CriticalDance Forum

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Author:  AnaM [ Tue Feb 07, 2006 11:30 am ]
Post subject:  ZOONATION

On 3 February, Breakin’ Conventions presented two of the dance groups that have grown out of the Hip Hop Festival held annually at Sadler’s Wells. ZooNation and Impact Dance presented their pieces at the Peacock Theatre in what was called “explosive Hip Hop dance theatre”. Credit must be given to the efforts of those in charge of Breakin’ Conventions for allowing the talent glimpsed at the festival to develop and for providing them with a platform to showcase their pieces.

The first act was put on by ZooNation and their “Into the Hood”, based on Sondheim’s musical “Into the Wood”. The piece was a joy to watch. The choreographer, Kate Prince, gave the dancers the possibility to explore not only their dance form, but also its possibilities within a theatrical context. The story worked wonderfully thanks to the hilarious renditions of characters that seemed to be enjoying every minute each had on stage. The result was a hilarious, inventive, in many aspects ground breaking dance that managed to break down barriers and preconceptions of what Hip Hop as a dance form has to offer. The group choreography and solos managed to gain momentum and shock the audience once and again through refreshing tongue in cheek humour.

It would be difficult to single out any of the dancers, as they all gave their best on the stage. But, just for the sake of acknowledging outstanding talent, I would definitely mention Teneisha Bonner, whose Spinderella was brilliant both technically and in character. She is a beautiful dancer whose lines were effortlessly clear and her use of dynamics showed a careful sense of nuance and contrast. Her cast companions- stepmother (Shaun Niles) and stepsisters (Jeffrey Felicisimo and Bradley Charles)- were so funny in their pink wigs and high heel shoes that they brought the house down whenever they appeared onto the stage. Roger Davies as the Prince was simply hilarious. The way he managed to make the audience laugh at his every entrance –with that glorious leitmotif provided by Prince’s music “you don’t have to be beautiful”- was simply magnificent. And so for the rest of the characters, really. They all pulled the show through with such conviction and technical accomplishment that it was hard to believe that these youngsters are not professional dancers. The clever use of the stage and props, in all its simplicity brought a freshness to the piece that was both welcome and highly enjoyable.

My only criticism would be the length of the piece. Fifteen minutes shorter and the timing would have been just perfect. Also, the fragmentation of the music got a little bit tiring to the ears, but it needs to be said that to the younger generation it did not seem to matter at all!

After such a great start, I was really looking forward to seeing Impact Dance, whom I had seen perform at Breakin’ Conventions last spring. At that time, I thought the piece they presented was highly theatrical and very innovative. Unfortunately, the development of the work into a whole, much longer piece has not improved the original rendering. Hakeem Onibudo, the choreographer, seemed to be a little too pretentious in his take of his “Underworld”, a fight between Werewolves and Vampires. Thus, the piece became an in between of Matrix meets Mad Max that was hard to take seriously. Unfortunately, Onibudo obviously wanted his piece to be taken seriously. Perhaps this work should have acted as the opener of the programme. Then, the expectations would not have been so high. However, after ZooNation’s piece, “Underworld” fell flat. Not even the choreography was as highly inventive as it could have been and it was not until the very end that the audience got the Hip Hop routines that they were obviously waiting for. The seriousness of the characters and the story also played against the dancers who did not have the weight to carry them through. There were ideas that could have been developed in a much broader way, like the use of aerials with ropes. Yet, they were used and abandoned without making full virtue of what they might add to the spectacle.

Overall, the evening provided with very good and well deserved performances. One can only wish that these dancers can find the way to carry on with their careers. What this show managed to do is to actually explore – with more or less success- new areas of dance expression, and that is something that the art form badly needs.

Author:  ksneds [ Sat Feb 11, 2006 3:31 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thea Nerissa Barnes' thoughts on the event, from another thread:


Standing in for Jonzi D, BUSTAH aka Susan Lawson-Reynolds was the hostess for this presentation of Hip Hop dance theatre at the Peacock Theatre 3 & 4 February 2006. BUSTAH presented her own rendition of the iconic running and mobile phone speaking gestures that epitomise the dance and gesticulation of the main character in Jonzi’s Aeroplane Man. She also reminded those present of the affiliation Jonzi D has with BREAKIN CONVENTION and companies ZOONATION and IMPACT DANCE. The initial BREAKIN CONVENTION was held in 2004. It was an international festival of hip hop dance theatre organised by Jonzi D and Alistair Spalding, artistic director of Sadler’s Wells. BREAKIN CONVENTION 2005 was just as prolific in attracting Hip Hop artists from all over Britain and as faraway as Korea. BREAKIN CONVENTION 2006 will be held at Sadler’s Wells 29-30 April. It will continue the celebration providing the opportunity for artists from all over the world to come together, demonstrate the extraordinary creativity found in Hip Hop dance theatre, and affirm a sense of community. ZOONATION and IMPACT DANCE were present at both 2004 and 2005 conventions. Their recent performance at the Peacock illustrated their answer to the question posed by some critics whether break dancing is viable movement expression for mainstream dance theatre. It may function as a device for urban youth to vent rebellion and exuberance. It may also be used for enterprising dance schools, music industries and clothes factories to sell labels and soda. The works presented at the Peacock illustrated the hype can have a moral edge and teach a few lessons that can benefit everyone.

