Tell us a little bit about your current situation. What have you been up to creatively recently?
I feel like I have been honing my creative pathway recently, which feels really good. I was dancing with Donna Sternberg and Dancers, a modern dance company based in Santa Monica California, and while it was an absolutely incredible company, the amount of time I was having to devote just to drive to and from the studio was exhausting me emotionally and monetarily (lol). I definitely know that paying my dues in the arts world in order to be successful is part of the equation, but I was strapped on time and felt like I hadn’t given my true passion (ballet) all that I should. After taking a break from ballet for about a year, and let me tell you, a much needed break, I began taking open classes again in order to get ready for auditions and to delve in to my artistic side… fingers crossed that it leads to something beautiful. But honestly I’m super excited to be back in the ballet world getting to jump back into my number one passion.
You're a wonderful dancer - is there anything else we should know about you in terms of your preferred creative outlets? What are your other passions?
You know, there are so many people, places and ideas that have influenced me as an artist and dancer. For me one of the most beautiful periods of my life, only regarding ballet, were my four years in high school. There are days where I would give anything to be back in high school not for any other reason than the opportunities I got in ballet while I was in high school were amazing. I had the most amazing teachers who gave me beautiful roles and helped me become the person I am. They poured their souls into me to help me grow and I don’t think anything will ever inspire me as much as they did. I struggled with eating and had a hard time being social because of my issues with food, however I don’t regret anything I went through during that time because I had some of the most beautiful moments of my life thus far. I got to dance the lead in Giselle and perform Grand Pas and Snow Pas in the Nutcracker for multiple years.
In conjunction with my personal ballet training and education concerning the human body, I recently attained my Power Yoga Training Certification and am so proud to now not only being involved in the dance world, but also, to being involved in the physical practice of so many other people.
Is there a moment so far in your dancing career that stands out as your favorite? When's the happiest you ever felt while dancing?
This definitely ties back to the previous question for me. My happiest, dearest, and most missed moments have been the ones that have impacted and influenced my art. Giselle, The Nutcracker, and more recently a piece I did with Donna Sternberg and Dancers entitled “Adaption” have been the moments where I have felt the happiest, the most beautiful, and the purest form of myself. The opportunities I have been given to create a true connection with my character are the most brilliant. There is nothing more pure and more real than feeling completely overcome by the movement… of truly becoming someone else, feeling ultimately alive and completely boundless. For me that is why dance is inherently different than so many other forms of art, I have experienced what it is like to physically lose a sense of constraint… nothing but absolute devotion to what I am doing.
Tell us a little but about how you got started with dance. Was there a certain moment that inspired you to pursue it, or have you always had a talent for it?
I have always been a mover and doer. I never was content watching my mom do chores… I had to help, to be part of the experience. I began dance at age 3, moving through creative movement and on to all the levels at the Blue Heron (where I grew up dancing). I was passionate about dance always, however I came to the idea that I wanted to dance professionally very late in my life. While most students are training to be pro from age 8 or 10, it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I realized I wanted to go pro. I began taking ballet really seriously then, going into the studio on my own to give myself classes and to rehearse. I took extra classes with younger dancers just to work on my technique and fine tune my dancing. I’ve had three teachers who truly inspired me, who completely transformed me as a dancer and made me believe I could make it in the dance world. Two from the Blue Heron (Christine Juarez and Jill Adomaitis) and a former Principle Ballet dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet whom I studied with for several summers (Deborah Hadley). These women shaped me, made me love dance and made me truly believe in myself that hard work would pay off.
Is there a women in your field that you particularly admire? What do you respect most about her?
There are, of course! Carla Korbes is one of the most inspiring dancers I know. She danced with PNB (Pacific Northwest Ballet) and I had the honor of seeing her perform many many times. She has retired but the emotion, the love and absolute dedication she poured into each role she was given was unreal. There are so many dancers that I absolutely admire simply because they are gorgeous dancers, but Carla is a beautiful soul inside and out and that is what I aspire to be as well; humble, loving, dedicated.
There are plenty of articles that claim that world of ballet and dance has a bit of a reputation for breeding unhealthy body image. Have you found this to be the case? If so, how do you combat it?
