How an MTV-obsessed country girl went hip hop
A LOT has been made of the fact that Kate Prince – the hot property in UK hip hop choreography – is a white, middle class girl from the New Forest and not some hoodie-sporting Bronx street dancer.
As her acclaimed show, Zoonation's Some Like It Hip Hop, comes to the Hall for Cornwall direct from the West End, I asked her if the line about her background is getting slightly wearing.
"Funnily enough, I'm quoted in today's Guardian as saying 'I wish people would stop discussing the fact I'm a white girl'. I've been doing this for ten years now, so let's move the story on a bit.
"If you saw Some Like It Hip Hop and didn't buy a programme, you'd have no idea it was choreographed by a woman, my age or ethnicity and nor should you – choreography should be the work of a silent creator."
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Although that quote sounds pretty hip hop in its attitude, Kate did say it with some humour, another aspect she brings to Zoonation's trademark style of hip hop, comedy and physical theatre.
It follows two women who, under male dictatorship, rise against their subservience and demand equality. Instead, they get thrown out of the city and soon realise that if they are to return they must go in disguise … as men. It doesn't take long for them to prove their worth or for one of them to fall in love with the only educated man in the city – if only she wasn't wearing a moustache.
The longest-running dance show to be seen in the West End, Some Like It Hip Hop follows the extraordinary success of Kate's Into The Hoods, the first hip hop dance show to open in the West End.
It led to Kate choreographing a performance at Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday celebrations in Hyde Park, before being chosen as the lead choreographer for the Beijing Olympics and Paralympic Handover Ceremonies.
She said: "It was an amazing time – Into The Hoods was in the West End, I met Nelson Mandela and choreographed the Beijing handover. But then I broke my foot during the Beijing performance, so I had to slowly build everything up again.
"If I had tried to follow up Into The Hoods the following year it just wouldn't have worked. It took nearly three years to bring Some Like It Hip Hop to the stage."
The inspiration for the show – which Kate wrote, directed and co-choreographed – comes from Billy Wilder's comedy classic of (almost) the same name and Twelfth Night's mix of love, mistaken identity, cross-dressing and revolution.
"Some Like It Hot was one of those family movies I always loved – it's still a genius film. I loved the Shakespearean cross-dressing side of it and flipped it so it's two girls in disguise. There was potential for comedy as well as social commentary."
So how did a girl who started ballet lessons in her village hall, become one of the world's most acclaimed hip hop choreographers?
"I was always obsessed by dance when I was a child but the one big moment for me came when MTV started in 1983.
"Growing up in the New Forest – and I'm sure people in Cornwall can appreciate this – felt so far from the big city. MTV was a window into that world. I watched music videos all the time and would VHS them, rewind and learn all the choreography. It was stuff like Janet Jackson, rather than her brother, and Paula Abdul.
"Then the first two bands who changed my world were Arrested Development and Cypress Hill. I loved the richness of the music and the political message of bands like A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets."
Now that Some Like It Hip Hop is on the road, Kate is working on her next project, a film about the history of the Lindy Hop in Harlem in the 1930s. Despite her workload, she plans to visit Cornwall.
"I'm very fond of Cornwall as I've spent a lot of time there. My uncle was in the Navy and lived in Helston so I visited there a lot, and Lostwithiel where I still have family friends.
"Actually, the actor playing the Narrator in our show, Ross Green, is from Cornwall and his stage debut was at the Hall for Cornwall."
Some Like it Hip Hop will be at HfC on Tuesday and Wednesday. Performances are at 7.30pm with a matinee on Wednesday at 2.30pm. Tickets are from £13 to £29.50 plus a £1 Theatre Fund payment with group, school and concession rates available. Call the box office on 01872 262466 or book online at www.hallforcornwall.co.uk