Dancer, Choregrapher, Performer
A native of Vancouver, Canada, Carlena Britch currently resides in LA. She moved to LA to pursue her dreams as a dancer and in hopes of touring with Justin Bieber. Her dreams came true! I had the amazing opportunity to interview Carlena Brtich! She talked about the tour, her goals, her experiences and what's next for her future. I am already looking forward to talking to her in 5 years to see what she has done. I hope you enjoy my interview with Carlena. Carlenda has an awesome spirit and it comes through on this interview!
Friday Night Hip Hop
AG: I understand that you have a very talented family?
CB: I have two younger, identical twin brothers. Both are quite the artists! They paint, do graffiti art, draw and are very mechanically inclined.
AG: When did you start dancing?
CB: I started dancing when I was in grade school. A teacher named Susanna Cejalvo came to my school when I was nine and offered students at my school a two week free hip hop program. After the two weeks, she offered me a position to perform a solo that she had choreographed and, it just clicked. I continued to dance and train with her & my friends and it grew from there.
AG: When did you know it would become a career?
CB: I think I just always knew. When you're nine years old, you have all of these crazy ideas, and I one point I thought I would go to Julliard. But by no means was I a ballerina or technically trained so that was out of the picture. When I was 14, I met a lady named Kim Sato from Vancouver. She saw me at a mall dance competition where she was judging and took me under her wing. She hired me as a soloist for a show called "Make Your Dreams Happen", and from there I continued to train and work together with her. Kim started a hip-hop company called Souldiers Company; I was one of the first to be in it. We learned all elements of hip hop, not just the dance, but all the different types of movement and the culture behind it. We trained in different dance styles, and had lessons in the 4 elements of hip hop; DJ, MC, Popping and Break dancing. It was so great just to dive into the culture and it really became my life. I believe learning the history is just as important as learning the moves. I mean don't you want to know the ingredients in the food that you eat? It's how I fell in love with hip hop dance and from there I continued to grow with it. Souldiers Company is a wonderful company and I would recommend it to anyone in Canada and for anyone considering moving to Canada for dance. It's not a full-time program but it could be if you dive into it and continue to train outside of your classes each week.
AG: Tell me about your "So You Think You Can Dance" Canada experience?
CB: Wow, it was a crazy experience! Like I mentioned before, I was not a technically trained dancer that came from a studio and did ballet every week. A lot of it was new to me -- even some of the terminology. After I found out I made the show, I trained at whatever I could. I went onto the show without any real expectations; just to give it my all. It was a great experience because they really allowed me to be myself. They let me use the songs I wanted, dress how I wanted and even portray the character I was without really changing it at all. I learned about myself as a dancer and about myself as an individual and how hard I could work. It was a great shaping experience for the rest of my dance and personal life. I was able to bring my stamina built and energy gained to the table when rehearsing for the BELIEVE world tour. It was a great experience that brought me to where I am now.
AG: How far did you make it in the competition?
CB: I made it to top 14 couples, top 7 females, and I was the last standing hip hop dancer!
AG: What music is on your ipod? Who are your favorite artists?
CB: I love Prince! I truly believe he's my long lost father. He is an incredible, interesting, creative man and I absolutely adore him. I love funk, soul, R&B, & early 90's hip hop. More recently, I have been getting into urban, creative artists; I'm not sure what to call their genre. There is a local LA artist named Banks, and FKA Twigs from London. She’s got an interesting sound. And of course there is The Weeknd who also falls into that category. He's from Toronto -- another Canadian. I love all types of music! Probably the only type that I don’t listen to is Country.
AG: You probably didn’t have a lot of time to watch movies but what is your favorite?
CB: Actually, we had a lot more time then you think because of all the flying we did on tour. I have three top movies: “500 Days of Summer” - I adore Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I want to marry him one day! “Amelie” - a beautiful French film, and “When Harry Met Sally” - great movie!
AG: What are your goals as a dancer / performer?
CB: My number one goal was to move to and live in LA. When I turned 21, I fortunately completed that. I got my work visa and moved to LA a month after it was approved. Another goal that I had was to be on a world tour. I'll never forget saying, "I want to dance for Justin Bieber", which ended up being one of my very first auditions after living in LA less than a month. I remember seeing the e-mail and thinking to myself "this is it". I already knew. I went to the audition and out of hundreds & hundreds of females, I fortunately booked the job. From there it kind of shaped me and evolved me. It's so crazy to get a chance like that! I wanted to dance on a tour and a tour at THAT level is such a dream come true! Now that I got that under my belt, it feels really good. I would definitely love to tour again but maybe not right this second.
