Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Heartbeat of Home's Latin Dancers Curtis Angus & Clare Craze

Not long after Heartbeat of Home begins, it becomes clearly obvious that the Riverdance producers have gone to great lengths to bring audiences something bold and original. 

For the first time, sharing the stage with the beloved Irish Dance Troupe, are Latin, Flamenco and Afro-Cuban dancers who feed off each other’s energy to create a spectacle set to the band’s rhythmic beat. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and was dazzled by its precisioned dancing.

Latin dancers Curtis Angus and Clare Craze generate much heat together on the Mirvish Theatre stage and it was a pleasure to sit down with the duo to discuss the incredible show and their passion for dance.

TorontoVerve: While growing up in England, how did you two get involved in dance? 

Clare: My mom took me to ballet classes when I was 2 because her mom did that. When I was 5, I started tap and modern and I did that until I was 18. Later, I was accepted at Middlesex University where I received a degree in Dance and Performing Arts. My first job was with Disney and more recently, I did Burn the Floor, which is a Latin dance show. A few jobs later, I got Heartbeat of Home.  

Curtis: I didn’t start dancing or acting until I was 10. My mom entered me in the Sylvia Young Theatre School and I was there for 2 years. At 14, I was trained by Anna du Boissom, who is a ballet teacher at Danceworks. She taught me pretty much everything I know. She advised me to stick to ballet because it’s the strongest dance -- everything else, I would easily pick up and she was right. I went to a Millennium Dance College and I trained there until I was 18 and shortly after, I got a role in Hairspray and things went up from there.

TV: When you commit yourself to dance at such a young age, do you have time for a normal childhood -- like hanging out with other kids? 

Clare: No, I didn’t have a lot of friends in school (laughs). But that was because I was always quite creative and I found them all a bit stagnant and boring. I would always crave the times when I would go to dancing because all my friends were there.

Curtis: I did. I was always going out. I never liked being indoors. I had lots of little friends here and there -- like this kid named David. We always were up to no good. Eventually, I met my best mate Daniel when I was in South London training to be a dancer. I’ve known him now for too many years. My best childhood memories are with him. We did everything together and even to this day, we’re still in touch. I think having that normality as well as doing something, which I really really love keeps me balanced.

TV: What was the audition process like for Heartbeat of Home

Curtis: My agency initially tried to get me an audition, but was unsuccessful. I still pursued it because I was really interested in the dance styles. The show fit me perfectly as a dancer. I wanted the producers to see that I was versatile. I wasn’t just a musical-theatre dancer -- I could do other styles too. So I got the details from Clare and showed up at the audition anyways.

   [Heartbeat of Home - Jim Byrne Photography]

TV: Oh, so you knew each other before the show? 

Curtis: Yes, we did, but only as acquaintances. The audition process was very hard. [There were several callbacks]. At the last audition, I remember showing up and seeing Clare in her Latin gear and I was slightly shocked.

Clare: Because you were previously auditioning to be an Afro-Cuban dancer.

Curtis: Yes, I’ve never danced Latin before and Clare had to teach me the sequence, which I had to pick up quickly. But since getting the show, I trained heavily in Tango and Salsa and now I’m a Latin dancer.

Clare: He’s conveniently forgotten to tell you that I auditioned him because I already had the job (laughs).

Curtis: Yes, that’s very true (laughs).

Clare: I auditioned for the workshop and it was tough because the producers were only looking for 1 female Latin dancer, but I got it. The workshop lasted 3 1/2 weeks in Dublin in 2012 and I loved it so much that I didn’t commit to anything else. When the producers began auditioning for the actual show, I was involved in the auditioning and judging process. I even did all this embarrassing judge stuff on the website, where I filmed myself saying: "Hi! My name is Clare Craze and I’m a judge of Heartbeat of Home." The producers saw that Curtis and I had this chemistry during the Afro-Cuban audition and they wanted to see if we had the same connection with Latin. Obviously, we did because he got the job. And we were lucky enough to join the show when they were creating it because the producers would ask the dancers, "what can you do…how can we show your best skills?" If you can do some Samba, they'll throw in some Samba or if you can do some flips, they'll throw in some flips.  I don't know any other show that has done that.

TV: Which one of your dance numbers in the show are you the most excited about performing? 

