In the realm of con­tem­por­ary dance, Chal­don Wil­li­ams stands as a vis­ion­ary bridging the gap between gen­er­a­tions and cul­tures. His latest ven­ture, “The Exchange,” embod­ies this eth­os, serving as a con­duit for dia­logue and cre­ativ­ity between ZooN­a­tion Youth Com­pany and Sadler’s Wells Com­pany of Eld­ers. With a keen focus on blend­ing exper­i­ences and per­spect­ives, Wil­li­ams orches­trates a cho­reo­graph­ic sym­phony where age becomes irrel­ev­ant, and move­ment serves as the uni­ver­sal lan­guage. In this exclus­ive inter­view, we delve into the gen­es­is of “The Exchange,” Wil­li­ams’ cho­reo­graph­ic approach, and the trans­form­at­ive power of intergen­er­a­tion­al col­lab­or­a­tion. We chat with Chal­don to find out more.

Can you tell us more about the concept behind “The Exchange” and how it inter­twines the stor­ies of ZooN­a­tion Youth Com­pany and Sadler’s Wells Com­pany of Eld­ers?

The concept behind The Exchange is simply a con­ver­sa­tion between the Eld­ers and Youth. My focus is the actu­al pro­cess of cre­at­ing this piece with the two com­pan­ies. How can they learn from one anoth­er and share exper­i­ences, find sim­il­ar­it­ies, dif­fer­ences and con­nec­tions between the age groups? On the first day I asked a ques­tion to each com­pany, what advice would you give to your young­er self, for the eld­ers and what advice would you give to your older self, for the youth. The concept is to blend and exchange exper­i­ences by mer­ging ideas, styles and cul­tures through dance and to prove that age isn’t a bar­ri­er for cre­at­ive move­ment.

How do you approach cho­reo­graph­ing a piece that involves dan­cers from dif­fer­ent age groups and back­grounds, such as the young dan­cers of ZooN­a­tion Youth and the older adults from Sadler’s Wells Com­pany of Eld­ers?

My approach to cho­reo­graph­ing a piece that involves dan­cers from dif­fer­ent age groups and back­grounds is to research and devel­op. In order to know the pos­sib­il­it­ies of the piece I’m cre­at­ing, I have to research the dan­cers with­in both com­pan­ies. As I already work with ZooN­a­tion Youth, I have a great under­stand­ing of how far I can push them and where I can take my ideas. With the Com­pany of Eld­ers, I got them to learn the found­a­tions and vocab­u­lary of a vari­ety of street dance styles such as Hip Hop, Lock­ing, House and Pop­ping. Every ses­sion I have with the Eld­ers I get them to free­style and social/party dance, by doing this it allows me to under­stand their nat­ur­al body move­ments and how they respond to music. From there I use influ­ences from their own move­ment to inform my cre­at­ive choices in the cho­reo­graphy, which helps them to feel com­fort­able with the move­ment for the piece.

What inspired you to explore the theme of evolving per­spect­ives and the stor­ies of past, present, and future selves through dance styles influ­enced by hip hop cul­ture?

The pro­ject itself inspired the devel­op­ment of the concept for The Exchange, then see­ing the two com­pan­ies inter­act for the first time was very inform­at­ive. When I was a young dan­cer I par­ti­cip­ated and per­formed in a col­lab­or­at­ive piece with the Com­pany of Eld­ers so this is kind of a full circle moment for me to be able to dir­ect and cho­reo­graph this col­lab­or­a­tion through my own Hip Hop lens.

I’m at the age now where I’m old to the young­er dan­cers and young to the older dan­cers so this theme is also inspired by my own timeline of exper­i­ences and ideas of age with­in Hip Hop cul­ture.

As the Artist­ic Dir­ect­or of ZooN­a­tion Youth Com­pany, how do you nur­ture cre­ativ­ity and tal­ent with­in the youth dan­cers while also fos­ter­ing col­lab­or­a­tion with oth­er per­formers like the Sadler’s Wells Com­pany of Eld­ers?

I nur­ture cre­ativ­ity and tal­ent with­in ZooN­a­tion Youth Com­pany by cre­at­ing a safe space for the young dan­cers to be them­selves and feel com­fort­able explor­ing new things. I’ve found that as artists we go through a lot of pres­sures that can kill cre­ativ­ity and by cre­at­ing a safe space to be who­ever we want, it will give artists a great sense of free­dom to cre­ate and train. I often get the dan­cers to cre­ate their own cho­reo­graphy, col­lab­or­ate togeth­er to work out ideas and train free­style move­ment to build their sense of iden­tity, skill and con­fid­ence.

