This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Carlena Britch. Carlena’s dance journey began at age 10 after being introduced to hip hop through a school program. She started choreographing & dancing in local shows & programs throughout Vancouver, & took full focus with dance in high school. She choreographed & danced for 1st place winning competitive teams & ran hip hop programs before, during & after school. In 2005 Carlena auditioned for SOULdiers, a Vancouver professional hip hop company ran by Kim Sato; educating not only in the dance element of hip hop, but the history & culture behind it as well. For 3 years she trained with SOULdiers, performing in Vancouver, Seattle, & Portland in everything from locking & popping, to house, waacking & breaking. Carlena has also trained at Millenium, Edge & Debbie Reynolds dance studios in Los Angeles, The Connection Dance Center in Seattle, OIP Dance Centre in Toronto, Roc Da House in Montreal, & Harbour Dance Center in Vancouver.
Carlena is a 4 time scholarship recipient from Monsters of Hip Hop, & has battled in both hip hop & locking all over North America. Her most prized battle standing was in Las Vegas during Hip Hop Internationals 2010, where she made top 20 in the world, representing the Canadian West Coast. Carlena has danced & choreographed for professional crews such as the Vancity Lockers, Stonefoxx, & Diamonds in the Rough.
In 2010, Carlena traveled Europe choreographing, teaching & assisting choreographer Brian Puspos from ABDC’s Season 2: SoReal Cru. They taught at the Vibe Dance Centre in Oslo, Norway, Soulplex in Hannover, Germany, a Boogiezone workshop in Vienna, Austria, & classes in Slovenia & Switzerland.
Carlena’s professional career began in 2009 as a lead dancer in Disney’s Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam. Since then, she’s danced for artists such as Michael Buble in his “Just Haven’t Met You Yet” music video, Heatwave’s “Bad Girl” music video, & YTV Star Victoria Duffield’s “Shut Up & Dance” music video choreographed by Luther Brown. In 2010, Carlena choreographed & performed for Coca Cola during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Most recently, Carlena’s doors have opened even further as she starred as a lead actress & dancer in the upcoming feature Nickelodeon film, Rags.
Carlena’s worldwide training, hard work, & determination landed her a role in this season’s top 22 of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, where she was the final hip hop dancer remaining at top 14. She enjoys sharing her love & passion for hip hop with others & hopes to educate young dancers with knowledge as much as style. Currently residing in Toronto Carlena is on the path to a great career in Dance and Acting.
Bio Provided by Carlena
Find out what Carlena had to say in this weeks shout out….
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Carlena: The first time I started dancing was during a 2 week hip hop program at my elementary school. I was 9 years old, & I immediately fell in love with the music & movement. It took my focus away from a troubled childhood & placed it into an artistic outlet where I could channel my energy positively.
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Carlena: The first song I ever choreographed to was “Jumpin, Jumpin” by Destiny’s Child when I was 9. It was an all girl piece for the Burnaby Dance Festival. I still remember the choreography! *laughs*
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Carlena: Musicality is key. Allow your body to dance as if you are the song. Play with beats, sounds, lyrics, & most importantly the pauses & timing in the music. We are too quick to rush ourselves, especially when freestyling in a battle.
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Carlena: The right song. I listen to a song for at least 2 weeks before I even touch it with choreography.
A lot of my stuff directly relates to how I’m feeling at the time, which will automatically set the mood of a piece.
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Carlena: Definitely the originators of the funk styles. The Electric Boogaloos & The Original Lockers set the tone for dance many years ago, & are still considered some of the top dancers in the world. I’m also influenced by new & upcoming choreographers, such as Rie Hata & Ian Eastwood. And Shotyme will always be the number one influence in my heart.
Nikki: Being from BC what made you decide to live in Toronto?
Carlena: I’m sort of a gypsy! *laughs* I let my career guide me to where I need to be. Toronto is a city I fell in love with back in 2009 while filming Camp Rock 2, & I’ve always wanted to be apart of it. I’m excited to be here & I’m constantly surrounded by inspiring artists.
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Carlena: Luther Brown. He is inspiring, driven, creative, positive, & absolutely freakin’ hilarious! I was blessed to work with him on SYTYCDC & with Victoria Duffield on her latest music video, & both experiences are ones I’ll never forget. Luther just inspires you to love every moment of life!
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
Carlena: Keke Palmer. I play her best friend Tammy in the upcoming Nickelodeon film “Rags” & this 18 year old girl is the most intuitive & beautiful young woman I have ever met. She co-produced the film, & by the end of it we had shared so many life experiences & were able to take away an unforgettable friendship. She is by far the most talented young woman I know, & inspires me to be greater every day.
Nikki: What was it like being part of SYTYCDC Season 4?
Carlena: An absolute dream come true. The most incredible part I took away was my new family. Together, the 23 of us faced challenges some will never experience in life, & we overcame them through unconditional support & love. It is a chapter in my life that I will never forget.
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Carlena: Lots of choreography! I’ve got a few new pieces coming out on my Youtube channel over the next month. Also, I’ve been placing a lot of my focus on acting. We’ll see what comes out of it! I will be appearing on the Marylin Dennis Halloween episode as a disco dancer. (Airs next Monday) I will be teaching in Montreal for the 8 Count & New Style Studio. ( Info is on my Facebook/Twitter) I will be having my last Official OIP classes this Thursday at 630, 730 & 830pm. On Thursday November 3rd D.R.E.A.M Workshop at Rightfoot Dance Studio.
Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?
Carlena: Competitive drive. Toronto dancers balance their hunger to learn & their desire to succeed very well. I also believe that the city itself is on a higher level of professionalism, therefore they handle themselves very well in the dance working environment.
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Carlena: Remain humble. Recognize your greatness, & then take that recognition & store it away as fuel to push for an even greater you, every day.
THANK YOU CARLENA FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE AND PASSION WITH T.D.O.T. XO
CHECK OUT SOME FOOTAGE OF CARLENA ON SYTYCDC AS WELL AS HER RECENT WORKSHOP