AG: What was your favorite part of the tour?
CB: Traveling the world! I mean, we did 156 shows. You think to yourself, "How am I doing the same choreography every show?", but it's different every time. It's different performing in Italy then it is performing in Dubai, or Japan, New York. It really felt brand new every night and that simply came from experiencing different fans/crowds, people, languages, and different environments.
One of our biggest crowds was in Johannesburg, South Africa in one of the biggest soccer stadiums in the world. We had a crowd of almost 100K; I remember having tears in my eyes almost the entire show. The energy and the smiles, not to mention it was our last show of the tour before heading home after being away for 3 months. We were all so ecstatic to go home for a break. There was such great energy on stage; I remember giving everything we had and leaving it all on the floor. It was a really cool place to perform!
AG: What was the most challenging about being on the tour?
CB: The traveling and being away from home. It's one thing to live out of a suitcase, but it’s another to be in different time zones and to be in places where nobody speaks the same language as you. It was real shaping experience to have been gone so long. Traveling helped me grow into my own shell and discover exactly who I was.
AG: You’ve done a lot of travel. Do you have a favorite place or country that you fell in love with?
CB: There were definitely a few but I would say Japan. The people were so friendly and everything about the country is so full of energy. Everyone seems very happy and they're all so polite. I can totally see myself living there one day, either dancing for an artist or doing something completely out of the ordinary.
AG: What countries were your favorite places to eat?
CB: I had really good food in Istanbul, Turkey. I also had really good food in all of Australia and New Zealand. They take real pride in their food. Everything is fresh and you know where every single thing comes from. They favor gluten free and vegetarian diets which I appreciated being a vegetarian. It was awesome to be in a country that had many food options so accessible.
AG: What countries were your favorite places to shop?
CB: London - Brick Lane, one of my favorite places! I am a huge vintage and thrift shopper and there is an area with all vintage stores and shops, private vendors and artists. And it also has a very big Indian population, so the Indian food there was incredible. I absolutely love Indian food! New York (one of my favorite places in the world) and Japan also have great shopping. I definitely shopped everywhere and was able to find things in the strangest places. Sydney, Australia has some really cool stuff! Oh, and Manchester UK was great for shopping too.
AG: Who or what inspires you?
CB: I am really inspired by one of my best friends! She has lived and experienced so much of life. I think it’s her presence and energy, how she lives through life so motivated and driven, and doesn’t sweat any of the small stuff. She is a huge inspiration of mine. I am fortunate to have her in my life. Her name is Claude Racine; she is also actually Canadian but has lived in the United States since she was a little girl. She's done everything! She's a dancer, she’s been in a girl group, had a band, and is an actress. She's such an inspiration to me and everyday I look up to her and I am driven by all she has completed. I want to live many lives and I think she is someone who has done just that!
AG: Now that you are back from the tour, what’s next for you?
CB: There are so many choreographers that I haven't had the chance to work with and so many people that I haven't auditioned for or even taken classes from because I have been on tour. So, one of my focuses is to get myself into LA a bit more considering I haven't really gotten a chance to show my face or to show some of my talents.
I enjoy teaching but I like to keep it select and exclusive because I don’t necessarily want to be a teacher for the rest of my life. I really take pride in what I can bring to the students -- not only through my moves, but also through my own personal experiences and the history I know.
For me, dance isn't all of it. I am an actor as well, which is something I would like to branch into more this year. I do print work and I love modelling and I'm a nail artist. So, I have a few things under my belt and it's just a matter of squeezing them all in. It’s great! It keeps me motivated and it inspires me in all different areas. For example, sometimes when I am dancing, I get ideas for acting or nail art or whatever creative aspect I've got on my brain.
AG: You mentioned that you would like to dance with other artist and train with other choreographers. Are there any particular artists that you would like to work with?
CB: I would definitely like to work with NappyTabs again. I just did a volunteer show with them over the holidays for 'Toys For Tots' as an Elf host! It was a pleasure; they are definitely two choreographers I would love to train under. Also, Nick Demoura, our choreographer for the BELIEVE tour. I think he has such incredible visions and is so creative; I would like to continue to work with him whether it’s for Justin or another artist. I would like to dance for Justin Timberlake one day and work for Marty Kudelka (of course). I love Luther Brown and I hold such great respect for him. I did get the chance to work with him on 'So You Think You Can Dance Canada', so I would love to work with him on an even further professional level out here in LA.
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