This New Hip-Hop Dance-Theater Show Will Be Set to Tracks by Sting

By now, these formulas aren't anything new: Choreographers are increasingly recruiting pop stars to create scores. And Broadway producers have long followed the time-honored (not to mention moneymaking) tradition of building shows from an artist's hit catalog (see: the currently running Cher Show and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and the Broadway-bound Jagged Little Pill and Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough.)

But choreographer Kate Prince is putting a new twist on the dance-meets-pop-star story: pairing street dance with the iconic songs of Sting and The Police. The show, Message in a Bottle, is currently in development and slated to open at Sadler's Wells in February 2020.


The dance-theater production has a decidedly narrative bent, focusing on what happens when a joyous village comes under siege and is dramatically changed. From there, it follows three siblings and their extraordinary adventures. And yes, they'll be dancing to plenty of recognizable songs, including "Roxanne," "Every Breath You Take," "Walking on the Moon," "Fields of Gold," and "Shape of My Heart."

Details about the choreography remain vague, though Sadler's Wells describes Message in a Bottle as "a mix of exhilarating dance styles, dazzling footwork and breathtaking athleticism."

Though Prince may be largely unknown in the U.S., she's a heavy-hitter in the UK dance scene. The three-time Olivier Award nominee directs her own hip-hop troupe, ZooNation, and is an associate artist at Sadler's Wells. She was the lead choreographer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has contributed to popular British reality shows like "Strictly Come Dancing." Her 2008 work Into the Hoods broke ground as the first hip-hop show to open in London's West End and as the longest running dance production there.

Message in a Bottle isn't Sting's first dance-related project: Though his musical The Last Ship closed early on Broadway, it had greater success in the West End and opens in Toronto in February.

Prince promised the Standard that Sting's unmistakable vocals would be part of Message in a Bottle, though it's too soon to know if they'll use recorded tracks or a live band. "His voice is very distinctive and as a fan I would be gutted if I went to see a Sting show and he was not ­singing," she said. "It is not Mamma Mia! It is very much a dance show but a dance show with a story."

Here's hoping for an eventual U.S. tour. Who wouldn't want to see this Englishman in New York?

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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