andrea walker | choreographer and artistic director

Hot on the heels of 201 Dance Company’s latest must-see Pride video, set to Christina Aguilera’s ‘Dirrty’, we caught up with artistic director and choreographer Andrea Walker to find out more about that video, his new project for the Edinburgh Festival, and his plans for Pride.

Hi Andrea, we love the new video! It’s a gorgeous love letter to the city. Did it take a long time to choreograph and film?
Thank you! These Pride videos have become such a huge passion project of mine. I choreographed this one in late June and had four rehearsals with the dancers in early July. We filmed it all on a Saturday morning in mid-July, with a very early start to avoid the crowds. 

We also heard the exciting news that the new video is going to be shown before Xtina’s performance at Pride…
Yes, we’re so excited! Our previous Pride video was also shown to the audience in the park before Kylie’s big set. It was very surreal to see over 50,000 people watching it and singing along, we can’t wait to see what reaction this one gets!  

Your videos have gone viral before – and you even got a cameo from Kylie – we’re keeping everything crossed that you get a shoutout from Xtina herself soon!
Thank you! Honestly, we’ve all worked so hard on the project, from the dancers to the creative team. It’s been such a labour of love, so getting an acknowledgment from Xtina – or even just knowing she saw it – would mean so much to us. It’d be such a perfect ending to this journey!

We love the inclusiveness of the video, too: you feature quite a few dancers from other companies and the community in the video, don’t you? 
Absolutely! Inclusivity is such a huge part of Pride, so it was important to me that it was represented in the video. The final scene includes over 60 dancers from different backgrounds, dance styles and skills. You’ll be able to spot dancers from the Marta Scott Dance Company, Outta Puff Daddys, Visual Poets and Marina Studios, just to mention a few. We’ve also had some fantastic support from Brighton’s ICTheatre where I regularly teach dance.
I thought it’d be wonderful to give the students the opportunity to take part and apply what they’ve learnt on a project of this calibre. 

You’ve described ‘Dirrty’ as quite revolutionary with Xtina getting a lot of flack when it was first released in 2002 – do you think things have improved a lot since then?
I think things have evolved. Maybe if the ‘Dirrty’ video was released today it wouldn’t receive the same kind of backlash it did back then. I do, however, feel that the real problem the general media had with Xtina at the time wasn’t the video itself, but rather her unapologetic confidence surrounding sex, sexuality, her body and the way she so freely expressed herself. While things have improved, these are all issues still present in today’s culture.

Do you have a favourite out of the three Pride pieces you’ve choreographed so far?
Each of the Pride videos are connected to such a special point in time for me, so it’s hard to pick a favourite. This latest video for Xtina was the first one I did in collaboration with videographer Josh Brady. I loved the brand-new energy he brought to the project; the ideas he presented elevated the work to some truly unexpected places. 

yasmin cogan de abreu in sad book

The dancers were phenomenal, too, and so committed to this project from the start, which really kept me creatively engaged and motivated. Plus, the way Yasmin Cogan de Abreu (pictured above) – the lead dancer – embodied Xtina’s confidence and power was so exciting to witness and exactly what I was looking for. Back in 2018, Yasmin was also the lead in the very first Pride video we put together for Britney. While Yaz was always a fantastic performer, she has now truly elevated herself to a place that makes her a force to be reckoned with. Shooting the ‘Dirrty’ video with her was a wonderful full-circle moment. 

So while I love each one of the Pride projects individually for different reasons, I feel everything really came together for this Xtina video in a beautiful, special way that I’m very proud of. 

Where do you get your inspiration from?
I’m hugely inspired by cinema – I have a degree in Film & Television Production – so I always aim to create powerful imagery with my work, whether that’s on stage or on film.

In terms of movement, the 2000s MTV era were my defining years, so whether you’re watching one of my commercial works of something more contemporary or dance theatre, you will always find influences of those hard-hitting steps from that generation of RnB and pop music. ‘Dirrty’ in particular represented a bit of a queer awakening for me, so I loved putting my own spin on the track.

We love your style – where’s the best place for dance lessons locally? Do you still teach yourself?
Thank you! If you’re looking to pursue dance in higher education, I’m part of the Commercial faculty at ICTheatre in Brighton, where I teach regularly. 
When time allows, you can also find me teaching the occasional class at Marina Studios, which is a wonderful place for both novice and advanced dancers. If you’re interested in dance I highly recommend you check it out! 

 sad book

What’s next for you and 201 dance company? Any other local performances on the agenda? 
This is a very exciting time for 201: our brand-new production Sad Book (pictured above) has been almost five years in the making and it’ll finally premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in a few weeks, from the 22nd to the 28th of August.

The show is an adaptation of Michael Rosen’s award-winning book: it’s a father’s personal story of loss and grief; it explores what it means to be sad, and it shows that sometimes it’s ok to be sad. The production has a mix of animation, dance and original music. If you can’t get enough of Yasmin Cogan de Abreu, she’s one of Sad Book‘s performers, and moves in a beautiful, haunting way that is very different from what you’ve seen her do in the “Dirrty’ video. I choreographed and directed, it’s truly a project that is very close to my heart. 

On to Pride! What will you doing? 
My friends and I have a whole day planned! I’m looking forward to watching the parade surrounded by some of the people I love the most. And of course, I can’t wait to see Xtina in the park on Saturday evening! 

Where do you live in Brighton and why?
I’ve been in Kemp Town for almost five years. I find it to be one of the most artistic and vibrant parts of Brighton, there’s never a dull moment here!

That’s very true! And, finally, can you describe your perfect day in the city?
Wake up early and have a stroll on Marine Parade towards the centre of town, taking in the beautiful sea views. Stop at Twin Pines on St James’s Street to catch-up with friends and grab one of the best coffees in Brighton. Quick lunch on the go (Kokoro is always a great option!), then head straight to all the wonderful vintage shops for new and unusual outfits that would make anyone look more interesting than they actually are. Drinks with friends on the Legends terrace facing the sea if it’s a nice day, or cocktails at The Golden Pineapple or The Plotting Parlour for something a bit fancier. Then I’d move things on to Club Revenge if it was that kind of night. End at North Street’s Burger King at 4am if we’ve lost all respect for ourselves – in a perfect day kind of way.

We love it, thanks very much, Andrea!

You can find out more about Andrea and 201 Dance Company below:

Photo credits: Jordan Mary; Josh Brady (Sad Book)