A video projection in black-and-white of a bus ride begins this work. Members of ZOONATION make their entrance on to the bus but importantly to the work we see a young child, played by Chante Simpson, sitting in her seat but not so excited about the various commotions going on around her. Contemplative, Simpson seems despondent and preoccupied with something else. The bus arrives at its destination and everyone gets off. Simpson and her friend, played by Russell Royer, run down the street escaping from the others. What encourages Simpson to seek adventure with Royer, leaving their companions and walking to strange, unfamiliar places is not clear. As the video imagery continues, Simpson and Royer are robbed and chased INTO THE HOOD and thus the adventure takes a scary twist. The video imagery sets the context with a picture of the Tower Block, a mean looking high rise, as the stage fills with fourteen ZOONATION dancers who perform pop, lock, freeze, and B-Boy moves dressed in black hoods. The children also have their moment to dance doing adapted but recognisable break dance moves. As the story continues, lost and afraid, the children meet the landlord of the Tower Block, aptly portrayed by Frank Wilson. With gesticulations and video imagery Wilson’s task for the children is to obtain a white ipod, a red hooded top, yellow weave and gold trainers as birthday gifts for his daughter. When the goods are obtained he will assist the children to exit the hood and find their way back to their companions.

Alice In Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz come to mind for possible creative similarities but program notes state Kate Prince, director of ZOONATION’s INTO THE HOOD found inspiration from Stephen Joshua Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods (1987). The projection changes from high rise to a ******* and a young woman scrubbing the floor, Spinderella. More break dancing and interaction and we move from this view to the man in 10E, aptly called Wolf. The gist is Prince’s INTO THE HOOD presents alternative parodies of several well known fairy tale themes. There is a flotilla of introductions drawn from fairy tales with the lexicon of break dance providing movement expressions with connected shenanigans between tenants in the high rise. The tenants enter from the wings or step through projected imagery on the scrim. Possibly originating in oral traditions found throughout the world or revised for publication by authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the fairy tales represented in ZOONATION’s Hip Hop theatre included Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Rapunzel and other sundry characters from these and other tales. Fairy tales are usually about an underdog hero who must perform seemingly impossible tasks to secure some desired fortune with love or wealth being a metaphor for some lofty gain. INTO THE HOOD pose Simpson and Royer caught in a trap and illustrate through movement and music the use of their resourcefulness to escape.

The children take the gifts by sleuth of hand or coincidence from tenants in the Tower Block; red hood from Little Red, golden hair from RaPon-Zel (Rapunzel), white ipod from Jaxx, and golden trainer from Spinderella. The children and the landlord are disappointed though when the daughter complains the gifts are not brand new. Taking of the goods has also caused anguish in the hood and several lessons are being taught along the way; honesty, loyalty and resilience being the most apparent. Standing at a make believe bus stop all the characters have lost something but in particular a sense of self. As they sit or stand the children return the goods and restore harmony. The music, an ingenious mixing feat arranged by DJ Walde, Mark Harte, and Kate Prince, at this point but throughout the work facilitated telling the story with the odd lyric punctuating poetry in movement as well as offering metaphoric words of advice. As the work ends the children return to reality; the adventure was a dream, jumbled thoughts in Simpson’s mind that made perfect sense in this Hip Hop dance theatre work that ruptured negatives and presented positives.

Hakeem Onibudo’s dance work is inspired by the film of the same name. Reworked for this presentation the current video footage, costumes, and set design emphasise the context in which the story unfolds and works well.

Behind a black scrim the opening scene is of a past time with oppressed people, the Werewolves (Lycans) – Street Tuffs, tortured and beaten as they toll away at a mill. Ropes suspended from the rigging double as jail bars but are later used for the oppressed to climb on and swing. With the music revving with increased pulsating rhythmic sounds the oppressed whip themselves into frenzy, bust their shackles and with coordinated growls and stylised street dance moves escape their enslavement. Video projection visualise the creatures on stage running through undergrowth. As their ferocity increases both physically and vocally the Lycans perform movements that resemble primates more than canines. The dance motif for this group incorporates street dance moves with occasional break dancing expressions locking and popping but basically they growl.

The video footage changes to a city scape and we meet the Vampires – Elegantes whose dance motifs and costumes resemble the film, Matrix. Street dance, popping, locking and low rock expressions punctuate the Elegantes dance motifs with some full body sequencing. Primarily though this group confronts the audience with vogueing and face offs. There is a confrontation in the form of mock fight between the Lycans, lead by Steven Eniraiyetan and Leticia Simpson and the Elegantes who are lead by Anthony Mills, A’Jai Felicisimo and Natasha Bisarre.

