Kristen Carcone is a Toronto-born, internationally-acclaimed dancer, choreographer, teacher, and Reiki healer. As a company member of Third Rail Projects, she currently performs in their Bessie award-winning production, Then She Fell. Carcone has performed internationally in a variety of shows and festivals (like Phish’s New Year’s Eve concert at Madison Square Garden), and her choreography can be seen all over (like Joseph Gordon Levitt’s My Favorite Things video — oh, hey). She’s been named one of the 25 Most Influential Young Choreographers to watch, and is co-founder and co-Artistic Director of a globally-recognized non-profit, TOES FOR DANCE.
Yeah, she’s busy. Because of Kristen’s encouragement of cross-disciplinary collaboration between artists of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds, and goal to share stories that are inclusive, honest, and, of course, entertaining, we knew we wanted to sit down with her.
You're a teacher, choreographer, and performer using your body to communicate every day. What self-care practices do you prioritize in your life?
My self-care practices constantly evolve, but stream-of-consciousness journaling is one that has been part of my daily practice for a few years now. Journaling became important to me when I started traveling often for work and needed a creative outlet while sitting on a bus, train, or plane. I feel A LOT, so stream-of-consciousness journaling helps me to figure out the “story” — a narrative playing out in my head that I don’t have to buy into — and what is “truth” — a feeling I can take ownership over. Another self-care practice that I have begun to prioritize more and more is laughing. Even if it’s just watching a blooper reel on YouTube, I try to find a moment to laugh everyday. Laughing is such a great tool to shift stuck energy.
In an industry that's notorious for putting immense pressure on how a body looks and performs, what do you do to listen to your body and try to ignore the external standards imposed upon it?
Yowza. This is a tough one. Loving my body for how it looks and functions now, versus my body when I was 20, is a daily practice. Self-judgement, comparison, and insecurity creep up more often than I would like. I have found that gratitude journaling, affirmations, and conversations with other dance artists have been incredibly helpful in re-programming some of the old unconscious and unproductive belief-systems I have learned over the years. Re-writing these internal narratives that have been part of me for so long is a process, not a destination, and I am working on this every day.
What puts the biggest smile on your face about what you do?
I get to play and create EVERY DAY. How lucky am I? Getting to collaborate and share ideas with colleagues, students, and audience members brings me so much joy! I love that exchange of knowledge and use of imagination.
Is there a piece of advice that someone gave you that has shifted your outlook or your perspective on something?
Patience and gratitude — these are words that I live by. Unfortunately, I often find myself handing my power over to anxiety, frustration, doubt, and fear. When I am able to connect to patience and gratitude, I gain access to an abundance of compassion and hope, allowing any experience to shift. Patience and gratitude are not always easy to cultivate, but I am working on it!
You bring up topics of mental health and social justice in a lot of your choreographed work. How does talking about these issues through dance contribute to the larger conversation?
As humans, each of us learn and process information differently — visually, auditorily, kinetically. The beauty of dance is that it allows for all three of these modalities to co-exist, which creates the opportunity for more people to be a part of the conversation. For example: There is a lot of stigma around mental health, so it is not always easy for a person to sit down and talk about their personal experience, especially if they are a nonverbal communicator. Creating work that allows audience members to visually and kinetically witness a character go through something that they have personally experienced before enables the potential for them to feel validated, included, and supported. Redefining what having a conversation means is important to me as well as creating safe, brave, and inclusive platforms for exchange.
Your work requires such a strong connection to the body, yet there are certain things that even dancers probably don't think about. Fertility and general reproductive health aren't topics most young uterus-owners engage with until they're ready to have a family. As someone who is so educated about her body and teaches others about theirs, why do you think it's important for uterus-owners to be empowered with information about how their systems work?
Living consciously and intentionally is a part of my everyday learning and teaching. It is only with knowledge and awareness that individuals can make informed choices that serve their highest good. For too long, being a uterus-owner has come with a lot of shame and guilt. To shift this narrative, I believe us uterus-owners must have a strong and informed connection to our bodies, especially in this political climate, in order to take our power back.
Thanks to funding from the Toronto Arts Council and support from Lululemon NY, Kristen’s latest work, 4-7-8, will premiere Fall 2018 in Toronto.