East London hip-hop dance director Michael Asante made MBE
- Credit: Benji Reid
An east London dance company director has been made an MBE for services to hip-hop dance and music.
Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante, who was born in Manor Park, raised in Ilford and recently moved to Romford, received the accolade as co-founder and co-artistic director of hip-hop dance company Boy Blue.
Founded in 2001 by Michael, 41, and choreographer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy - who is also an MBE - the company was launched into the theatre spotlight in 2007 with its Pied Piper show at Theatre Royal Stratford East.
The show subsequently found a home at the Barbican, winning a Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre, and helping Boy Blue gain its position as an associate at the City of London venue.
In 2012, Boy Blue contributed to the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, including staging the handover of the Olympic torch and the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron.
The company currently runs a dance education programme in east London, where more than 100 young dancers train alongside professionals each week.
Michael said his proudest achievement in his career had been helping the genre grow and establishing a pathway for young people to get into the industry.
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“Young people who are starting now have an industry that they can join and jump into pretty easy,” he said.
One of the company’s works, Emancipation of Expressionism, became the first hip-hop dance theatre piece to be made a set work on the AQA GCSE Dance syllabus.
Michael told the Recorder it had been a “shock” to receive the letter about the MBE offer and said his first thought had been of friends in the arts who had rejected the honour.
He said: “The first thing that came into my head was considering that thought process – I have to decide.”
After asking himself what his father – who died last year – would have said, Michael decided to accept.
“It was nice to be able to, in my name, being Asante, to honour him,” he said.
“The notion of him travelling to the country many years ago, making it his home, having us in the country and then being able to get something as prestigious as an MBE.”
He added the MBE would also set an example of what is possible to people in the industry.