Oh my gosh yes. And I honestly don’t think it will ever be eradicated from the dance world. I have seen dear friends suffer from eating disorders, I have personally suffered from many issues surrounding body image and food. I have had teachers tell me I need to lose weight and that I don’t have what it takes to be a professional dancer. I have seen dear friends sidelined from performing because they were unhealthy and unsafe. While I suffered for many years (and still struggle) it was a combination of time and friend's support that helped me come to a safer space concerning food. The best way I have tried to combat it in my life is to mentor and talk about the issues with the many many young dancers I teach every week. It took me so long to feel safe enough to open up about what I have dealt with, and I believe we have to raise our dancers with knowledge so they feel safe being who they are. We have ballet schools around the world that monitor food, that keep scales in the dance studios and that put weight limits on young girls. It devastates me to see beautiful, talented and impressionable young souls trained to believe that a number on a scale is what determines their success. I am truly passionate about this topic because it is still relevant in my life and I want to see my amazing students do well because they are filled with energy and love for what they are doing rather than fear of a number or their reflection in the mirror.
How do you connect with other creatives? Do you work best alone or with others?
Dancing with two companies, both State Street Ballet and Donna Sternberg and Dancers made connecting to creatives easy. Dancing has allowed me to make connections with photographers, musicians and other dancers and choreographers, which is so special! In our present day society, art is almost required to push boundaries now. New choreography doesn’t appeal to the masses if it is just a series of tendu’s, pirouettes and grande jetés. There is a need for more now; beautiful technique is a requirement, but forward thinking choreography, music, and art direction is an expectation now as well. I think this is an exciting time in the art world; it is pushing dancers and companies all over the world to test the limit of what is acceptable and what is too much. While I do work best focusing on myself in class and in rehearsal, I am really excited to become involved in more ways in the arts… I think collaboration is going to take ballet into the next decade and propel it to the forefront of the art world. It makes me nervous to see how the world of ballet will change over the course of the next ten or twenty years, but it also makes me giddy with excitement. There are so many awesome artists out there and combining forces will be incredible to watch and be a part of.
What does the future hold for you, both creatively and professionally?
My goals for the future are numerous. In the most near future I am incredibly excited to begin auditioning for ballet companies in the coming year. I am looking to potentially guest with a company for the Nutcracker season and see where that takes me. I take about 5 technique classes a week to stay in shape so I’m balancing that with my other 3 jobs as well. I have started teaching with a ballet studio in Koreatown which has been a blast, but I would also love to establish myself in some other ballet studios. I currently do a lot of housesitting right now, and a goal is to be able to stop living out of a suitcase and stay in my own apartment more consistently. I have spent long enough in the ballet world to know that it is fleeting. As a result I am taking each day as its own, I’m enjoying my time and looking forward to what's next without too much apprehension. While dancing is my goal for the next decade or so, anyone who knows me is aware that I am a total nerd and love school. I without a doubt want to go back to school at some point and continue to feed my brain.
Did you go to college? If so, where? How has this affected you post-graduation in terms of your creative process?
I graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts last spring. I got my BFA in ballet which I am truly thankful for. I am so grateful to have gotten a college degree, and while School of the Arts was a challenging time in my life it gave me real world experience which is invaluable. UNCSA gave me a huge creative outlet that I didn’t fully recognize until I left. It offered me so much in terms of growing as an artist and challenging myself personally. Some of my strained relationships with my teachers in college taxed my spirit in ways I didn’t think possible, but how I have grown and matured post college is something I am incredibly thankful for, and it would not have been possible without my years at school. Now as I establish myself in the dance world and begin looking for teaching jobs in larger outlets, a degree is very valuable. Certain studios and establishments won’t even consider you if you don’t have a degree, and because certain schools and studios value education so greatly, I am very interested in getting a masters degree in the future to be the best version of myself that I can.
What have you discovered about yourself in the past year?
If I want to be super cliche, this past year I have found myself. I have found a new and refreshed love of my art. I took a break from ballet after I left State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara and I have come back more in love with the art form than ever. Over the course of this last year I have lost sight of why ballet and dance make me happy many many times. Life in the arts world is scary and uncertain and I am constantly questioning if I am good enough to be part of it. While I remain unsure if I will be successful as a dancer, I know that my passion for movement and my love of teaching will help me to remain in the arts indefinitely. Since the beginning of high school, ballet has been the one constant in my life; it has been my one focus above anything else that has kept my grounded and made me feel safe. When I have felt the most sadness and greatest doubt, I only have to pour myself into ballet to feel at ease. While the world of ballet has taken me down many dark roads it has ultimately been what has saved me most; so I am forever grateful for that.
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