ZooNation 10th Anniversary, Sadler’s Wells, London


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The Independent Culture

Kate Prince, the founder of ZooNation hip hop dance company, brought two hundred of her dancers to celebrate the organisation’s tenth birthday party.

Performers ranged from the youngest students of ZooNation’s own dance academy to the grown-up stars of the recent UK tour. It made for a happy evening, with juicy dancing an exuberant sense of community.

In ten years, Prince has built up a dance theatre empire. Into the Hoods, her retelling of Sondheim, was the first hip hop dance show to run in the West End; Some Like It Hip Hop, her most show, will be back in London next year. Prince’s choreography mixes the flash and dazzle of hip hop with strong characterisation and bouncy action.

The birthday party opens with ZYC, ZooNation’s youth company. The young dancers show superb polish: there’s a delicate precision to the robotic isolations, and a lovely weight to the fluid moves. Teenaged soloists step out with confident swagger, or melt back into strong unison sequences.

They’re followed by the babies of the organisation: the audience coos over the under-eight dancers, taking their first steps on stage. This is designed to show off the whole range of Prince’s organisation, from its community roots to the starry flourish of highlights from Into the Hoods.

This brisk runthrough shows how good Prince is at characterisation. Even short snippets give a strong sense of the different personalities, and how their hopes keep the story moving through the fairytale structure. The lead dancers are charismatic, making an immediate impact. There’s an ooh of recognition when Spinderella turns round, revealed as the splendid Teneisha Bonner, her dancing both sumptuous and funky.

This programme deliberately balances the different aspects of ZooNation. It includes the annual school awards for the ZooNation academy, recognising the development of hard-working children. Throughout the show, the massed ranks of dancers sit at the back of the stage. They form a backdrop for the different numbers, ready to join in when their turn comes.

After the solo emphasis of Into the Hoods, excerpts from Some Like It Hip Hop stress the company’s big group numbers, made even bigger for this special occasion. The whole evening feels inclusive, so it’s no surprise that it ends with the gleeful finale of Some Like It Hip Hop, getting the audience up on their feet and dancing.

Some Like It Hip Hop returns to the Peacock Theatre next year. Box office 0844 412 4322