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TooMuchFlavour » Hip Hop Theatre » Tommy Franzen and Lizzie Gough interview: Blaze the Streetdance Sensation

Tommy Franzen and Lizzie Gough interview: Blaze the Streetdance Sensation

Blaze: The Streetdance Sensation burst onto the stage of the West End in March this year, starting at the Peacock Theatre before continuing to tour Europe, drawing audiences to theatres across Holland to see the show.

In our review of the London leg of Blaze we said: “Readers, fans of street dance and newcomers to dance will be relieved to know that Blaze does indeed live up to its hype.”

Many watched Blaze for its fashion-driven take on street dance, and glossy, high end production, while those in the UK who had been watching the BBC’s So You Think You Can Dance also came to see the two show’s finalists perform: Lizzie Gough and Tommy Franzén.

Ahead of the self proclaimed streetdance sensation returning to tour theatres in the UK in October, we caught up with Lizzie and Tommy to interview them about their involvement with the show they were thrown into straight after finishing So You Think You Can Dance.

Tommy Franzén and Lizzie Gough on Blaze: The Streetdance Sensation

The run of Blaze started quite soon after So You Think You Can Dance finished, how did you manage to squeeze rehearsals of SYTYCD, the final and the start of Blaze together?
Tommy: Blaze were really nice as they let us have these two weeks off, as we were booked for that long before So You Think. Even when we auditioned for that, and we were talking about it and we were going to try and do Blaze first as well as So You Think but actually realised quite quickly there’s no time. Even in the first week we were really busy on So You Think, but by the time of the finals and semi finals it was impossible. So we basically finished on the 13th February and had the Sunday off to move back from our flats in town and we started Blaze on a Monday.
Lizzie: Straight away. Early morning.

Tommy, what was your role in the production of the show, you had the title of resident director?
Tommy: I was also choreographer and resident director, so I choreographed a locking piece with six people and I had a solo in the show too, so I used one of the So You Think solos which I extended to a 1 minute 20 or so. Being resident director, that role has the responsibility of the show as soon as it leaves town, as soon as the premiere’s over, other people on the creative team leave.

They made a big deal about the press night of Blaze, were you surprised about the reception you got?
Lizzie: To be honest I probably wasn’t very aware because we were so focused on the show, every night, even though that was press night I still gave my best show to the next night. Every show night is like a premiere, it keeps you on your toes.
Tommy: I think it was nice though, they really beefed up the premiere, it was nice to see all the So You Think faces that came to support us. It was good. Arlene came, Louise Redknapp too.

You worked with a lot of top choreographers, who really pushed you the most.
Tommy: Me!
Lizzie: Actually, he did, he kept us on our toes for ages. We missed Kenny [Wormald]’s because we were on So You Think, so we never got to have him. The first week we had Lyle [Beniga] which was a killer because he is amazing and because were we so still in So You Think [mode] that week was one of the hardest weeks. His style is so unique it was really hard to pick up. The week after that we had Mike Song.
Tommy: I think Kenny was the easiest week, some of the others said some of the choreographers aren’t so hard to pick up, but I think because we hadn’t done much hip hop during So You Think so our bodies weren’t moving that way and having Lyle who moves so differently, was really, really hard, particularly with a whole week to get into it, like a ballet dancer trying to do hip hop.

Tommy Franzen locking in Blaze - photo by Lucy Cullen

How did it feel to be part of such a big project and how did the European audience compare to the UK’s?
Lizzie: It was amazing. I’d never done a European tour, so to go abroad and do the same show was amazing and we didn’t know what to expect. They absolutely loved it. After they came up to you and told which bits they liked. We would have after parties, people would go into breaking circles and do their thing. It was so inspiring that even the young dancers would show you “I can do this!” A lot of them didn’t speak English, so it was a good way to communicate.
Tommy: I think Blaze was a bigger hype in Holland than it was in London. In Holland it was a big hype. There wouldn’t be a night without standing ovations, it was crazy, all of them sold out. As Lizzie said they would always arrange an after party at the theatre with a DJ so people were just throwing down all night.
Lizzie: They even added more dates during the tour. We did two extra shows because they had such a big response.

Street dance is everywhere at the moment. How have you been using your influence to influence the direction of street dance? Where’s it going next?
Tommy: I don’t think I’ve used it to change anything really. I guess the fact that we’re doing Blaze and getting people to come and see a lot of new work from different choreographers in a way to educate people about what’s going around, what’s happening at the moment. To see from different parts of the world different choreographers to see what’s happening.

Lizzie Gough in Blaze vogue

Do you think people will sit down and realise it’s a lot of work to get where you are now and to get street dance where it is?
Lizzie: It’s always a lot of work to get where you are in whatever you do, you know, unless you’re very, very lucky. But if you really want something you have to work for it, and we work 24/7 at this industry, whether it might researching on styles and doing styles and doing classes, training, we’re always trying to be on top of our game.

Blaze: The Streetdance Sensation UK tour

Blaze: The Streetdance Sensation starts its tour of the UK on 1 October, starting at the Lowry, Manchester. Complete tour dates and ticket information can be found on the official Blaze website.

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