There’s nothing like watching some highly talented and skilled young dancers to remind you, you have no tangible talent. Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to attend the opening night for ZooNation Youth Company’s new work Tales of the Turntable.
ZooNation Youth Company was founded in 2002 and is known for its work in the theatre, creating full-length narrative dance productions influenced by Hip Hop culture and music.
The Tales of the Turntable show centred on Eric, a young budding DJ who is somewhat an outcast amongst his peers, and his grandfather George, a sleepy (but as we soon learn) music connoisseur. Eric’s interest lies in the modern urban music of today whereas his grandfather’s knowledge is in the old, old school. Together they take a journey back in time for Eric to learn the influences of today’s modern music.
Opening to a nearly sold-out crowd, the show kicked off with an electric opening performance with the dancers moving through the venue and crowd and onto the stage to begin the first act. Eric is bullied and harassed by his peers who are unable to understand his passion for listening to music and DJing, but he does have one fan, a female friend who regularly comes to his defence.
There was minimal dialogue during the performance with speaking parts coming from a voiceover through the speakers, this allowed for the focus to be on the expression and movement of the dancers, and the music.
Eric spends his time alone always with his headphones on and he wants to use grandpa’s vinyl for DJ practice, but grandpa George wants Eric to know about the history of the music. George is desperate to have a connection with the grandchild he lives with and it is through music they bond. Grandpa knows a thing or two.
Using grandpa’s gramophone to teleport through time, the pair travel through history to revisit influential times in music.
Their first stop is a 1940’s jazz club where they see the first strains of influence on modern urban music. The jazz singer, reminiscent of Billie Holiday, arrives to the staged, flanked by her backup singers, she belts out a tune and everyone is up doing the swing.
Next era is the funky 70’s, where Eric learns how his grandparents met. You can’t mention 70’s music without mentioning Chic and it is at the record store where he works, whilst I Want Your Love is playing, that George first spots his love, Eric’s grandmother. Everyone is moving and grooving to the bass heavy beats, and Eric can sense an even more obvious inspiration for modern urban music.
Eventually, they end up in the 90’s where the cultural phenomenon of Hip Hop is in its infancy. The crews are doing a new style of dance, breaking and battling. The DJ is mixing and scratching old vinyls from 70s and 80s, something never seen before. Eric learns the origin of Hip Hop and the beginnings of the culture he is greatly influenced by. Even contemporary R&B gets a look in, with Eric’s friend’s appreciation of the sound and a drop of Boyz II Men’s Motownphilly, which had many of the ladies in the audience singing along.
This all culminates in the school talent show where Eric shows up his naysayers with his musical acumen and talent on the turntables. Impressed by his skill, his peers show their appreciation by dancing, a modern fusion of the swing, funk and breaking styles seen through history, an illustration and closure to Eric’s journey.
Tales of the Turntable was a transfixing show with the young dancers showing up and showing out to the iconic music genres. Despite the minimal dialogue, the show was captivating through dance and humorous and entertaining through the performers’ expressions and movement. I couldn’t scratch the smile off my face.
Photography Credit : Takis Zontiros
Zoonation’s ‘Tales Of A Turntable’ is showing at Southbank Centre until 27th August. Grab your tickets here to see it!
Kylie de vos
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