How to dance like prince

Prince's Unparalleled Dance Moves - Mpls.St.Paul Magazine



Photo by Rob Verhorst/Redferns

Prince and Cat Glover

Prince and Cat Glover on stage in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 1988.

Imagine Prince motionless. In death we’re forced to, but in life it was impossible. 

That is because he danced, always. Included in his multitude of personas, Prince was a patron of dance, a choreographer, and, as a young man, trained in classical ballet. 

Prince’s formal training began at Minnesota Dance Theatre when he was in high school and part of the Urban Arts Program. It was there that he connected with MDT founder Loyce Houlton. “My mother was very, very good at seeing talent and promoting it,” recalls Houlton’s daughter, Lise. Loyce Houlton, who studied with modern dance icon Martha Graham and the father of American ballet, George Balanchine, died in 1995, but she was a friend and mentor from the day they met. Prince even flew Houlton and her husband to Los Angeles for the world premiere of Purple Rain in 1984.

Caroline Palmer, a freelance dance critic who writes for the Star Tribune, says you could see Prince’s ballet training if you knew to watch for it. “If you look at some of his moves you certainly see a little ballet here and there,” says Palmer, who wrote about Prince for City Pages during the 1990s. “Some of his jumps are ballet moves that he adjusted. A particular jump he did sometimes where he fluttered his feet— that’s out of ballet,” Palmer says. “For so many dancers, they may start in one dance form and morph into whatever their art requires. You see that in Prince—ballet in the core, and then he added.” 

He added jazz dance, for one thing. Longtime Twin Cities choreographer and director John Command worked with Prince leading up to the filming of Purple Rain. Prince, members of his band, and other actors in the movie took classes with Command for the better part of a year. Command would wait for several hours a day, three days a week, in his dance studio for whomever in Prince’s crew might appear. Sometimes it was Prince, other times Morris Day, The Revolution, or Apollonia Kotero.

“It was all with the movie in mind,” says Command, who now lives in Edina. “Camera technique is different than ballet or jazz, but we would do Broadway stuff, Bob Fosse, Jerry Robbins who did West Side Story. A lot of that is very difficult stuff and he loved it. He was never a great dancer—he wasn’t the one you’d say would go on to be a principal dancer—but the fact that he could do it at all as well as being a musical genius, it was unbelievable.” As Command recalls, Prince showed up to those 1980s jazz dance classes knowing Fosse in and out. (Any Prince fan should take a moment to look up Fosse’s “The Rich Man’s Frug” on YouTube; in it you see so much Prince.) He didn’t stay with Fosse, though; by the time Sign ’O’ the Times was released in 1987, Prince had morphed, as many dancers do, from dancer to choreographer.  

This was when he craved originality above all. Dancer and now choreographer Cat Glover recalls meeting Prince in 1986 when she was an award-winning freestyle dancer appearing at Chicago clubs and a recent Star Search winner. They later went to a private club and Prince asked her to dance. “I knew that we were compatible from the first time we danced together. It was maybe three songs and I mimicked everything he did, and he was like, Whoa. He whispered something to his manager [and] Prince winked at me. He had big, beautiful eyes, like a deer. He said, ‘You’re going to be in our band.’ That was pretty much it.” 

Glover, who lives in Los Angeles, was key to Prince’s dance throughout the Sign ’O’ the Times years. Glover says Prince fed on her street style and was attracted to her originality. “Prince liked dancers who danced different,” she says. “He didn’t like dancers who did the same thing.” Catch a concert from the Housequake era and you’ll see Prince executing half a dozen breakdancing moves, like the one where he’s stomach-up on all fours, kicking and zipping across the stage. In his originality-prizing years he was also carefully following the work of Moses Pendleton, a Connecticut avant-garde dance choreographer who incorporates acrobatics and surrealism. “There’s a scene in [the video for] ‘Lovesexy’ where Prince does this solo, it’s kind of a weird dance—that’s him giving thanks to Moses Pendleton,” says Glover. “There. Nobody knows that but you.”

 Dance wasn’t just eye candy for the audience; it was critical to his evaluation and estimation of his own work. Prince would take his music to clubs to see if it would get people on the dance floors, Glover says. “He wasn’t just a musician. For one of his songs to get recorded it had to come with everything. If your feet aren’t tapping, if your feet aren’t bopping, it’s not good enough. If you can’t dance with music then it’s no good.”  

