Hip hop happening at Birmingham Hippodrome
Birmingham Hippodrome welcomes, on average, over 500,000 visitors every year with nearly 400 performances, featuring touring musicals, ballet, drama, comedy, international dance and pantomime. Samina Beckford, Participation Producer at Birmingham Hippodrome, was keen to diversify and engage with young people within around the Birmingham region. She knew that hip hop dance is huge in Birmingham but not regularly recognised and celebrated in the subsidised sector, therefore, she was keen to advocate for Birmingham’s hip hop youth dance scene on a national level.
The Hippodrome has previously had a good relationship with hip hop dancers and breakers through their yearly B-Side Hip-Hop Festival. The festival is a weekend of battles, workshops, performances, talks and much more in May every year. After a summer intensive in September 2017 Birmingham Hippodrome presented its first youth hip hop theatre a new adaptation of ZooNation’s critically-acclaimed production Groove on Down the Road to sold out audiences. This began the inspiration for a ZooNation youth company to be formed in Birmingham. The 2018 summer intensive was through application only and both ZooNation and the Hippodrome worked together in choosing the dancers. It was within this sharing that Hippodrome CEO Fiona Allan fell in love with the group, and a plan began to formulate with Samina.
ZYC Brum was formed (ZooNation Youth Company Birmingham). They are the first ZooNation youth company to be formed outside of London. The youth company members were chosen through an audition and began training in early September 2018. Bursaries were offered for dancers to help pay for the weekly three hour training sessions and for trips to train alongside the London ZooNation Youth Company. Bursaries ranged from half to full scholarships, based on parents/guardian’s income. The youth company encourage their dancers to ensure they keep up their own training outside the company and members train in ballet, acro, gymnastics, contemporary or hip hop outside of ZYC. The company is taught by artistic director Rhimes Lecointe and guest teachers.
Samina highlighted how she felt ZYC Brum was an essential step for the dancers to be role models for other young hip hop dancers in Birmingham. Also, for the company to help stop the hierarchy of dance styles and to stop hip hop dance being pushed underground. She hopes the youth company members will be able to express their own ideas and values within hip hop dance instead of dance being imposed on them. It is also hoped that it will inspire young dancers to train across the dance styles because to make it in dance you need to be versatile.