Made in Yorkshire
Douglas Thorpe was in the right place, at the right time, to start a life of dance. He lived in Harehills and went to Harehills Middle School where dance was on the curriculum, later he danced for eight years with Leeds' famous Phoenix Dance Theatre
We talk to Douglas about his life in Leeds, and his latest work.
"If I hadn't gone to that particular school but another in the city who knows what would have happened? My first love was music, I was a percussionist and was a drummer in a local reggae band.
"I'm 44 now but there was such a stigma to dance when I first started, especially among males, the hassle was not a nice thing. But at my school dance was part of the lessons and that meant there wasn't as much stigma to dancing there.
Douglas was made in Leeds
"If you haven't seen contemporary dance you are missing a lot, modern dance is a good way to hit modern topics. Classical dance is very traditional, ballets like the Nutcracker, Swan Lake but in modern dance we can roam over all of history or today's topics. I've just finished a piece on drugs looking at what happens to people's relationships when drugs take hold, so contemporary dance can be educational too.
"Until you've tried it you wouldn't know ho physically hard it is, it is just as hard as classical we do the same amount of training, have the same amount of pain.
"What have I learnt from being from Yorkshire? Leeds gave me a sense, things were hard when I was younger and, I don't want to get the violins out but, I think the lifestyle made me a better person. I grew up respecting my elders.
"Leeds has changed a load in my time here, it was a hard city. Now it is more cosmopolitan and lighter but I hope that we don't lose our essence of being Leeds. Life is not as fast as London, it is better paced. Mind you don't make the mistake of thinking that we are slow in Leeds, it's not that, but we take the time to be more sociable.
"The great thing about Leeds is the variety of culture here.
"Different companies approach dance in different ways but I always want to start with the physicality of the piece. For me dance can sometimes get too intellectual and that turns people away when we should be embracing people into the theatre. One bad experience with dance can put you off and Leeds is still a small enough place for people to talk, and can make street-dance or salsa seem a better experience.
"So I like to see physicality, jumps and spins. I also like working with both male and female dancers together because I think everybody can understand those relationships.
"My piece, Beast, works with three males and three female dancers. It is a shocking, heavy piece and the audience is plunged straight into the dark place of people's brains. You know the part of your brain that can drift off, even when you are talking to someone, and go to somewhere dark.
"I like to get my teeth in to the piece and tell the dancers what we are doing. Being a dancer I like to get out on the floor and show my dancers what I want by doing it myself. It's an important part of my choreography that I can still do it physically.
"As for the future, Who knows? As a so-called choreographer I can truthfully never be fully satisfied with anything I do, I won't come to a point where everything is perfect, you are really only as good as your last dance - and I'll let the audience judge that."
Made In Yorkshire, a double-bill of new work, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Saturday 31 January 2009 at 7.30pm.
last updated: 26/01/2009 at 10:18
Local history for Leeds