Clare: Hmm, I think it changes every night. That’s why we’re lucky to do so many different numbers because if you are tired of one or frustrated with another, there’s always a third, fourth, fifth that you can do. There’s this really fast Salsa number that used to scare me, but I got my stamina up enough now so it doesn’t scare me as much. It’s just go, go, go from start to finish.

Curtis: There are so many good numbers. I would have to choose “Dream Dance”, which I perform with sisters Gianna and Natasia. As a dancer, for me -- funny enough -- it’s a dream to do it in the show. I’ve done a lot of things, but I’ve never had the opportunity to be so free and that’s why it's my favourite dance. Then it flips around in the second act where I’m doing tap and the Tango. The hardest dance for me is the Tango because it was never really my style, but I was very determined to look like I was a Tango dancer and I’m proud to say that I've accomplished that.

TV: And both of you do the Tango together. 

Curtis: Yes, we do.

Clare: I also love the finale when everyone is on stage together. You´ve got all the Irish, Flamenco, Afro-Cuban, and Latin dancers, as well as the singers and the band out there. We’re all just screaming for each other. Probably my favourite part is when we all come forward and do some Irish dancing in one long row.

TV: I remember that. I couldn’t decide on whom to look at. You were all brilliant. 

Clare: And we’re just so bad at the Irish dancing (laughs), but we’re just like come on let’s do this!

[Heartbeat of Home - Argentine Tango - Jim Byrne Photography]

TV: I'm going to put you two on the spot right now. You're dance partners for a great part of the show. How does it feel to dance with each other? 

Clare: I really like it. Curtis is really patient. We can talk and we connect really well. If something isn’t working, we can work on it without getting angry, which is a big thing. And then when it does work, it’s just fluid. It feels like you’re dancing on your own, but there are two of you. It’s amazing. I really love it. He’s the best partner I've had in ages.

Curtis: We have a connection. That’s the biggest thing. I haven’t had that in a dance partner before. For me, I’ve danced with a lot of people and I’ve never had such an instant connection with someone on stage. I don’t have to force anything. It just comes out naturally.

Clare: We both have a real passion for dancing, so neither one of us has to push the other one to come to rehearsals. We both want it as much as the other. It’s really good when that happens because you just keep going. And when one of us is tired, the other is saying: " on!"

Curtis: Yeah, we like to push each other. We like to change things in the show to make it more challenging and real.

TV: So when you’re not dancing with each other, do you need to take a break from each other or do you still hang out? 

Clare: I feel like we’ve been best friends since the process started. We get along really well.

Curtis: Yeah, we do hang out.

Clare: We both like watching movies.

Curtis: We saw The Wolf of Wallstreet the other day. It was funny. You'd think we’d want to be separate after the show, but then we end up hanging out anyway.

                                         [Heartbeat of Home - Jim Byrne Photography]

TV: After Toronto, you guys will be performing in Chicago, Detroit, Boston and then New York. You're living your dream. What advice do you have for any budding dancers who dream of being where you are? 

Clare: I have to say if you’re not sure, don’t do it. If part of you is saying, I might want to be this or I might want to be a dancer, then don’t do it because there are so many great dancers out there -- you won’t stand a chance. You have to be like: I can’t imagine not dancing. I don’t even think you have to be the best technical dancer. You just have to want it the most. I definitely wasn’t the best technical dancer. I just wouldn’t give up. Whenever I ask myself: "what would I do if I wasn’t dancing?" I would always cry. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep dancing.

Curtis: You´ve got to have patience. Gosh, it’s hard. It’s the hardest thing. No matter how talented or good you are, you can still get rejected. You can never think you’re the best at what you do. If you start thinking like that, then you need to just stop because there’s still so much to learn. It’s a hard commitment. Even when you finish college and you´ve got an agent, it doesn’t mean it gets easier. I’m still on my laptop looking for my next job. I can’t think it’s going to come easily to me because it doesn’t work that way.

TV: So what does that do to your personal lives or do you even have a personal life? 

Clare: I don’t have one right now.

Curtis: Yeah, we don’t. When you’re on tour, you're in a little bubble and it’s hard to come out, but you have to because you have friends and family back home. When you’re working at home it’s easier to have a personal life. I’d go meet Daniel for a game of snooker or spend time with my daughter.

Clare: I just have my family and literally a couple of friends. The rest is just dancing.

Heartbeat of Home is currently playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre until March 2nd.

No comments:

Post a Comment