It is not, for some music lovers, the most obvious material for a hip-hop dance show, but the choreographer Kate Prince believes the back catalogue of Sting songs is perfect for “an uplifting story of humanity and hope”.
Prince, the triple Olivier award-winning founder and artistic director of the hip-hop dance company ZooNation, said songs such as Every Breath You Take, Walking on the Moon and Englishman in New York were a choreographer’s dream.
She has been commissioned by Sadler’s Wells and the record label Universal Music to create a show called Message in a Bottle. It will premiere at Sadler’s Wells’ West End of London theatre, the Peacock, in February 2020 before going on a UK and international tour.
Sting and the Police have divided opinion since the single Roxanne was released in 1978. They are either considered one of the blandest rock bands of all time, or one of the greatest.
Prince is in the latter camp. “I’ve been a fan of Sting and the Police all my life and have seen him play live four times.”
“As a choreographer, when I listen to any music, I am always inspired to create dance, and Sting’s music, which has been playing in my headphones for over 30 years, kept bringing me to the same thought: I want to choreograph to this. As a body of work it is a choreographer’s dream.”
Prince mentioned the idea in passing to Alistair Spalding, the artistic director of Sadler’s Wells where Prince is an associate artist.
By chance, Spalding had been discussing possible joint projects with Universal.
“Pretty soon I found myself nervously entering the lobby of a swanky London hotel to pitch the idea to Sting himself,” Prince said. “Much to my complete surprise but complete delight, it is actually happening.
“All of my work has a narrative. I love stories, and you can expect this to be no different. Sting’s lyrics draw on so many themes, from political to the tragic, from death and heartache to love and hope.”
Sting said the collaboration was an intriguing idea. “I witnessed one of the first workshops and was very excited by the potential. It’s always interesting when someone from another field offers a fresh and unexpected perspective on your work and I’m so looking forward to seeing the piece.”
Message in a Bottle will tell the story of a celebrating village under siege from which three siblings, “determined and daring”, step out on “extraordinary adventures”.
The show comes after somewhat bruising stage experiences for both Prince and Sting. Prince and ZooNation were the driving force of last year’s suffragette hip-hop musical Sylvia at the Old Vic which had production problems and was presented to critics as a work in progress.
Sting’s musical The Last Ship bombed on Broadway but was a hit in its spiritual home, Newcastle, although a planned outdoor performance on the Tyne was cancelled, with producers and promoters blaming each other.
Tickets for Message in a Bottle go on sale on 25 February.