Love, War and the Refugee Crisis, Set to the Music of Sting

When the choreographer Kate Prince set out several years ago to create a dance show based on the music of Sting, she was unsure what story she might be able to tell using his varied songbook.

Then she saw photos of young Syrian refugees taking desperate risks to reach safety in Europe, and she had an idea. She would use some of Sting’s and the Police’s most affecting music, songs like “Desert Rose” and “Every Breath You Take,” to tell the story of a family displaced by war.

The result is “Message in a Bottle,” which premiered in London in 2020 and comes to New York City Center in Manhattan for a two-week run beginning on Tuesday. In the nearly two-hour show, featuring Prince’s dance company, ZooNation, she draws on freestyle dance, salsa, lindy hop, street dance and other styles to bring to life 27 songs.

“People get married to my songs, people play my songs at funerals,” Sting said. “I’m always happy that they have a function. And here the function is to tell an important, worthy, wonderful story.”

In a recent interview at City Center, Prince, Sting and the composer and arranger Alex Lacamoire discussed the refugee crisis, the challenge of setting Sting’s music to dance and the role of art in times of conflict. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

A scene from “Message in a Bottle,” which had its premiere in London in 2020. Sting said he is “always happy” that his songs have a function “and here the function is to tell an important, worthy, wonderful story.”Credit…Helen Maybanks
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