Akai Osei is the 10-year old dance sensation who scooped the £100,000 prize of the Sky1’s competition Got to Dance in February 2010. Having only been dancing for a year, the Kent school boy started dance classes when his sister wanted to learn to street dance and wowed the judges – including his hero Ashley Banjo from street dancing crew Diversity – from the very start. ‘I didn’t think I could win it’ says the sweet and mild manner young man during our recent telephone conversation. ‘It was like butterflies in my tummy because Davina [McCall] just called out my name and I didn’t think I could win. So it was really shocking.’
And how has he coped with the fame and attention since winning the prize; namely the hordes of young fans who stop him wherever he goes (something I witness myself during a Street Dance 3D screening, for which he also has a small cameo). ‘I put on a happy face,’ he replies sweetly, ‘and talk to them like they are my mates and I have known them for years.’
Akai now faces his next challenge as he joins the cast of the award–winning and truly fantastic hip-hop musical Into The Hoods. It was back in 2007 when the Zoo Nation’s distinctively inventive and inspired production became not only the first ever hip-hop dance show to open in the West End but also the longest running, as it took residence at the Novello Theatre for a total of five months. It then returned in Christmas of 2009 with a new venue of The Southbank Centre, where it performed to sell-put crowds and rave reviews. It is now back again for a summer run which will see the show – which includes music from Kanye West, Massive Attack, Black Eyed Peas, Missy Elliott and more – performing from the 30th July – 15th August.
Based upon the Tony Award winning 1986 musical Into the Woods, the production follows two lost schoolchildren as they enter the hood – otherwise known as Ruff Endz Estate. Upon meeting the Landlord of the estate he instructs them that he will give them the bus fare home if they help him collect four items from the estates residences; an iPod as white as milk, a hoodie as red as blood, Nike trainers as shiny as gold and weave as yellow as corn. The children thus go on an adventure that incorporates a number of popular fairy tales, including Little Red Riding hood, Cinderella and Rapunzel with each character being given a modern, ‘urban’ twist.
Akai plays one of the school children and feels ‘excited’ about his stage debut, but had he heard of the play
before getting the part? ‘I had heard about it before…but I hadn’t seen the play’. And will his new best
friend Ashley be helping him with any of his dance moves? ‘He’s not helping me but we still keep in contact’,
he answers with a smile.
Into the Hoods opens on the 30th July. Ticket prices range from £15 – £27.50 with a 50% discount for under
16’s. For more info please visit the website: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/dance-performance
Words by Karla Williams