BWW Interview: STRICTLY's Karen Hauer Talks New Stage Show FIREDANCE LIVE
Best known for appearing as professional dancers on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, Karen Hauer and Gorka Marquez are going on the road around the UK with their brand new show, Firedance Live, which promises "hot pulsing beats, seductive choreography and passion that will take your breath away". Prior to rehearsals starting, we spoke to Karen about the upcoming production.
You're currently performing in Strictly Come Dancing Live, before starting Firedance, and this is followed by the Strictly Professionals tour. How do you deal with such an intense schedule?
I have to make time to sleep, as it's one of the most important things for my recovery. I make sure that when I'm not on tour, I'm in bed for 9.30pm - I need my 8-9 hours as when I don't get my sleep, I'm very cranky!
Especially now because my schedule is so hectic, I have to pay attention to every little detail: what I'm eating, how I'm stretching and exercising, having massage therapy, using bath salts, not going out for drinks after shows etc. I have to take really good care of myself at times when things are very intense. That said, I love being busy! Also, the team of people I'm surrounded by are very inspirational, so that makes it easier.
How did the concept of Firedance come about?
Gorka and I have very similar backgrounds - he's from Spain and I'm from Latin America. We really love the more intense dances, so when we started working together outside of Strictly, we had the same feeling about which dances we wanted to perform. From tango and paso doble to contemporary - all are meaningful, passionate dances, and the concept of Firedance grew from that. Coming from Spain, Gorka is really into flamenco, which not only has different rhythms, but there is so much characterisation and storytelling behind it, so we have definitely drawn inspiration from that.
So many people, when asked what their favourite dance is, say they love the Argentine tango, paso doble or samba, for instance, all of which are very fiery. On one hand, they are party dances, but they also really strike a chord with so many. Because of this, Firedance is something that we're both really looking forward to putting in front of an audience after a year of preparing for it.
The show appears to predominantly focus on the Latin genre. What is it that excites you about this style of dance?
It's definitely the power behind it and the fact that you can relay how you're feeling on a deeper level. Firedance is essentially a love story, when you first meet someone and the emotions that you go through. It's so important to have music and dance that you can relate to, and this show will enable you to do that.
Are you and Gorka choreographing the Firedance routines yourself?
We have an external choreographer coming in to help us, but there are pieces that we will devise ourselves. Because it hasn't been done before, Firedance allows us to be very creative and pitch our own ideas, so it will be a lovely environment to work in. Gorka and I work well together because we have the same mindset and we like doing the same things when it comes to movement. He is a great partner, communicating through both acting and dance - plus the way he can move his body is incredible!
Do you have much time between the end of Strictly Live and the start of Firedance?
I have a week! During that time though, I will be doing research, trying to rest and spending time with my partner and dogs. Whenever I have a break in my schedule, I'm always researching and finding things that bring inspiration. I feel stiff after sitting still for too long anyway, so I quite like that I've only got a short time off work.
What are you most looking forward to about this new tour?
Firedance is so different to what we do on Strictly, so it will be great to show another side to us. There's no dialogue - it will just be pure dance for 90 minutes. We have a live band, two singers and a cast of six dancers onstage with us, two of whom are fire-breathers, so we'll be incorporating many elements that audiences may have never seen before. We wanted to be different to other shows in the way that it means something to us.
Contemporary dance is where it all began for you. Was it an easy transition into ballroom and Latin?
I studied at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance for ten years and then I went to a performing arts high school where I studied ballet, contemporary, hip hop, everything really!
Transitioning into Latin dance was a bit of a change, especially getting used to wearing heels. That was like dancing on ice for me to begin with! However, with my roots being from Latin America, I did find it easy to listen to the music and find meaning within it. When I was a kid, we would always dance the salsa and merengue with my family, so doing those Latin dances really made me feel at home.
I always found it a bit weird being sexy, as contemporary is very internal and is more about the power you portray through character. Latin is much freer in the body - the rhythms are completely different, along with the isolation needed. It was great to see how my muscles transitioned into a totally new realm of dance. The styles complement one another though, so when you marry them together, what you create is new and exciting and gives you a new outlook.
Do you feel ballroom and Latin as a dance genre is well represented to mainstream audiences today?
Absolutely. We won the talent show category at the National Television Awards on Tuesday night, and that shows how much people connect to and love this dance genre. From Fred and Ginger, seeing the connection between people and seeing how it brings families together is amazing to witness. We also have some magnificent professionals out there who I admire, representing our brand of ballroom and Latin. For a while, it wasn't as big, but now it's huge and it's beautiful to see how much it's grown.
Do you feel Strictly has given you a welcome platform to develop the genre further?
Definitely, it's provided a great platform. In the more recent series of Strictly, we have been able to demonstrate commercial dance and other dance styles, so that too is opening doors. So, to be able to go on the road with Firedance and the original concept behind it is more than thrilling.
Firedance Live tours the UK from 6 March-5 April. Further information can be found at www.firedancelive.co.uk