Photo: Copyright Alex Huber
Carina Saslavsky’s career has spanned the performing arts realms of repertoire ballet, professional acting, musical comedy and theater. She has performed with professional Israeli folk dance troupes, taught rikudim and created and taught her dances at Israeli folk dance camps.
Daughter Of The Arts caught up with this delightful choreographer, performer, dancer, and teacher, in the midst of her busy schedule, to bring you this exclusive interview.
DOTA: Are any other members of your family interested in dance or music?
CS: Most of my family has something to do with dance. I remember watching my parents dance the tango since I was a little girl. My brothers and my daughters also dance.
DOTA: What types of music do you remember when you were a child? Where was that?
CS: I was born in Argentina, but lived in Mexico since I was four. There, like in the States, we would listen to disco music, and danced like John Travolta.
DOTA: Did you dance before folk dancing? What type? What were the circumstances?
CS: I danced since I was very young, my training as a dancer started at the age of six. I trained in contemporary dance and ballet, graduating as a repertoire ballerina while at the same time I studied in high school. At the age of 17, I won a scholarship to continue my dance studies in Holland; but unfortunately I injured my knee and was unable to continue dancing ballet. I did not wish to quit dancing so I started learning other modes of dance such as jazz, tap and singing. Soon enough I found myself auditioning for musicals and acting with renowned actors. I worked constantly throughout the 80’s acting non-stop in television, shows and musical comedies such as “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
DOTA: When did you first dance in folk dance groups?
CS: My first experience was in Junior High during a performance for the Aviv Festival. I enjoyed it so much, that when I was old enough I became part of Anachnu Ve’atem, which was the only professional Israeli folk dance group that existed at the time. After a few years my brother created a group named Bamachol and I joined him, leaving after a while to start my career as a professional dancer.
DOTA: When and why did you first start choreographing folk dances?
CS: My first choreographies were created to compete in the Aviv Festival. Many years later I was offered a job at a Jewish school as a coordinator for all artistic events, as well as to teach rikudim. My students really enjoyed line dances so one day I created a dance with music that was popular at the time and they loved it.
For many years I traveled and went to dance camps in the USA, Argentina and other countries to learn new dances and bring them to Mexico. In 1995 I went to Hora Dikla, and I taught the “Macarena” just for fun, and that was the beginning. The year after, for the first time, I went to Hora Keff, which is known for attracting a lot of people from South America. After a few years, Moshe Eskayo gave me my first teaching opportunity, and for this I owe him my respect and my love, because he is the one that opened the doors of this wonderful world for me.
DOTA: What was your first dance? How did you choose the song?
CS: “Baila Baila” was the first dance I did; it was the same one that I taught my kids in school. The song is by Chayanne and at that time it was a super hit! I picked the song because I liked it; it had great rhythm and it was “in!”
Photo Credit: Copyright Alex Huber
DOTA: What inspires you to choose certain music and create a dance?
CS: The most important part is the rhythm. I have to like it. When I listen to something that catches my attention, I decide to create a dance for it. In fact, I don’t dedicate one hundred percent of my time to creating dances; it’s more about inspiration and timing. I can’t “factory-produce” dances; they have to be part of me and have a reason for existing.
DOTA: How does a song influence your choreography?
CS: Latin rhythms are in my blood. The music has to make me move and dance. Anything else is unimportant.
DOTA: Does the dance sometimes come first and then you find the music?
CS: It’s never happened to me. If it ever does, I’ll let you know.
DOTA: Your dance “Rikud Hashorty” (2005) is to a song of singer Hayisralim. How did you decide to make this dance?
CS: Last summer I was invited to teach at Machol Europa and the director asked me to create two dances with music in Hebrew. My 17 year-old-daughter Daniela helped me to look for music (on occasion she assists me in creating dances), and she found the song for me.
DOTA: Most of your dances are line dances. Why did you decide to make “Se Me Olivida Tu Nombre” (2003) a partner dance?
CS: I’d been waiting to do something different for a while and Hora Keff was getting closer. The lyrics for “Se me olvidó tu nombre” speak about a dead love affair in which the man doesn’t wish to remember the woman’s name or what he once felt for her. For this camp Alberto Zirlinger and I were going to be working together so we decided to join our talents and create a well-acted couples-line dance with this high-spirited song.
DOTA: What gives you the most pleasure about folk dancing?
CS: Anywhere in the world we can join hands and dance the same dance, and enjoy the pleasure of sharing something that I like with the people I love. It is the best source to meet and make friends and the best way to feel that I belong to Israel even though I am far away.
DOTA: What is the most difficult part of being a choreographer?
CS: The hardest part is being able to transmit those feelings of pleasure (as mentioned in the previous question) to those people I teach. I believe that I am usually quite successful at it.
Photo credit: Copyright Alex Huber
DOTA: Which of your dances was the most fun to create?
CS: Definitely “ASEREJE.” In the beginning I also had problems coordinating hand and feet but once you get the hang of it, it is amazing fun. “Velero” will always be one of my favorites.
DOTA: Do you have any interesting “stories” about creating some of your dances?
CS: Yes, “Orot adumim” was created via webcam with Karina Lambert. We both live far away from each other and the only way to create a dance together without meeting again was this one. In the beginning she would dance her part and I would watch it with constant pauses and could not understand it. In the end we decided to exchange information explaining the steps verbally (and written down via chat). It was a lot of fun and the results were great! Here in Mexico it is a big hit.
DOTA: Who has been an influence on you?
CS: One of the people that has kept on pushing me has been Alberto and all my friends that support my dance career and help me believe that I am good at what I do.
DOTA: Are you teaching in or leading a regular dance session now? Where? Type of group?
CS: I dance with two groups that get together a couple of times a week. I am part of a team of teachers in the Ulpan for madrichim le rikudei am. I don’t have my own groups but I help out other teachers. What I would like to do is reach my goal and create not only workshops in Mexico but also regular harkadot.
DOTA: What message would you give to dancers about enjoying the spirit of folk dancing?
CS: Give yourself to the pleasure of “the dance.” Forget all your troubles and enjoy the moment. Dance as if no one is watching and make believe the whole world is your own personal stage.
“I really want to thank my dear friend Sarita Carlson who kindly helped me with this translation.”Video links for Carina’s dances:“Se Me Olivida Tu Nombre”
Site links: Les Posen
CARINA SASLAVSKY WILL BE ONE OF THE GUEST CHOREOGRAPHERS AT:
Hora Keff 2006, August 22-27, at Camp Monroe, New York