BWW Interview: CARISSA LAUREL Speaks to Her Experience Being a Dancer who is Always is Learning and Growing
Carissa Laurel is a NYC-based dancer who began her training in her home country in the Philippines. I had the opportunity to speak to her about her unique background, experience and success in the dance world.
Q: Can you talk about your dance experience/training?
A: I started dancing at the age of five with the Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance School (now Ballet Philippines Dance School). I was the recipient of multiple CCP Dance School scholarships from 2011 to 2015. As a scholar, I performed in the School's Evaluation Programs and Ballet Philippines' productions such as A Christmas Carol (2013), Giselle (2014), and The Homecoming Gala (2014).
I danced in the corps de ballet in Giselle. I was privileged to be in a production with Stella Abrera and James Whiteside, principal dancers of American Ballet Theatre, who played roles of Giselle and Albrecht, respectively. It was my first time to perform in a full-length classical ballet with a professional company.
I graduated from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) in Manila, Philippines with the degree of Bachelor of Performing Arts, major in Dance. I was a recipient of the DLS-CSB Ballet Philippines Full Scholarship.
I participated in The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet (ACB) International Workshop in October 2015. In April 2016, I completed Level 5 of the ACB Examination with commendation.
In June 2016, I became an apprentice with Lori Belilove & The Isadora Duncan Dance Company in New York. It is the resident performing troupe of the Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation. I completed The Foundation's 2016 Summer Workshop with classes taught by its Artistic Director, Lori Belilove and senior members of The Company. I was able to perform various works with The Company at Alice Austen House at the conclusion of the workshop.
In October 2016, I performed Anne Easterling-Freifelder's Saige's Song in Kat Wildish Presents: Performing in NY Showcase. I am also a company member of Aries In Flight, a theatre jazz dance company. I performed in their second performance showcase, "Artists In Flight", in New York City in November 2016.
Q: Any projects, performances, training or programs that you have coming up?
A: I recently spent a weekend in April in Singapore, where I completed a series of ballet master classes with Mathilde Froustey, Principal Dancer of San Francisco Ballet. The series included technique classes, variation classes, and a conditioning/flexibility and injury prevention class. This program was curated and organized by Cloud & Victory.
The dancers who attended the variation classes had to pick one of the three solos taught by Froustey and perform it for her. I never dreamed of dancing in front of a principal dancer. My favorite part was receiving corrections from her after I performed the variation from Grand Pas Classique. She was so kind and I feel very privileged to have learned from such an inspiring artist.
On another note, I also did a dance shoot with Arun AL, a really cool photographer based in Singapore. I could tell that he had planned for the shoot well because he knew exactly what he wanted and worked fast.
Q: Are there any challenges you have faced along the way? How have you worked/still working through them?
A: I was about sixteen when I decided I wanted to become a professional dancer. One could say I was a late bloomer, but I was very determined to improve my technique. This pushed me to work double time because most of the girls my age had been training en pointe longer than I had. I became stronger and was happy with how I looked, but it did not seem to be enough for one of my ballet teachers.
One particular teacher bullied me about my weight and told me I was getting fat even though I lost ten pounds from all the long hours of training. This was without even changing my diet! He also said that I did not have any coordination, but left me with no advice on how to improve. He was the only teacher who ever said these things to me. It got to a point when he told me to quit dancing altogether! I then began dancing to impress my teacher, but he made me feel so small and completely doubt myself. He would often "remind" me of my lack of coordination and how "fat" I was. I almost believed him.
Because I was so worried that the rest of my teachers felt the same way about me, I thought I could not trust any of them. It took me months to finally speak to one of my college professors about what happened and what I was feeling. Talking to her really comforted me and I wished I had done it sooner. She made me realize that my teacher was not the only person in the dance world. The point of dancing was not to impress him, but to dance for myself. Since our "talk", I have kept in touch with her. She has always encouraged me to pray, work hard, and seize all opportunities. Her continued support is one of the reasons why I still believe in my abilities.
Dancing is only difficult when others give you a hard time and try to discourage you from doing your best. From my experience, I learned how important it is to have a good support system.
Q: What advice do you have for other dancers looking to enter the field as a freelancer?
A: Only you can give people the power to affect you. Don't give in to negativity!
To learn more about Carissa and her experience, please visit her website at carissalaurel.wixsite.com/home.
Photo Credit: Arun Al