ZooNation’s Groove on down the Road at Southbank Centre
Since its formation in 2002 by artistic director Kate Prince, ZooNation Dance Company has proved to be an unstoppable force on the UK dance scene. Their first show, Into the Hoods broke West End records and was swiftly complemented with the roaring success of Some Like it Hip-Hop. Now for their third major production, ZooNation have drawn on the talent of their youth company, with an age range of just ten to 19 years.
Groove on Down the Road clearly takes inspiration from the 1978 film The Wiz, with its title coming from one of the film’s signature songs Ease on down the Road, performed by Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. There is also a distinctly 70s feel about the show’s first few scenes, where bright colours and disco tracks abound. The performance comes into its own, though, when it is at its most contemporary. After the scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion are collected by Dorothy and Toto, their arrival at a field of bewigged, menacing and visually enticing poppies gives the performance its first true kick of modernity, which is followed shortly after by the motley crew’s arrival at Emerald High. Changed from a city to a school, Emerald High is run by the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, a dubstep dancing overlord who momentarily steals the show.
It is this scholastic theme that provides the moral heart of the performance. Beginning in a plain, dull classroom, with a group of academically disinterested children, the show was inspired by the work of Sir Ken Robinson, an advocate of creativity in education. Further motivated by director Kate Prince’s own experiences of school, the show explores the importance of artistic subjects in schools and the need for children to express themselves creatively.
This desire for imaginative expression is highlighted by the joy and passion that this young company put into every step. They are clearly all having the time of their lives, and the audience, told at the beginning of the performance to be as loud as they like, feed off the cast’s energy from beginning to end. Despite their youth, or maybe because of it, this young company are consummate and passionate professionals and it is hard, by the night’s end, to resist the urge to get up and dance with them.
Groove on Down the Road is on at the Southbank Centre until 1st September 2013. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.