Choreographer Bo Jackson talks to Quays Life about her new dance fusion theatre venture, the Z Bo Jackson Company, ahead of its gala night launch at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.
Can you tell us more about Z Bo Jackson and where the idea came from?
“I really became interested by today’s obsession with visual storytelling on Youtube, instagram and in video games. There seemed to be a gap in the market for a theatrical experience that satisfies this appetite both on screen and with live performances so I started to develop the concept for TV and stage. In February we had the opportunity to explain our vision of the live dance fusion theatre company to the Palace Theatre and Opera House in Manchester. They understood and embraced our concept and agreed to support the gala night to launch the brand.”
What makes Z Bo Jackson diﬀerent from other dance companies out there?
“We are the UK’s first dance fusion theatre company. Each production contains unique and diverse choreography, alongside a narrative structure dramatized by dance and creating a new kinetic language. The Z brand will break down the walls of dance to create a new kind of dance experience, as free runners mix with elite dancers, and ballet cross-pollinates with hip hop. Since the birth of the internet there has been an explosion of dance and we want to showcase the sort of talent and choreographic innovation displayed online. Z Bo Jackson will smash down the walls of the dance conventions and allow these ‘athletes of God’ to inhabit the stage! (‘Dancers are the Athletes of God’ is a quote from Einstein that I feel is very apt!)”
How has your career experience to date inﬂuenced the formation and direction of the new company?
“My choreographic career reflects the broad spectrum and eclectic vision of the Z Bo Jackson Company. Moving from the choreographic challenges of circus choreography to the movement restrictions of a comedy musical extended my creative expectations of myself and my performers and also pushed the boundaries of my theatrical taste. Directing was life changing for me as you need to see the bigger picture and have a distinct tone for the work while also problem solving and working towards opening a show!
“We want to become a platform for dancer, dancers and choreographers and hope to fill the gap between the elite dance companies and the commercial musical theatre productions giving dancers the chance to exploit their range and talents within an emotionally resonating piece of narrative theatre. I’m totally happy to be artistic and commercial without any compromises or apologies.”
What kind of dance will be represented in the company and at the gala night?
“We will move beyond the dance genres in some numbers and employ free running, acrobatic and aerial performers alongside the elite dancers. The Z Bo performances in the gala are primarily using jazz ballet, commercial fusion and acrobatic choreography. Our high profile guests are experts in their ﬁeld with Kimberly and Chrissy trained as professional jazz dancers, alongside the urban hip hop locking talents of Flawless sharing the stage with the aesthetic beauty of ballet’s exceptional principal Brandon Lawrence.”
You are launching in Manchester – was launching in the north important to you and the company?
“It is personal and emotional and something I could never have dreamt of when I came to watch Alvin Ailey and the Dance Theatre of Harlem at the Opera House all those years ago! The Greater Manchester borough of Wigan and Leigh paid for my professional training at a time when the funding system was more generous, and the net was spread wider. This feels like coming home (the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham was previously my local MP) and that life has come full circle, back to the most vibrant cultural city in the UK. Manchester gave birth to the Industrial Revolution and this Northern Powerhouse is giving birth to the Z Bo Jackson company. This is the city of the worker bee and if you’ve been through professional dance training then you understand hard work!”
You have some really big names appearing in the launch gala night. Why did you pick these performers to be involved and what will they bring to the Z Bo Jackson experience?
“They are all extremely talented and honed professionals, but they also represent the dual aspect of the Z brand. We are going to showcase celebrity performers alongside unknown new talent, to create a viable commercial dance company.
“I had directed Flawless in Peter Pan and admired their work ethic and fabulous choreography and Kimberly is great friends with the boys having worked together in the past. I taught Chrissy at and I met Brandon at the Move It convention. It’s exciting that they all will be sharing the stage at the iconic Palace Theatre.”
What’s next for The Z Bo Jackson Company?
“We hope that Z will be the go-to brand for dance across all platforms as we will bring in specialised assistants and choreographers in key areas and avoid the limitations of a solo named creative . Continuing script work on the TV series will be the main priority in the weeks following the gala. It’s a big world that needs big ideas to generate new audiences, new revenue streams and potential employment opportunities for the dancers of tomorrow.
“Dance is a universal and international language.”