This Hip Hop dance theatre work resembles a jazz ballet incorporating conventional moves like chaîné turns and parallel pirouettes alongside its multiple expressions drawn from the lexicon of break dance. As the story evolves through movement and gesture, Bisarre falls for Eniraiyetan with the product of their union being a baby boy. The Father takes care of the child despite his partner’s consternation played impressively by Leticia Simpson. Time moves on and the Lycans are still battling the Elegantes. Finally a confrontation results in killing Eniraiyetan. This leads to a battle between the factions. Ultimately this dance story is a pretext for the danced predilection of Hip Hop culture; the challenge. As each group sends its soldiers into the dance circle each dual answers a challenge with individual styles of performance; particular ways of b-boy and b-girl, body wave, popping, locking, crazy legs, windmills, freezes, chest, arm and full body ticking.

Both sides are fierce but Simpson gets a mention not just for her exceptional movement virtuosity which was a blend of acrobatic and street dance moves but because she transcended the trendy physicality that break dance incorporates. Simpson infused her gestures with honest dramatic inferences that made her characterisation as Eniraiyetan’s partner honest and multidimensional. Simpson’s dramatic interpretation afforded a deeper understanding of the plight of the Lycans that superseded the typical Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story scenarios that UNDERWORLD conjures up. Rival gangs face off and do battle but love whether for man or child has no time, place or ethnic boundaries.

IMPACT DANCE’s performers have exceptional movement skill but seem more versed in street dance vocabularies than the classic break dance techniques. IMPACT DANCE performers also demonstrate tumbling that is more akin to Capoeira and acrobatic techniques. ZOONATION is more refined as an ensemble with exceptional street dance practitioners with locking and popping being the speciality of choice. Low rock and associated quick foot dexterity was performed by individuals in both companies. UNDERWORLD like INTO THE HOOD are danced metaphors using what Jonzi calls physical calligraphy, visceral movement and verbal text, to speak to a generation about life and living positively in a global, culturally pluralistic world. Identity and harmony are global issues that can be achieved and we are given possible solutions by the youth of these companies. The message though is delivered through Hip Hop dance theatre establishing and confirming the cultural and artistic value of this art form.

Author:  kurinuku [ Mon Feb 13, 2006 9:21 am ]
Post subject: 

An inclination to brilliance
by LUKE JENNINGS for the Observer

Underworld, choreographed by Hakeem Onibudo of Impact Dance, is a gothic tale based on the struggle between two warring races - the Werewolves and the Vampires.

published: February 12, 2006

Author:  Alex R [ Wed Feb 15, 2006 5:45 pm ]
Post subject: 

I was really looking forward to seeing this, I hate getting ill :(

Author:  beat_bandit [ Wed Mar 01, 2006 5:27 pm ]
Post subject: 

Yes, this double bill event was blast.

I would write a full review, but I think that the others on this thread have done quite a good job already.

Just some brief observations:

Both Zoonation and Impact Dance were full of energy and great fun to watch.

Zoonation stands out for a nice storyline, great characters, and a good use of film medium, besides the really good dancing.

Impact Dance showed great costumes and visually captivating scenes. The opening scene is particularly impressive. One remark of criticism is that the storyline is little more than an excuse to showcase the dance moves. They might have seen this on MTV.

In both cases, I found the music production weak. At first I thought that the tracks were “cut” in a rough “old school” hip-hop style, but then I concluded that the music production was just not as polished as the dance routines.

The peacock theatre was packed and I got the very last seat on sale. I think that there is no doubt that the audience wants more of this kind of performances. I hope to see more from these two very young and talented crews.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Mar 01, 2006 7:02 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks beat bandit: good to hear that there was a full house - a rare event at the Peacock.

Author:  kurinuku [ Mon Jul 24, 2006 5:04 am ]
Post subject:  Into the Woods

Into the Hoods
by JUDITH MACKRELL for the Guardian

ZooNation may be the first dance crew to bring camp to hip-hop, as a pink-wigged, trannie Stepmom steals the show from a cast of B-boys in this witty, inner-city rewrite of Into the Woods. She is the mean, ugly stepmother of Spinderella, a beautiful, put-upon DJ, who shares the stage with gorgeous, blond Rap-On-Zel, R&B singer Lil' Red, and skateboarding Jaxx, who heroically routs the drug-dealing Giant.

published: July 24, 2006

Author:  kurinuku [ Tue Aug 01, 2006 6:42 am ]
Post subject:  Into the Hoods

Into the Hoods
by DONALD HUTERA for the Times

Lasting just under 75 minutes, Into the Hoods is both quick-witted and broadly funny. It is also still a little rough around the edges, but the large and spirited cast sails through it all with energy undimmed.

published: July 31, 2006

Author:  kurinuku [ Wed Aug 16, 2006 1:08 pm ]
Post subject:  ZooNation @ Edinburgh Int Festival 2006

They're all ready for their close-ups
by CLIFFORD BISHOP for the Independent

Everyone mimes and dances to a pre-recorded soundtrack that samples anything from Prince to Portishead, and there is more than enough wit and energy to make up for the odd bit of amateurishness.

published: August 13, 2006
more in the middle part of the linked article

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