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Traplord (2021)
Traplord (2021)Photography Glodi Miessi

Traplord: the stage show uplifting overlooked stories of Black masculinity

Ivan Michael Blackstock is the rising star of the dance world, using movement and hip hop to unpack the lives of socially disenfranchised young Black men for theatre audiences

Traplord is a story about a young man living out a dream,” Ivan Michael Blackstock tells Dazed. “Within his dream, he has a car accident and this takes him into a mental state where he needs to engage deeply with his inner self. He goes on a heroic journey towards waking up, both physically and metaphorically.”

For the uninitiated, Ivan Michael Blackstock is the award-winning dance artist, choreographer, and director who came to prominence working with artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Kylie Minogue and the Pet Shop Boys. His latest project is an immersive dance performance that moves fluidly between its hero’s waking life and dream state. Traplord, which premieres later this month at London’s 180 Studios is produced by Sadler’s Wells and 180 Studios, co-produced by The Factory and ALTRUVIOLET, and incorporates trap, grime, opera and film alongside dance, theatre, and spoken word to explore themes of death, rebirth, life, and mental health, and identity as it follows its protagonist on his odyssey towards selfhood. 

The show is born from the narratives and experiences of socially disenfranchised young, Black men. Blackstock draws on references such as Rodin’s Thinker, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Toni Morrison's Tar Baby, and the early 19th century practice of Blackface to interrogate ideas and performances of Blackness, while bringing under-represented stories of Black masculinity in crisis into the realm of the theatre.

Traplord started off as just the idea of having young Black men on stage telling their authentic truth since, at the time, I felt that certain stories weren’t being told or represented on a theatrical stage. I didn’t quite know what that was at the time but in speaking to other young men like myself, we found that we shared a universal desire to discover what it means to be a man and that’s where Traplord all started,” he explains. “It’s a fever dream, it’s healing, it’s confronting.” 

“Over the past few years, I think we’ve experienced a cultural shift where knowing and understanding who we are as humans has become even more important. I believe that there’s another shift to come and we’re on the precipice of that – whatever it may be – and we have to be ready,” the rising dance star tells Dazed. “The feeling of being trapped in our environment, in technology, in culture is overwhelming, so I’m creating from my own experience and healing as a result.. going with what I feel is uncovering truth within myself and getting ready for what’s to come. It’s something I feel I have to do. It’s necessary.”

There’s a compelling urgency and energy to Blackstock’s work that makes him an irrepressible force. “When I dance, I feel the true source of myself. Being a dancer is like being a time-travelling superhero – I can be in the past, present, or future,” he explains. “I conquer my fears through movement, dance, action. When I’m in that element I don’t need to intellectualise or explain anything. Dance is the best way I know how to communicate.”

Visit NOWNESS to watch a preview of Traplord

Ivan Michael Blackstock’s Traplord will run at 180 Studios from March 26 – April 16 2022 in a co-production with Sadler’s Wells, The Factory, and ALTRUVIOLET. Tickets will be available on public sale from November 29 at 10am onwards from Sadler’s Wells and 180 The Strand. Booking opens to members on November 22 at 10am onwards