Needing to see his music danced to may have been why, when he opened the nightclub Glam Slam in 1989, he hired a dance troupe to animate it. Former Glam Slam dancer Colleen McClellan Ueland describes the Minneapolis nightclub, which Prince sold in 1994, as a place where dancers were given remarkable freedom. “Sometimes we did performances; sometimes we were go-go dancers,” says Ueland, who today operates a Pilates studio in south Minneapolis. Dancers were given a budget for sets, stages, musicians--—the works. There was a professional make-up artist on hand, and costumes were freshly created each night, some out of Prince’s own costume shop, which was in the Glam Slam building. “We were given carte blanche to do whatever we wanted,” Ueland says. The troupe would commission music and put on stage-worthy performances, because Prince created the conditions to do that.

Prince’s support of dancers was by then national. Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet was on the verge of shutting down in the ’90s until Prince donated the rights to his music for a blockbuster called Billboards; it helped save the company.  



Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Prince and Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland and Prince at Madison Square Garden in 2011.

More recently, in 2009, he plucked Misty Copeland out of relative obscurity from the American Ballet Theatre. The two then performed together, including 2011 shows where Copeland is pirouetting around him in full Swan Lake finery on toe shoes. Just last year, Copeland became the first African American principal dancer in ABT’s history.

“I wouldn’t be in this place in my career had I not met him,” Copeland told People magazine. 

Though dance was the minor key in Prince’s art, it was likely the major culprit in his death. “He ruined his hips on those damn high heels he used to wear,” Command says in frustration. “He would do splits, [and] those shoes, I look at them and shudder.” Adds Glover, “He would push himself to the limit all the time. He made it look easy, but everything that looked easy was three months’ rehearsal. It was never easy.”   

Of course, to imagine a motionless Prince is absurd, impossible. He was ever in motion, propelled by rapacious intellectual curiosity and feet-on-the-ground experimentation. And he danced all but ceaselessly for 57 motion-filled years.  

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How heads of state and representatives of royal families dance - watch the video on our website


Governing a country or a kingdom is a great talent. And talented people, as you know, are talented in everything - even in an area as far from their main field of activity as dancing. We propose to evaluate the choreographic skills of the heads of state and some representatives of royal families and choose a new king and queen of the dance floor.

Donald Trump

In the 2020 presidential race, Donald Trump was willing to do anything to keep the presidency—even dancing in front of his constituents. Barely recovering from covid, the current head of state went to Florida, where he performed in front of his supporters and demonstrated several dance moves, which immediately became a meme and went viral. Trump's awkward dance has been dubbed "dad dance" on the internet.

Meghan Markle

The Duchess of Sussex got the chance to show off her sense of rhythm during her official South African tour with Harry in September 2019. On the first day, the couple were greeted by dancers in national costumes, who swirled the guest in the dance.

Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla

On the eve of his 70th birthday, Prince Charles and his wife went on a short trip to Africa. In Ghana, the heir to the British throne and his wife were waiting for a gala dinner organized in their honor by the head of state, Nana Akufo-Addo. The couple regularly participates in such events, it would seem, nothing special. But this time the gala dinner was a hit - Charles and Camilla did not miss the opportunity to demonstrate their dancing skills. And the British were delighted with the grace of Camilla - it turned out that she had a wonderful sense of rhythm.

Camille liked dancing. So a few months later, on January 24, 2019, the duchess started dancing again. This time she showed off her hidden talents at the East London Brenner Centre. Together with the visitors of the institution, Camilla performed the national Jewish dance of the choir - to the song "Hava Nagila".

Theresa May

But Theresa May during her premiership had no time for dancing - unlike the royal family, she ruled the kingdom not nominally, but in reality. She didn’t have time for a dance class, so Camilla’s grace was far from over. But don't be enthusiastic.

Barack and Michelle Obama

The 44th President of the United States, along with the former first lady, make a great couple in life and on the dance floor. But they can also act separately. In this case, Barack prefers tango, while Michel prefers modern pop hits. Together, they demonstrate devotion to the American classics.

Vladimir Putin

You won’t take Vladimir Vladimirovich by surprise - he can govern the country, and at the wedding of the bride, if necessary, he can easily make a couple. The Russian leader demonstrated a sense of rhythm at the wedding of Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl and businessman Wolfgang Meilinger.

George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin

Putin can dance both at a party and at home. In 2020, unique footage was published of how in 2008 the President of the Russian Federation, in the company of George W. Bush, lights up under “Mistress, lady! Lady lady." With the same grace, Vladimir Vladimirovich is given both a round dance and a dance. Bush does not lag behind and adds an American accent to Russian dances with characteristic movements of the shoulders and head.

