After the success of ‘Into the Hoods’ and ‘Some Like it Hip Hop’, Kate Prince’s groundbreaking hip hop dance theatre company ZooNation delivers another extraordinary show with ‘Groove on Down the Road’.
The performance is based on the 1939 film 'The Wizard of Oz', but Prince packs it full of contemporary twists and curves – with a subversive message on the importance of creativity in the education system.
The show opens in a drab maths class with an unruly bunch of underperforming kids who eventually evolve – with magnificent hip hop solos – into Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion. Dancing down the Yellow Brick Road of notebook scraps that winds its way through the audience, they encounter a female gang of poppies in Lady Gaga wigs, a troupe of heckling crows, and Emerald High – under the rule of tough-guy Wizard – finally engaging in an epic dance battle with the bossy Wicked Witch of the West.
Sparkly red hi-top trainers, neon outfits, gravity-defying flips, a soundtrack featuring Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, plus multimedia quirks galore ensure this Oz is fresh and exhilarating.
It’s the cast which truly makes the show, however. The unbelievable amount of energy, spirit and individual character of each performer is so professionally packaged, it’s easy to forget they’re all young company members under 19 years old. Choreographically, it’s tight and flows seamlessly from one segment to the next – incorporating elements of jazz, swing and even lyrical dance to some pieces.
In the end, new lessons ring true as the kids return to the classroom and regain their passions with creative props. Dorothy references the WB Yeats poem: ‘But I, being a child, have only my dreams…teacher, tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’ It’s clear Prince has a personal relationship to the topic – as a dancer she struggled with academic subjects. However, any political agenda she has with the show is secondary by the heartwarming story of friendship, courage, imagination, and compassion – all wrapped in upbeat hip-hop.
By Jean Grant