Wednesday, 21 November 2012

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Paula Douthett

PAULA Douthett was born in Wisconsin, USA, in 1932 before moving to New York City to study dance where she met her husband, Bill. The couple moved to Colorado to raise their two daughters before moving to England in 1975. A devout Christian, Paula has travelled the world encouraging worship through the art of dance. She and her husband now live part of the year in Lyme Regis and the rest in the US, having grandchildren in both countries.

WHAT influenced you to be a dancer?
I always felt I was meant to do something new in dance and movement. I just had no idea what it was. When I went to New York to study I was lucky enough to train with modern dance reformers who wanted to create a new form of dance. When I started the course it was like a spark, I just knew it’s what I had to do.

DID your parents approve of the profession?
When I came home from college and told my parents, my mother said: “I’m not surprised – you were dancing in the womb!” My mother was involved with the arts so it was no problem at all.

WHAT made you use dance more closely with the church?
After we got married we moved to Boulder, Colorado, to raise our daughters away from the rat race. We joined a Lutherian church there and the pastor visited us to ask what gifts we had to offer the church. I thought “Oh dear” and told him I was trained as a dancer. But the minister said “let’s see how we can use this” and invited me to dance at the front of the church. It was a tiny space and I was used to a stage! Finally, I prayed to Jesus to ask how I should do it and he showed me the way. Now I teach how to worship God through the dance.

WHY is dance so important for a person’s spiritual wellbeing?
It opens you. Like singing, movement is a language. It expresses things, the movements express the words. It has this amazing effect of opening a person’s emotions. It can help with grieving, depression and really can heal. In the secular world it is known as dance therapy.

WHAT is the most extraordinary place you have visited?
I visited Poland when it was behind the Iron Curtain. The people there were suffering terribly – no paper products and no soap products. Yet people had such faith and joy and this blew our minds. We brought them supplies on one visit and they thanked us by giving us food including a month’s worth of meat even though it was rationed. Their generosity and spirit was a great influence on me.

WHAT made you write an autobiography?
God told me to write it on my seventieth birthday. This was really tough for me – I thought “I’m a dancer, I use movements not words!” - but that was my calling so I knew I had to do it. I put it off for years until I got to 78 years old and I thought I’d better get on and do it! I visited a monastery in New Mexico where they held a writing weekend. I went on that and it really jumped-started my writing batteries. After that I wrote every day for two years until I finished it.

DO you miss writing the book now that it is finished?
I do, but I don’t want to write another book. I find it incredible that a dancer should be there at a book signing, but there I was. I am just so happy now to feel that I have fulfilled my purpose on Earth. I still dance every day and I look forward to dancing in heaven, dancing with the angels.

YOU have lived in many places – which of them do you consider home?
When I moved to England in 1975 I was very homesick – it is such a different culture. But the Lord taught me that your home is anywhere the Lord is and now I can be happy any place – even a nursing home would be fine and I could call it home.

Paula Douthett’s autobiography, An Extraordinary Life an Extraordinary God, is available from Good Books in Gundry Lane, Bridport