Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Preview - Groove On Down The Road - Southbank Centre

WHEN Zion Battles saw a production of ZooNation's Groove On Down The Road at the Southbank Centre last year he was so inspired he signed up for dance lessons.
Now the exhilarating family friendly show is back for a four week run at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the 12-year-old from West Norwood is one of its many stars.
"I saw it last year and loved it so much I wanted to be in it," he says simply.
"I'd never really done any dancing before but the show was so amazing I rang ZooNation afterwards and asked to join their dance classes. I've worked really hard but I'm so excited - it's going to be amazing to step out on that stage!"
The youngster is one of several from South London who are part of the cast for the show which is made up entirely of dancers aged between 10 and 19.
Written and directed by ZooNation's founder and award winning choreographer Kate Prince, the story is inspired by that of the Wizard Of Oz and its theme of friendship overcoming all the odds.
But whereas the original story was set on a farm in Kansas, Kate's version has been relocated to an urban classroom.
It is here where Dorothy's adventure begins and where her relationship with Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion develop.
And set against a soundtrack featuring music by Stevie Wonder, Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, José González, Janelle Monáe and Miguel it features the phenomenal talents of the young performers who body pop, hip hop, groove and breakdance their way down the yellow brick road with a pair of ruby trainers in lieu of the ruby slippers.
This year there have been a few tweaks to the choreography and a few new faces to the cast including that of Zion.
In fact a good proportion of the young cast hail from South London and say to be part of such a show is a dream come true.
"I'm properly excited and can't wait," enthuses 14-year-old Blaze Porter from Kennington who performs a variety of roles as part of the ensemble.
"I've been dancing for a long time - since I was about seven years old," he says. "I've always loved it and always wanted to perform. This is my first time at the Southbank Centre and it's going to be fantastic."
He is joined by Saskia Horton, who is also in the cast for the first time.
The 17-year-old from East Dulwich was inspired to join ZooNation after a friend recommended she audition.
"A friend who was in a dance group encouraged me - I am so glad she did because I love it," she says.
"I'm in the ensemble and play lots of different characters - from a mechanic to a munchkin!
"The story is really fresh and exciting and the way Kate has written and choreographed it is incredible."
As well as the new faces, some of the cast are back for another spin on the stage.
They include 17-year-olds Jamila Alleyne from Lewisham and Dylan Mayoral from Camberwell.
"It's a really fun show and lovely to be back," says Jamila. "I always wanted to be one of the animals in the musical Lion King so when my older sister started going to local dance schools I went too. Eventually I ended up at ZooNation and haven't looked back.
"It's different, original and refreshing and great to see a hip hop youth company do a fun happy show that can appeal to everyone.
"I think that's why people like it - it's uplifting and brings happiness. And it inspires a lot of kids."
"I did it last summer and I'm so pleased to be back," adds Dylan. "I'm in the ensemble and understudy Toto and Lion so I've have got a lot to learn," he laughs.
"This summer it's about improving what we did last time and getting the choreography a lot cleaner and stronger.
"Rehearsals have gone really well but it's hard work! Kate's been amazing though. She really believes in us and is an inspiration.
"But we are all better dancers this year because we've learned a lot from last time.
"We've been able to introduce different tricks and styles into the routines so if you saw it last summer you have to see it again because it won't be the same!
"We are bringing a piece of theatre to life and it really comes across as something special and magical. It's great to showcase young people's talent and I'm so proud to be part of this and really looking forward to the next few weeks."
For Mikey Ureta there is also a personal element.
The 18-year-old from Tooting is back this year playing Tin Man whose characterisation he created himself.
"I love being Tin Man especially as I choreographed the dances myself so it's really personal for me. Kate asked me if I'd like to do it which is such an honour - she liked my ideas and she trusted me.
"As soon as we heard we were coming back we were all really happy!"
Mikey came to ZooNation after having seen its show Into The Hoods in 2008 and immediately got the dancing bug.
"It was amazing and mum put me straight into ZooNation classes," he laughs. "I've been there six years now and I have grown up with them - I was nervous to begin with but I've made so many friends. It's like family now.
"It makes me proud to be offered an opportunity to perform, and to inspire people like Zion is really special."
And as for Zion he says he's savouring the moment.
"Now I'm here it's a dream come true," he says happily.
"It's not like a typical dance show - it's about acting through dance. It's hard work but I love it because it's something that is inspirational in so many ways and really captures your imagination."

Groove On Down The Road is on at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, from Tuesday, August 5 until Tuesday, August 26.

Tickets from £11. Visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk or call the box office on 0844 847 9910.

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