14 Things You Didn’t Know About Prince And His Obsession With Dance
Prince literally never stopped dancing when he performed.
But did you know that he was also a champion of dance behind-the-scenes? Click through to find out Prince’s storied obsession with the art of dance, from the ballet to the nightclub and a surprise dance performance with another pop music legend.
Prince will go down as one of the greatest moves and shakers in the music industry, but he actually had formal dance training. Prince Rogers Nelson studied classical ballet at Minnesota Dance Theatre in the Urban Arts Program when he was in high school. He also gave back to his school in 1983 when he performed a benefit concert, where he performed “Purple Rain” for the first time.
Even before his training, he danced alongside a legendary singer on stage: James Brown. In the biography “Prince: Chaos, Disorder, and Revolution,” Prince is quoted telling the story of his first meeting with Brown. “[My] stepdad put me on stage with him and I danced a bit until the bodyguard took me off,” he said in 1985.
While that encounter was likely not filmed, his second interaction with Brown was — and included Michael Jackson. During a 1983 concert, Brown invited MJ up on stage at a show at the Beverly Theatre in Los Angeles. James then called for Prince to join them on stage. Like only Prince could, he danced without a shirt on.
Along with formal ballet training in his formative years, Prince loved the ballet. The singer gifted the American Ballet Theatre a $250,000 gift for ABT’s arts education program in 2011. “A function of our love for the next generation is instilling in them our own hard-fought knowledge,” Prince said. “We can’t wait and see—or only hope for—the future of those coming after us. We must actively take responsibility for ensuring their success.”
Misty Copeland caught Prince’s eye long before becoming ABT’s first African-American principal dancer in 2015. She danced in his 2009 music video “Crimson and Clover,” joined him in 2011 in his “Welcome 2 America” concerts and toured with him in Europe. “I wouldn’t be in this place in my career had I not met him,” Copeland told People magazine in 2016.
Harlem dance studio
Along with his gift to ABT, Prince also gifted Uptown Dance Academy, a studio in Harlem on the verge of shutting down, $250,000 in 2011 so it would stay open. “Without Prince, there would be no Uptown Dance Academy,” Robin Williams, director of Uptown Dance Academy, said. “He was a music icon, and he helped us.”
Prince’s charitable donations in dance happened long before his 2011 gift. In 1991, the singer saw a performance by the Joffrey Ballet and was reportedly “smitten.” He donated the rights for his music, and even wrote an extended version of his song “Thunder,” for the company to use in a performance called “Billboards.” The ballet is credited with helping save the company amid financial debt and giving it national attention.
In Prince dancing, his love affair with ballet was evident, Star Tribute dance critic Caroline Palmer, who often wrote about Prince in the 1990’s, pointed out. “If you look at some of his moves you certainly see a little ballet here and there,” she said. Palmer noted his jumps wee often derived from ballet, particular the one he did “where he fluttered his feet.”
Just as his music bended and blended different genres, his dance moves often fused together different styles. Prince also had an affection for jazz dance trained in the style with a Minnesota choreographer, John Command — who is responsible for “Purple Rain” as well as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Command noted that Prince was a big fan of Bob Fosse and knew the his style of jazz inside and out.
He helped us all party like it’s 1999, but Prince was partying long before the millennium. In 1989, Prince opened a nightclub called Glam Slam in Minneapolis, Minnesota and then another Los Angeles, California in 1993.
As if a nightclub wasn’t enough, Prince also formed his own dance company to dance in his nightlife mecca. Commissioned to dance in Glam Slam, the group went by several names including “Erotic City,” Club 110 dancers” and also “Glam Slam.”
Along with Misty, Prince was credited with launching the careers of several dancers, including: Carmen Electra who worked with him on 1992’s’ Go Go Dancer,” his first wife Mayte Garcia who was his backup dancer and twins Maya and Nandy McClean, known as “Diamond” and “Pearl.”
Almost as iconic as his dance moves are Prince’s dancing shoes. The singer often nailed his splits, jumps and turns while wearing stiletto high heels and platforms. But Prince’s shoes weren’t just any old shoes. Nearly all 3,000 of his shoes of varying colors were designed by Andre No. 1, a shop on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The owner said that most of his shoes were made specifically so they would be light enough to dance in.
Super Bowl rain
Prince was actually the first ever performer in a Super Bowl halftime show to sing and dance in the rain, according to the National Football League. But Prince didn’t seem to worry. “It was raining when it was time to go on — but it wasn’t raining hard enough to stop us,” Prince’s longtime keyboardist Morris Hayes said. “The producer asked if we were okay, and Prince was like, ‘Can you make it rain harder?'”
RELATED CONTENT: Click here to watch a montage of Prince’s best dance moves!