Kate Prince: 'I learnt early that if I wanted something to happen, I had to make it happen'

The choreographer best known for long-running West End hit Into the Hoods on her new work, Some Like It Hip Hop

Your new show, Some Like It Hip Hop, performed by ZooNation Dance Company, was inspired by the Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot. What was it that appealed?

In the film, two men dressed as women find out what it's like for women in a man's world. I related to their problems straight away, both as a choreographer and as a woman working in hip-hop. That's not to say that hip-hop is misogynistic; in essence it's about love, peace, community and respect. But there is a tiny minority who make it about bling, gangs, homophobia and violence, and that can make you feel an outsider. That said, the show's not an adaptation of the film. If you know Some Like It Hot there are parallels you'll recognise, but you don't need to have seen it to enjoy the show.

Hip-hop hasn't always worked as a theatrical medium, has it? It's often been all back-flips and no narrative.

If all you've got is a series of display numbers, that's never going to work. Audiences quickly get immune to people flipping and flying through the air. With us it's story first. The plot is about love, cross-dressing and mistaken identity in a city where women are subservient to men, and the dancing is the icing on the cake. I say to my dancers: "How does your character feel at this moment? Dance as you feel."

So when did the dancing begin for you?

I started ballet, jazz and tap when I was five at the local village hall in Plaitford, Hampshire. My teacher was my idol. At 12, I went to a boarding school called Bryanston in Dorset. It was a good school, very liberal – Michael Caine's daughter Natasha was my prefect and put me to bed, and Emilia Fox was in my dorm – but they didn't offer dance classes. There was a club, though, where I choreographed little numbers, and put on fashion shows and plays. I learnt very early that if I wanted things to happen, I had to go out and make them happen.

How did you get into hip-hop?

I first saw it on MTV and from that point on nothing else interested me. So when I left school I trained in hip-hop dance in London, Paris, LA and New York, and came back and taught it in stage schools. In 2002, I did a hip-hop show called Box Beat. I kept the crew around me, and we did Breakin' Convention at Sadler's Wells in 2004, calling ourselves ZooNation. Into The Hoods, which opened in 2006, basically grew out of that performance.

Watching your shows, there's usually a riff about sneakers. Are they an obsession?

I do have lots of pairs of sneakers! But unlike some people I know, it's more of a fetish than an actual illness. I have some limited-edition Adidas from Beijing that I love most.

So what can we expect from the new show?

A funny, moving story, sprinkled with incredible street dance. It's for everyone.


Interview by Luke Jennings

The GuardianTramp

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