends at about 16 or 17. We started our first dance group round about then, called Matrix, and we did it because there was this burgeoning dance and hip-hop scene in east London. We were both really passionate about it. If you want to make something succeed, you have to have passion, diligence and dedication.

It's amazing mentoring young kids. They often come to us with little or no skills, and we watch them build and grow, then go off and work in film, theatre, TV, music. It's a mindset more than anything else; it's determination.

We're a good mix, me and Ken: my attitude is more business, his is more towards the art. That's his role, and he's brilliant at it.

We've always been busy, but we had no idea it would evolve to the point where someone like Danny Boyle would know who we were. When he called Ken about working on the Olympics, we were in shock. Things snowballed after that and we do all sorts of things now. We've got shows all over the place, and we're associate artists at the Barbican, so no two working days are ever the same. We've always been 50:50, equal partners, but we also do separate stuff. I still do my music projects, he does his choreography, but we always check in, keep things going. It's often stressful, but we don't argue; we respect each other's opinions, and we work well under pressure.

We are probably no longer in each other's pockets like we were at 25, 26, but things change. Ken got married, had kids, and that changes a friendship more than work ever could. He is busy these days with his father and husband duties, and that's fine, it's great. His kids are like my nephews and nieces, and I spend a lot of time with them.

Now Ken is taking things up to the next level again, by being a judge on BBC Four's Young Dancer. He is a perfect spokesman for urban dance in that kind of arena. That's the sort of stature he has within the industry now. He has the ability to perform and to teach and to inspire. He has so much knowledge.

'Young Dancer' airs on BBC Four from Friday

Comments