Impact Dance - "Underworld"
Zoo Nation - "Into the Hood"
by Thea Barnes
Hip Hop dance theatre is establishing and confirming the cultural and artistic value of the art form through it’s message of living life positively in a global, culturally pluralistic world.
“Underworld”and “Into The Hood”alike are danced metaphors using visceral movement and verbal text to speak to a generation.
A video projection in black-and-white of a bus ride begins Into the Hood. Members of Zoonation enter the bus but a young child, played by Chante Simpson, sitting in her seat is so excited about the various commotions going on around her.
The bus arrives at its destination and everyone gets off. Simpson and her friend, played by Russell Royer, run down the street escaping from the others. Simpson and Royer are robbed and chased Into The Hood and thus the adventure takes a scary twist.
The story continues… the children meet the landlord of the Tower Block, portrayed by Frank Wilson. Wilson’s task for the children is to obtain a white ipod, a red hooded top, yellow weave and gold trainers as birthday gifts for his daughter.
When the goods are obtained he will help the children leave the hood and find their way back to their companions.
The Wizard of Oz theme comes to mind but program notes state that Kate Prince, director of Zoonation’s Into The Hood found inspiration from Stephen Joshua Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods (1987).
The projection changes from high rise to a kitchen and a young woman scrubbing the floor, Spinderella. More break dancing and interaction and we move from this view to the man in apartment 10E, aptly called Wolf. The gist is, Prince’s Into The Hood presents alternative parodies of several well known fairy tale themes; Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Rapunzel and other sundry characters from these and other tales.
The children purloin the gifts from tenants in the Tower Block through slight of hand and coincidence tricks. But it all seems for nothing when the daughter complains to her father that the gifts are not brand new! The pilfering of these items has also caused anguish in the hood and several lessons are being taught along the way - honesty, loyalty and resilience being the most apparent. Standing at a make believe bus stop all the characters have lost something; particularly a sense of self. As they sit or stand the children return the goods and restore harmony.
The music (arranged by DJ Walde, Mark Harte, and Kate Prince) throughout the work facilitated the storytelling with the odd lyric punctuating poetry in movement as well as offering metaphoric words of advice.
As the work ends the children return to reality; the adventure was Simpson’s dream that in this Hip Hop dance theatre work ruptured negatives and presented positives.
Hakeem Onibudo’s Underworld for Impact Dance, incorporates video footage, costume and set design all inspired by the film of the same name.
There is an age old battle between two factions, the Lycans, lead by Steven Eniraiyetan and Leticia Simpson and the Elegantes who are lead by Anthony Mills, A’Jai Felicisimo and Natasha Bisarre. As the story evolves through movement and gesture, Bisarre falls for Eniraiyetan with the product of their union being a baby boy. The Father takes care of the child despite his partner’s consternation played impressively by Leticia Simpson.
Time moves on and the Lycans are still battling the Elegantes. Finally a confrontation results in Eniraiyetan’s death followed by a battle between the factions. As each group sends its soldiers into the dance circle answering that challenge, individual styles are demonstrated; accomplished b-boy and b-girl moves, body waves, popping, locking, crazy legs, windmills, freezes, chest, arm and full body ticking.
Both sides are fierce but Simpson’s dramatic interpretation afforded a deeper understanding of the plight of the Lycans that superseded the typical Romeo and Juliet scenarios that Underworld conjures up. Rival gangs face off and do battle but love whether for man or child has no time, place or ethnic boundaries.
Ultimately this dance story is a pretext for the danced predilection of Hip Hop culture; the challenge…