Just Us Dance explore Black British male experience

A contemporary hip-hop dance experience from Just Us Dance, Born to Manifest, is set to make its UK premiere this October.

Choreographed by Joseph Toonga, Born to Manifest explores the experiences of young Black British men and  oppression and dictation, using real life accounts from men across London aged 17 to 45. With these issues in mind, Toonga’s muscular choreography plays out in a solo for himself and a duet performed with Theophillus ‘Godson’ Oloyade. He uses hip-hop form and culture, combined with linear extensions from contemporary dance, to tell real life stories, including his own, of underrepresented men in the UK today.

Renowned producer, composer and DJ Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante, coartistic director of Boy Blue Entertainment and a fixture of the UK urban music industry, has created an original score for Born To Manifest. Asante’s music, set as a backdrop to Toonga’s voice, is used to set the various scenes and stories which run throughout the piece.

Born to Manifest will make its UK premiere at Jerwood Dance House, Ipswich (4 October) and its London premiere at The Place, London (16 November). Early in its run, extracts will be performed at Edinburgh Festival Fringe (22-25 August) and at the Brit School as part of Dance Festival Croydon (7 September). Born to Manifest then tours to The Curve, Leicester (11 October), Edge Hill Arts Centre, St Helens (4 February) and The Lowry, Salford (20 March).

Explaining the piece, Toonga said: “I feel a responsibility as a Black male to empower the younger generation as a role model and example of how dance can provide a positive, successful route. Mental health and Black men’s experiences of it, is little discussed, which is why I am passionate about creating awareness to shift stigmas.”

Toonga is the cofounder of Just Us along with Ricardo Da Silva and Rudeen February. The company’s ethos is to inspire, support and nurture, aiming to provide the conditions for artists to create and collaborate.