Some Like It Hip Hop

Kate Prince and Felix Harrison with music by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde and lyrics by Kate Prince
Zoonation :The Katie Prince Company
The Lowry, Salford
to

Zoonation opens its revival of Some Like It Hip Hop at The Lowry with a generous gesture. A curtain raiser features young dancers from the local 0161 Studios. The theme of "The Spice of Life" is easily apparent in Rowen Hawkins’s choreography with the corrosive effect of drug culture reflected in the dancers being yanked out of the crowd or crawling around desperately clutching at uninterested passers-by. Although the theme may be bleak, the choreography is energetic and exciting making great use of the enthusiasm and apparently elastic limbs of the dancers from 0161 Studios.

Although the storytelling for Some Like It Hip Hop brings to mind a fairy tale (the narrator even reads from a massive tome), the tone is surprisingly sombre. Johanna Town’s lighting is distinctly gloomy which befits a dystopian setting where books are banned and women treated as second-class citizens. A widowed Governor is so sunk in mourning he obscures the sun and introduces new laws making women subservient to men. When Jo-Jo is discovered reading a book, she and her friend Kerri are exiled and have to sneak back into the city disguised as men. Kerri accidently turns out to be more of a man than most of the men in the city and attracts the approval of the Governor while Jo-Jo is drawn to the bookish Simeon who, of course, is unaware she is a woman.

The music by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde is not limited to the hip-hop genre. Tribute is paid to Motown and Prince and excellent blues vocals are used to great effect. There is even a hint of folk music in the mix. Similarly, Kate Prince’s lyrics include phrases familiar from the songs of James Brown, Don McLean and Bob Dylan. This show is nothing if not wide-ranging.

Hip hop is an athletic dance form which Kate Prince (who directs and, with Tommy Franzen and Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, choreographs) exploits to the maximum. Dancers take standing somersaults, spin on their backs, fly around the stage dodging between each other’s legs or suddenly stop mid-dance holding a twisted pose balancing on one arm.

It is exciting stuff but Prince ensures the dance moves serve the story and do not become empty stunts. One of the best routines involves Simeon rushing to his lover by bounding across a series of tables and taking a flying leap up a ladder.

The mechanical aspect of hip hop dance (where the dancers move robotically with stiff limbs) is perfect for the oppressed society inhabited by the characters. It is clear from the opening that citizens have no option other than to dance to the beat dictated by the Governor. The Governor plays a literal puppet master physically twisting and turning the dancers to force them to comply with his narrow standards.

The mixture of darkness offset by gleeful anarchy and repressed dance moves balanced against athletic freedom makes this revival of Some Like It Hip Hop particularly welcome.

Reviewer: David Cunningham