Some Like It Hip Hop, Into the Hoods, The Mad Hatters Tea Party and Message In A Bottle, are just some of the iconic shows that will be revisited in Mixtape, an explosive evening sweeping through 20 years of ground-breaking storytelling by Kate Prince and ZooNation.
Since 2002 ZooNation has inspired the next generation of theatregoers and theatre makers with its extraordinary work inspired by the music and culture of hip hop.
Mixtape presents excerpts of past shows reworked with a twist, paying tribute to the dancers, performers, creative teams and audiences along the way, Co-directed by Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe and Bradley Charles, with Musical Director DJ Walde, Designer Ben Stones and Lighting Designer Charlie Morgan Jones, plus live vocalists and special guest performers from the past and present.
We catch up with Dannielle Lecointe and Bradley Charles to find out more.
How does it feel to be celebrating 20 years of ZooNation?
Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe: It feels a bit surreal. Looking over our 17 years of being in the company we’re incredibly grateful, excited and just honoured to wear the badge. We’ve accomplished some pretty amazing things, from performing for Nelson Mandela to bringing ZooNation’s Into The Hoods to the West End, it’s been quite the ride! We’re looking forward to celebrating everything the company has achieved. It’s going to be a party!
Bradley Charles: I feel humbled to be able to celebrate the accumulation of work that so many hands have helped create. Especially having joined the company as a very young performer, I’ve been lucky to have seen its massive periods of growth. 20 Years is a huge achievement and it’s like walking back home, seeing some of the faces I have shared the stage with. It’s very humbling.
Tell us about ‘Mixtape’ — how was it curating such a special show, and how did you keep the legacy of ZooNation alive through it?
Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe: ZooNation is a family of artists committed to storytelling and high impact dance, so we’ve kept the focus on exactly that. Family is an interesting dynamic. You understand the tapestry of your family, and the nuances. I think once we had the understanding of this really being a celebration of our work and legacy, the curation became a really natural process.
Bradley Charles: The show is a celebration. It celebrates the growth of Kate’s first idea to form a group, through to developing the talents of the next generation of dancers coming through the company. Rhimes and myself diligently went through our catalogue of work to choose what we felt represented key moments in ZooNation’s history. The legacy is in the stories we tell and the characters we bring to life. We tell meaningful stories and research subject matters to share perspectives, so our shows are not just ‘a great night out’, they are hopefully thought provoking too.
What was it like doing the choreography? How involved are you in the storytelling element?
Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe: This show is an amalgamation of work created from the last 20 years. It has some special pieces of choreography from a multitude of artists including ourselves. It’s extremely nostalgic, which is beautiful. Although we’re not telling one whole story due to the amount of shows we’re packing in, instead we’re keeping the essence of the individual stories at the forefront. It’s what we do.
Bradley Charles: The choreography can be challenging because of the sheer amount of people who have contributed to it over the years. Each person choreographs very differently, which has naturally changed and evolved. I believe I have been involved in the most amount of ZooNation shows! So, it’s been useful having that first-hand experience in the retelling of the stories and sharing the essence of the pieces with the Mixtape company. As co-directors and original company members, Rhimes and I are heavily involved in the individual narratives, but also reimagining the numbers to create a show that feels fresh and new.
What are your thoughts on the evolution of Hip-Hop theatre over the years? Do you think that there are more opportunities and spaces now?
Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe: Going back through our archive you can definitely see the evolution of movement, with so much of storytelling being the movement, there has been a shift. People are experimenting more than ever and allowing that vulnerability to shape new ways to tell stories. That can only be awesome. There are so many more opportunities now, it’s always astounding.
Bradley Charles: I am glad to see more expressions of Hip Hop theatre, and the inclusion of people that have studied and been in the industry, occupying spaces in the theatre world. I believe Hip Hop creatives have many stories to tell and contribute to theatre, that audiences can relate to and appreciate.
I believe that opportunities are still limited for Hip Hop artists in some areas due to systemic viewpoints. However, I believe in our worth and would love to continue conversations to better these viewpoints, as well as develop the overall theatre experience and challenge who theatre really is for.
Theatre is typically seen as a highbrow activity, how does ZooNation break those stigmas, and make dance theatre more accessible?
Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe: One thing our Founder, Kate Prince, has always wanted to do is bring in audiences that would never normally go to the theatre. It’s a mission that continues to inform the work we make to this day. ZooNation creates work that people can relate to, in ways that bring hope, joy, and that are thought provoking. People are attracted to this because they can see themselves.
Bradley Charles: We approach theatre as storytelling. We are all storytellers in life. You come home and someone asks how your day was, you are telling a story. ZooNation aim to create work that speaks to everyone in a similar way. The language we use is dance, but how we package it is the thing that separates us. We’re able to work with young people, who can instantly connect with a younger audience, but find ways to make it relatable to the older generations too. For example, in our show Into The Hoods we had a scene set in a care home where the elderly residents broke out into a break-dancing battle!
What kind of music can we expect to hear in Mixtape?
Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe: You can expect a very eclectic mix of music. Some we have used in shows like Into the Hoods, Message In A Bottle and The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party — tracks that have become iconic and we wouldn’t be without! As well as some of our own original music from shows like Some Like It Hip Hop. You may even hear some newly produced music!
Bradley Charles: We’ve used known/popular music in the show, but we also have an amazing Music Director, D.J. Walde, who has created original music for a large amount of our work. You will hear an eclectic mix of hard hitting, lyrical music, with songs that have been written to highlight our stories and characters.
What are your personal favourite moments in the show? (No spoilers please!)
Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe: Having such an incredible company bringing this once in a lifetime show together…it’s very difficult to pick out one number. But one thing we know for sure is, when you come and watch the show, you’ll definitely leave with a favourite!
Bradley Charles: I enjoy Hatter’s House from The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. It was a piece I first performed in the Round House (Camden) in 2016 and it still gives me the buzz now when I see it.
Mixtape — Celebrating 20 years of ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company
5–8 October 2022, Sadler’s Wells (Angel, London)
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