Interview: Dorothy's Shoes Q&A

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Dorothy's Shoes [aka Dorothy Max Prior] Whatever the weather throughout the summer there’s always something happening on the terraces outside the National Theatre in the Watch this Space season.

This Bank Holiday Monday, as part of the Alternative Village Fete, Dorothy’s Shoes (aka Dorothy Max Prior) will be the Mistress of the Tea Dance, leading her team of dancers from Ragroof Theatre. She’d love for you to join her…

Tell us what to expect on Monday afternoon – are your tea dances ‘alternative’? **We are doing three mini Ragroof Tea Dances – featuring vintage tunes, dance demos, and instant dance classes – with three different themes: All That Jazz (flapper era Charleston); Luscious Latin (Cuban beats, rumba, mambo & cha cha), and Scintillating Swing (jive, swing & lindy).
And yes, I think we have an alternative attitude: we believe dancing is for everyone – all bodies, ages, genders. We teach everyone to lead, and everyone to follow, then people choose. So men can dance with men, women with women – and you don’t need to bring a partner!

Ragroof Theatre Tea Dance Photo: Matthew Andrews Will it be performances by your dancers – or can anyone join in? **There will be dance demos, then we get everyone up in a big circle to do some basic steps! We perform/teach in character. I’m Dorothy’s Shoes, Mistress of the Dance… there’s also Desert Ivan Discs, Champagne Charlie,. and Tequila Slammer Anna on the bill at the NT Alternative Village Fete!

I gather you offer ‘instant dance classes.’ Is it possible for the uninitiated to pick up partner dancing quickly? **Yes! I promise you, you will be tango-ing or cha-cha-ing or whatever-else-ing in just ten minutes, guaranteed! We create a safe environemnt, and have tried and tested methods in teaching our American-style social dancing!

You’ve been a punk rock drummer, go-go dancer, performance artist, street theatre choreographer and magazine editor. How did you come to ballroom dancing? **My dad danced, and I learnt when I was young and just hung on to it, all through punk and the ’70s/‘80s performance art scene! It was my dirty little secret… I’d escape the punk clubs and music studios for a bit of ballroom. I used to be called Max when drumming or doing the performance art stuff, and kept my real name (Dorothy) for my ‘proper’ job as a dancer and teacher. But at some point it all got mulched in, in a postmodern sort of way…

What is it about partner dancing that you love? **The trust, the intimacy, the pleasure of being in such close proximity with someone else, so that ‘two move as one’. Better than sex, some people say!!

All that men taking the lead, women dancing backwards. Isn’t it all a bit… stereotypical? **See above! we don’t teach a ‘man’s’ role and a ‘woman’s’ role – we teach lead and follow which are archetypal states of being… not ‘active’ and ‘passive’ as both are active – more, the catalyst and the receptive the yin and yang of ballroom dance you could say!
I love leading as much if not more than following… I believe that ideally you learn and dance both, but people make their own choices!
I have friends who are big in the ‘same sex’ partner dancing world, which is a massive growth area!

How do you feel about Strictly Come Dancing? **I hate it, I don’t watch it. Parrtner dancing should be about your partner – it is about who you are dancing with, not about sparkly lurex and smiling to camera… yuk!! ! Oh and God help us the music they dance to! I struggle to understand it all, but I suppose that it has brought partner dancing to a wider audience. But it is not for me..

Why should a young contemporary dancer consider having a go? **I’ve taught a lot of professional dancers and actors over the years. National Theatre, Rambert, all sorts. I have also made work within a contemporary dance context, and have worked to integrate ballroom/latin dance within contemporary dance practice. So it is a world I move in! I believe that partner dancing can really enhance your abilities in any dance form or practice. Really understanding musical rhythm, pace, how to respond to another person in the space with you, how to lead, how to follow, alignment to the room… surely all these are at the heart of the basic principles of any dance form?
And it’s fun too!

What should I wear for one of your tea dances? **Good shoes are important! No trainers as they stick to the ground! Other than that, it’s up to you: afternoon tea dresses, slinky latin numbers, a pair of jeans, a zoot suit, pegs, circular skirts, flapper dresses, seamed stockings, cravats, ties, track suit bottoms… I mean, take your pick, there’s no dress code, everyone welcome to come as they are – that said, people often like to dress up and it is always a pleasure to see a young man in a zoot suit dancing with an 80-year-old lady in her best lace dress and pearls!

Dorothy’s Shoes & Ragroof are part of the Alternative Village Fete, National Theatre Terrace, 1 -4pm, Monday 29 August **”“:

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