Caroline Calouche, a Gastonia dance success story…

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by Nicole Rogers

“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits” ~Twyla Tharp

Caroline Calouche

Caroline Calouche found her passion for dance in her hometown of Gastonia, North Carolina. Growing up with brothers, Caroline enjoyed being barefoot, and spending a lot of time outdoors playing soccer and baseball. One day her father asked her if she wanted to try dance, something she could do apart from her brother’s activities. She thought she would try something new, so she said yes. So at the age of 8, she began lessons at Gaston Dance Theater. After a few lessons, her father asked her if she wanted to continue, and it was a resounding yes! She had discovered that dance was a substantial passion, and everything just clicked.

Through Pat Wall, founder of Gaston Dance Theater, Caroline was exposed to different styles of dance. The studio was ballet focused, but had a blending of contemporary, jazz, tap, and African dance. They were very knowledgeable and offered different dance experiences, but still to this day focus on teaching proper technique and the artistry of dance.

Gaston Dance Theater gives their dancers the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and share their passion for dance with audiences far beyond that of a recital. The studio is a non-competition studio that gave Caroline hands on experience with production work, from helping with lighting to laying down dance floors, and more. The studio is community and volunteer focused. As a non-profit they rely heavily on volunteers to help with costumes and to put on concert style dances. By learning not only dance, but the production side of things, helped Caroline create what she is doing today.

Gaston Dance Theater formed Caroline’s artistry by blending everything that she loved, athleticism, ballet, and tap. “I owe a lot to them” said Calouche, reflecting on her training at Gaston Dance Theater.

After she graduated, Calouche knew she wanted to keep dancing. She applied to many universities, and auditioned at Texas Christian University’s ballet program, but did not get accepted. However, she still went to Texas Christian and headed into a modern dance BFA track. “I did not take it as a no, but not right now” said Calouche.

Two years later, after much hard work, she got into the Ballet program , putting her on track to receive two degrees, one in Ballet, and one in Modern Dance. She took 21 hours of dance technique and academics every semester.  In addition to all of that, on the side she was creating a full length show. Along with 14 other students with the same work ethic and persistence work ethic, they worked on the show, many nights until midnight. This turned the head of her professors, who ended up presenting Calouche with an independent study in choreography to challenge her more.

“I didn’t know how impactful that was. It was the start  of it all…the spark of a career choice” said Calouche.

After college, she asked herself  ”now what?” She had two BFA degrees in Ballet and Modern Dance, but she wantedto perform, to dance and not just teach. There wasn’t a lot in the Fort Worth area dance wise, and she wasn’t a fan of going to New York City. She had worked a couple of different places and had saved a lot of money; so she decided to go to Europe and expand her knowledge of dance.

She discovered that the European art form was more artistic and experimental. She found that the United States was more focused on entertainment, as opposed to Europeans who are used to going to the theater and were more focused on arts education. She moved to Italy first, and took classes in Rome. Taking a break, she was a tour guide for Saint Peter’s Cathedral and a fountain tour guide at night. Many aspects of her work experience prepared her for what she does now. Calouche went on to Brussels and completed a postgraduate program in choreography at the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance.

After seven years in Europe, Calouche was homesick and returned to North Carolina. She noticed that Charlotte had drastically changed and had a stronger arts scene than when she left for college.  She realized that there weren’t a lot of dance companies that really spoke to her, so fueled by a quote form Twyla Tharp, “If you can’t find a playground to play in, build your own”, she was inspired to create Calouche and Co.

Calouche grew up in an environment where learning and appreciating people’s differences was of great value, and so she applies these same principles into her company’s mission and vision. “Caroline Calouche & Co./Charlotte Cirque & Dance Center is committed to fostering, cultivating and preserving a culture if diversity, equity, and inclusion” says the company’s website.

The Charlotte Cirque & Dance Center is a welcoming space for all ages and body sizes. The goal of the school is to continue to build the local community by creating opportunities  for people of different backgrounds to have shared experiences through movement and the arts.

The Company is going into their 10th year of “Clara’s Trip: A Cirque & Dance Nutcracker story”, which will begin on December 15th, 2022 at 7PM

Clara’s Trip photos by Peter Zay

For more information on upcoming performances or classes through Charlotte Cirque & Dance Center, go to: https://wwwcarolinecalouche.org or www.cltcirquedancectr.org

Nicole Rogers is a professional photographer and writer. She lives in Belmont NC.