What unique chal­lenges did you face in dir­ect­ing “The Exchange,” and how did you over­come them?

The main chal­lenge with dir­ect­ing The Exchange was the lack of time each com­pany spent togeth­er in rehears­als. I rehearsed with each com­pany once a week sep­ar­ately and only had around 2 weeks of real time to build this exchange with them in the same space. Luck­ily I was blessed with such great dan­cers and sup­port from ZooN­a­tion & Sadler’s Wells that this chal­lenge didn’t pose a threat to the pro­cess and work qual­ity. To over­come this chal­lenge I worked with my assist­ant Geor­gie Mziu to struc­ture the piece and rehearse with each com­pany. Pre­par­a­tion was key, we pre­pared everything we could so that when the two com­pan­ies met, we had everything organ­ised and planned to put togeth­er.

How do you think “The Exchange” con­trib­utes to chal­len­ging per­cep­tions around dance and age­ing, par­tic­u­larly with­in the con­text of the Elixir Fest­iv­al?

 I think The Exchange will show the power of the eld­ers and prove that age isn’t a bar­ri­er or lim­it­a­tion with­in dance and Hip Hop cul­ture. We cel­eb­rate and learn from our eld­ers so this exchange will be an example of how the dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions are con­nec­ted.

Can you share any mem­or­able moments or insights gained from work­ing with both the young­er and older dan­cers dur­ing the rehears­al pro­cess?

There are so many mem­or­able moments to choose from but the first day hav­ing the Eld­ers & Youth meet and exchange stor­ies was the most mem­or­able because it was the start of some­thing great. The energy in the room was amaz­ing and it was very inspir­ing to see how both com­pan­ies were respond­ing to each oth­er. This was the day I really under­stood that this piece was more than just a per­form­ance at Sadler’s Wells.

What do you hope audi­ences will take away from exper­i­en­cing “The Exchange” and wit­ness­ing the col­lab­or­a­tion between ZooN­a­tion Youth Com­pany and Sadler’s Wells Com­pany of Eld­ers?

I hope for the audi­ence to have a fur­ther under­stand­ing that dance, music and cul­ture is to be shared through the ages. The young learn from the old and the old learn from the youth. I really want the audi­ence to for­get that the eld­ers are mainly non-pro­fes­sion­al dan­cers teamed up with an exper­i­enced youth com­pany. I want them to feel like they’ve watched a per­form­ance by all pro­fes­sion­al artists like we’re a tour­ing com­pany.

How does the post-per­form­ance jam offer audi­ences an oppor­tun­ity to engage with the dan­cers and the themes explored in “The Exchange”?

The post-per­form­ance jam allows the audi­ence to enter the space of The Exchange with the per­formers in a social envir­on­ment. We have live DJs to provide intergen­er­a­tion­al music that has inspired the pro­cess of the piece. This jam gives the chance for any ques­tions and feed­back from the per­form­ance and for any­one who wants to have a dance with us to cel­eb­rate Elixir Fest­iv­al.

Look­ing ahead, what future pro­jects or col­lab­or­a­tions are you excited about, both per­son­ally and for ZooN­a­tion Youth Com­pany?

I have a few pro­jects I’m excited about, some I can’t share at the moment but ZooN­a­tion Youth Com­pany have a per­form­ance at the Roy­al Opera House in June with a new piece I’m cre­at­ing with them about roy­alty. Later in the year I will be back with Ivan Black­stock and the team to per­form TRAPLORD in Manchester. Oth­er than that I have more pro­jects with my col­lect­ive Tribe Wayz and col­lab­or­a­tions with oth­er cre­at­ives com­ing up.

ZooN­a­tion Youth and Sadler’s Wells Com­pany of Eld­ers, The Exchange is part of Elixir Fest­iv­al, premier­ing on Sat­urday 13 April in the Lili­an Bayl­is Stu­dio.

Com­pany of Eld­ers & ZooN­a­tion Youth Com­pany
The Exchange
Lili­an Bayl­is Stu­dio, EC1R 4TN

Sat­urday 13 April
Tick­ets: £15
Tick­et Office: 020 7863 8000 or

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.