Feature: Kate Prince - back in the Hoods

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Kate Prince Director and founder of Zoonation, Kate Prince is the woman behind Into the Hoods – the first hip hop show to make it into the West End and then stay there to become its longest running dance show.

Now Into the Hoods is crossing the river for a Christmas run at Southbank Centre (16 Dec – 10 Jan). Loosely based on Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, Zoonation’s version is set in the Ruff Endz estate and features characters Lil Red, Wolf, Prince, Rap-on-Zel and DJ and gold trainer-wearing Spinderella – with a soundtrack from Massive Attack, Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, the Chemical Brothers and many more.

Kate’s CV already runs into many pages and features TV, music videos, fashion, commercials, live events and teaching. She’s choreographed the handover to London event at the Olympics in Beijing, creates routines for girl band The Saturdays and a career highlight was arranging a Zoonation performance for Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday party in Hyde Park.

We caught up with her in a rare moment off between filming for the new BBC series So You Think Can Dance and preparing for the opening of Into the Hoods in the Queen Elizabeth Hall this week…

How did you get in to dance? **I went to my local village hall and did ballet when I was a kid but mostly I taught myself by watching TV – music videos and old MGM musicals. I didn’t start dancing properly until I was 25, although I have always done it as a hobby.

Do you remember the first performance/show you saw which sparked your interest? **I think it must of been Cats… a long, long time ago, and also the Kids from Fame series.

You’ve got an MA in General Arts – sounds like you didn’t take the conventional dance training route? Has studying for a degree affected your career in dance?
Yes, I went to Edinburgh University… the city is incredible, my favourite in the UK. The Edinburgh Festival gave me so much experience. I was involved in shows there in ’93,‘96 – 99, ’06 and ’07. The experience of doing the Edinburgh Festival is absolutely invaluable.

Into the Hoods has already been enormously popular. What’s the winning formula do you think? **I think Hoods appeals to a wide demographic… it was created for young people and for a family audience. It’s funny, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, the fairytale stories are easy to follow, there are lots of cultural references – from the TV series *24* to the computer game Streetfighter. It’s also has an incredible soundtrack… lots of golden oldies and recent hits.

Are you going to do anything different with it in the Queen Elizabeth Hall? **There have been a few updates and adjustments to the show for the QEH but we’re going to keep them as surprises.

TV shows, music videos, live theatre – your work is really wide ranging. What do you feel happiest doing? **Up until a few weeks ago I would of said I definitely feel most happy choreographing for live theatre, but I’ve just done a few days working on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance and it made me feel totally inspired. Generally though, it’s all about theatre and creating work for a live audience.

What has been the stand out highlight of your career so far? **Dancing for Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday Party in Hyde Park. It was single handedly the greatest honour I’ve ever had. We even got to meet him and have our photo taken with him. Definitely one to tell the grandkids about.

You were the lead choreographer for the Beijing Olympics hand over to London ceremony. What was that like to work on? **Going to Beijing was an awesome and surreal experience. It was quite a pressured situation but ultimately very exciting and rewarding. Unfortunately I broke my foot in rehearsal whilst we were out there so it also had its down side.

Street dance does tend to have quite a macho image. It’s clearly not held you back – how have you coped with it? **I’ve never really seen it like that. I think dance is dance. It’s all about telling a story and trying to evoke an emotion from your audience whether its excitement, elation, empathy, fear…. I’m not a big fan of labels and although it would be fair to say that ZooNation and myself have a reputation for ‘hip hop dance theatre’ we are actually called ZooNation UK Dance Company, no mention of genre, just dance!

And do you do anything proactive to encourage girls/women to take part? **I’ve never sought out women in particular. We run a ZooSkool on Saturdays and have 90 students currently with 32 on a waiting list. We have more girls than boys currently, but only marginally.

Zoonation Youth 'Details in the Fabric'Breakin' Convention 09.Photo: Belinda Lawley How does your company Zoonation work? Are the dancers with you full time? **None of the dancers with ZooNation are full time, we hire them on a freelance basis. The company is managed by Chantal Spiteri who has done an absolutely fantastic job in the past two years, building the company and the ZooSkool, expanding our client base and acting as an agent for the dancers and myself on projects such as the recent StreetDance 3D movie (due out May 2010).

You have a youth company as well. Is that an important part of your work? **The work we do with ZooNation Youth is so important. They recently appeared on Blue Peter, a piece choreographed by Shantelle ‘Tali’ Fergus (a young choreographer from ZooNation Company). I was so proud of the kids and the piece they did. In many ways I enjoy working with them more than I do with the adults. I created a piece with them at this year’s Breakin’ Convention – Details in the Fabric. It is one of my most favourite pieces I’ve ever done, due in no small part to the sheer talent, skill and passion of the dancers in ZooNation Youth.

Favourite film?
Father Goose – it’s an old Cary Grant and Leslie Caron movie, one of my mum’s favourites.
Floetry and India Arie ***And book?*
To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee and *Tuesdays With Morrie* by*Mitch Albom*. I can read both of these books again and again and again….

If you weren’t working in dance, what would be your alternative career choice? **I’d love to say I’d be a lead singer in a soul band… but I can’t sing. So I’d have to say teaching or working with animals.

What’s comes after the Southbank Centre run of Into the Hoods? **I am working on the first UK season of So You Think You Can Dance on the BBC, starting in January 2010. ZooNation are working on their new show Some Like It Hip Hop, an adaptation of Some Like It Hot. We hope to preview this next year.

ZooNation Into The Hoods *16 Dec – 10 Jan,
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre.*
Box office: 0844 875 0073 **”Info & online booking“:http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/dance-performance/tickets/into-the-hoods-48516

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8 December 2009

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