Culture vulture

16th January 2004 at 00:00
Long before Billy Elliot, Andy Thorpe envisaged boys in dance

First steps

I started dancing at nine. My sister got extra pocket money for going to lessons, so I went along with her one Saturday morning. At 15 I started working part-time teaching Latin American and ballroom; then I discovered contemporary and went to train at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

Male company

I was working as a dance animateur in primary and secondary schools in Peterborough. I'd wanted to start an all-male company since being the only boy in the dance school. We had a residency for male 14 to 21s with Motionhouse Dance Company; then we got lottery funding and now have a company called Positive Action of about 14 dancers, with nine ex-members in full-time dance training. Audiences expect our pieces to be physical and masculine, but they aren't.

Musical theatre

I've just finished choreographing Bugsy Malone for the King's Theatre, Newmarket. My favourite musicals are choreographed by Bob Fosse: West Side Story, Cabaret (pictured above), Chicago. I love the style of his work: simple, all black, slick, maybe a bowler hat or a pair of dark glasses.

Favourite films

I love old comedies: my favourite is Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder. And early Steve Martin: The Man with Two Brains.

Favourite book

The Beach, by Alex Garland. At the moment I'm reading Irvine Welsh's Porno.

Music and movement

I'll dance to anything, from Saint-Sa ns to Toploader. I like Simply Red, house and techno music.

Dance to watch

I like the Jasmin Vardimon company. My favourite is Random Dance Company, which has grown from small beginnings. Their work is fluid, dynamic.

Ballroom dancing got me started, but it wasn't creative enough. I loathed Strictly Ballroom.

Andy Thorpe, 33, is head of dance and drama at Bushfield community college, Peterborough, an 11-18 secondary school. He is the founder of two youth dance companies: the all-male Positive Action and the mixed Cresset Dance Company. He was talking to Karen Gold

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