Dmitry Medvedev

There is no doubt about Dmitry Medvedev's dancing skills either. True, he prefers a slightly different repertoire. Who hasn't seen the prime minister dance at the 2011 homecoming?

Prince Harry

The days when Prince Harry danced so selflessly at parties that he fell into the pool, climbed out of it and continued to dance, are gone forever. Now he is an exemplary husband and father and cannot afford such liberties. But the plasticity and mobility of the hips will not go anywhere.

Prince William and Kate Middleton

In the pair of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William demonstrates great expression in dancing, completely surrendering to the dance. Kate, next to her husband, clearly feels somewhat constrained.

Justin Trudeau

But the title of chief dancer among heads of state goes to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. There are dozens of videos on the Internet that clearly prove that Trudeau moves like a god. So if he ever gets bored with a political career, he will always be welcome in Bollywood.

Queen Elizabeth II with her family

Since the time of Queen Victoria, the Scottish residence of British monarchs - Balmoral Castle - has been hosting annual balls. It is not known whether Elizabeth II is participating in them now, but the footage of the chronicle preserved memories of how the queen had fun in 1982 - with her husband Prince Philip, daughter Princess Anne, daughter-in-law Diana Spencer and other close relatives and friends.

Photo: Getty Images

“Everyone dances with their elbows”: how the representatives of the British royal family Windsor dance to the music of different countries

When we look at photographs of members of the royal family, including Her Majesty Elizabeth II, it seems to us that they are always serious and strictly follow the protocol. But nothing earthly is alien to the representatives of the British kingdom, as well as to most people. They dance with pleasure, having heard incendiary music.

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip performing a square dance, Canada 1951

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and square dance

Two years before her coronation, Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip traveled to Canada in 1951. Then they did not waste time in vain and with pleasure started dancing, performing a cheerful quadrille. For the dance, the couple chose the appropriate outfit, not forgetting the little things like a neckerchief for the prince. It seems that the image (and the dance) turned out to be one hundred percent successful!

Prince Harry performing the calypso dance, London 2010

Prince Harry and calypso

Prince Harry has always been a fan of " light up " and have a blast. Fans know for sure that the son of Prince Charles enjoyed visiting London clubs and parties and led a rich nightlife. Not surprisingly, in 2010, Prince William's 25-year-old brother famously danced a Caribbean dance called calypso. The case took place in Barbados, where the prince went to support the victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti and raise funds to help the state. Bravely jumping onto the stage, Harry began to move to the beat of the music, and his dance steps were watched by the audience both in the hall and on TV.

Prince Charles performs a calypso dance, Bahamas 1972

Prince Charles lights up in the Bahamas

Like a son, like a father! Not only Prince Harry, but also his noble dad loves to dance calypso. He showed his skills at a festival in the Bahamas while still in the Royal Navy. At that time, Prince Charles was only 24 years old, and the dance became a kind of celebration of the independence of the Bahamas.

Camilla Parker-Bowles dances the Cha-Cha, London 2009

Camilla Parker-Bowles dances the Cha-Cha

The Duchess of Cornwall keeps up with her husband. So, in 2009, she showed her interest in cha-cha-cha. Camilla went to the ballroom of London's West End Primary School, where she danced with Craig Revel Horwood, a British dancer, choreographer and judge for the dance show Strictly Come Dancing. The Duchess's dance came on World Osteoporosis Day. With her active dancing, Camilla wanted to show young people how important it is to move and stay physically active in order to prevent this disease.

Meghan Markle performs African dance, South Africa 2019

Meghan Markle and African dance

The Duchess of Sussex is also no stranger to dance rhythms. At least she was very organic, dancing as part of the South African tour. Once at an impromptu party, Megan and Harry decided to dance to the rhythm of the Afro. At that time, the couple already had a son who was 4 months old. The spouses really liked the incendiary dances, and the local resident said that they were doing great!

Princess Beatrice dances at Charity Ball, London 2013

Princess Beatrice at Charity Ball

The Queen's granddaughter, who recently gave birth to a baby girl, also wants to dance. So, in 2013, at the ball, Beatrice performed a dance in the company of her friend. The event took place in London and was called " Adventures in Wonderland ". It was charitable in nature, and the funds were raised to help the children of the Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Prince William and Kate Middleton, Fiji 2012

Prince William and Kate Middleton dance in national costumes

In 2012, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge traveled to the Pacific countries.

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