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Kate Prince: ’I wanted to give hip hop dancers a platform beyond Top of the Pops’

Kate Prince

Kate Prince is the artistic director and founder of hip-hop company ZooNation, which offers a new perspective on dance theatre. She tells Georgia Snow about remounting The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in collaboration with the Royal Ballet.…

How have you approached the show this time around?

It’s not a new show, but we are reworking it, as we are going from a 400-seat studio to the 1,400-seat Roundhouse. We’re using a thrust stage – almost in-the-round but not quite. It’s not like doing proscenium- arch stuff when you have a clear front. We’ve expanded the show with five new numbers and very much wanted to make it a spectacle.

How did the idea come about?

The Royal Ballet was doing Alice in Wonderland and [Royal Ballet director] Kevin O’Hare asked us to do something in the studio at the same time. He suggested doing our own take on Alice in Wonderland, but I found I was less interested in the story and more interested in the characters. They are described in such non-politically correct language and Carroll talks a lot about being mad, so the idea for The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party was to take these characters and put them into therapy. There is still a lot of shame and stigma around how we talk about mental health and I wanted to address that.

What is your background in dance?

My upbringing in dance was watching music videos on TV and MGM musicals. My main influence has been the music video, which tells a two-minute story. As well as this, I was influenced by musical theatre, and have worked in both. I started off dancing in my local village hall and didn’t really dance properly until I was 18, when I started taking classes in London. I am mostly self-trained, as I think it can be difficult to find formal training for our genre.

What drew you to found ZooNation?

I was doing a show in the West End and wasn’t quite sure that it was right for me as a choreographer. Then I worked in music videos and on Top of the Pops, but I didn’t like it that when you do videos, someone else edits your choreography. I found the music industry quite superficial. I met all these amazing hip hop dancers but they didn’t have a platform. There weren’t many opportunities for those dancers, so that was the main reason I started the company 14 years ago. I also wanted to get a new generation of theatregoers into the audience.

Did you imagine you would ever collaborate with the Royal Ballet or Sadler’s Wells?

Not really. It’s been amazing for us. Sadler’s Wells has been massively important – we have been residents there since 2010. When the Royal Ballet first got in touch, I thought they were kidding. But I love it that they’ve opened their doors and couldn’t be more supportive of us and our work.

CV: Kate Prince

Training: None
First professional job: All You Need Is Love, UK tour and West End (2001)
Agent: None

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party runs at the Roundhouse, London, until January 22

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