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Stratford show shakes off macho stereotypes of the hip-hop music scene

PUBLISHED: 12:30 01 April 2017

Dancers performing Smother. Picture: Lesley Martin

Dancers performing Smother. Picture: Lesley Martin

© Lesley Martin 2016

LGBT communities have historically been slighted in hip-hop music so it’s great to see one performer working to address the balance.

Andrea Walker. Picture: Kim Morgan Andrea Walker. Picture: Kim Morgan

Director and choreographer Andrea Walker’s emotionally-charged urban dance show Smother guides audiences through a blossoming relationship between two gay men using an ensemble of hip hop and contemporary dance.

While his piece addresses addiction, obsession and commitment, Andrea says he’s keen to shake off tired stereotypes about same-sex partnerships.

“I want to show a gay story in an almost unproblematic way,” he said. “We are not telling coming-out stories and the fact that a couple of the characters are gay is not important to the storyline.”

For the 27-year-old who “grew up watching MTV and music videos”, hip-hop has long been a passion and Andrea hopes audiences will be able to experience the genre in a new way.

“I feel like they are watching something that they do not necessarily feel themselves represented in,” he said.

“Perceptions are changing but still the idea of hip-hop has been dance crews, macho and male.”

Smother begins with the development of two men coming together but this is challenged by the arrival of others who add conflict and drama with their actions.

As there is no dialogue involved, the dynamic movements and gestures of the seven dancers provide all of the storytelling.

“It’s very high energy,” said Andrea. “It’s very strong at the beginning but as it progresses it becomes more acoustic and mellow.”

The narrative was “inspired” by the former film and TV student’s own experience of coming out of a difficult relationship.

Andrea wrote Smother in 2014 with long-term friend and producer Patrick Collier.

From humble beginnings it went on to win rave reviews with a spot at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Now it starts its UK run with a premiere at Theatre Royal Stratford East.

Andrea says he can’t wait. “It feels incredible,” he said.

8pm start on Thursday, April 13 and Saturday, 15 April. Tickets £12. Visit stratfordeast.com for more

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