Judd Batchelor
  • USA
  • UK
  • Antigua &
    Barbuda
  • CANADA
  • Caribbean
Carol Straker- Dance Pioneer of Hackney

International Dance Council CID-UNESCO, FRSA, APTD

Hi Carol thank you so much for sitting down with BAT, our friendship goes back a long time. I have fond memories of your father the late Ralph Straker OBE (Order of the British Empire) born in Barbados. My friend and I were at a festival with her father Sam Springer (The first black Mayor of Hackney, London) many many moons ago, and your father was doing his usual community service and serving ‘Shave Ice’ and although he had to limit the amount he gave each person of the sweet strawberry syrup, he was happy to keep topping up myself and my friend’s cup at no extra cost- he was so nice and I think that sums up his life’s work as a public servant to all. You seemed to have inherited that passion to make a difference, albeit through your teachings in all things dance and movement.

Judd:  So Carol did dance chose you, or did you chose dance?

CS: I always thought I chose Dance but a few years ago I found out in old English that Carol means Dance. So, read of it what you may? I was made to dance and dance made to be danced.

Judd: You have trained and performed in different parts of the world, tell us where and what did you take from each experience?

CS: I began training at a once a week ballet school with Mrs Powell, then I went to Legat School of Russian Ballet and the Urdang Academy of Ballet and Performing Arts College. While a student at the Academy, I was invited to appear with the MAAS Movers Dance Company. I was granted leave of absence during the final year to perform with the Company on their tour of Britain and Switzerland.

On my return, I finished my studies at the Academy before going to the USA, New York to further my dance education with Dance Theatre of Harlem & Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance Inc.

I went on to join some of the most renowned Dance Companies in the world. I have performed extensively as an International Artist with leading companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Martha Graham Ensemble, Michael Clark & Co to acknowledge a few. 

I have assisted, worked and studied with a number of leading choreographers such as Miguel Godreau, Keith Young, Louis Johnson, Talley Beatty, John Jones, Yuriko, Diana Grey, Tanaquil Le Clereq, Rosanne Elmer, Thomas Sinibaldi, Karl Shook, Roumel Reaux, Pearl Lang, Deidrie Lovell, Thea Barnes, Marla Bingham, Masazumi Chaya, Marilyn Banks, Fred Benjamin, Leslie Bryant, Andre Largen, Richard Glasstone and many more brilliant diamond dance people.

I appeared in books, films, music videos plus the 25th Anniversary edition of the world famous Pirelli Calendar and their book.

Judd: Since your days of performing, you have grown into a business woman running your own Carol Straker Foundation (CSDF) since 1987, you have changed over 500+ young lives. How do you feel about your achievements?

CS:  When I established the Carol Straker Dance Foundation (CSDF) “Dance designed to inspire” as a positive alternative to develop opportunities for children, young people and adults to dance. I wanted it to be, for the understanding or awaking, of what it is like or to be good, great, brilliant and a diva. For me it’s like using my Ancient voice of dance to reach out. I just love dance! And I want it to inspire all people. I try to make the foundation feel as if, it belongs to everyone. Everyone has put something in and hopefully got something out of it. Even if, it was having a great place to meet up each week to do class, a dance exam, watch the company or performing in a show themselves.

Judd: Training so many people to dance, how does a person know when they’ve got the dance bug, can anyone be a dancer?

CS: They say “It takes ten years to make a dancer” but I feel you have to add another one or two more if you don’t have the right support around you.

Your body is like the instrument that has to express the sound, voice or music that goes through it. The dance steps are the words. So if you learn more styles, you can expand and have more vocabulary. The calmness is to deliver the vision with peace. Always, giving into the talent, discipline and gift you have will allow your body breathe and your spirit to fly.

Judd: Being the Artistic Director and senior dance tutor and the Grande Dame of dance (because you started so young) What are some of the challenges?

CS: One of my main challenges now is honouring and listening to my bodies needs as I know it so well. I know I have to help keep it stay fit, exercised, toned, rested and balanced mind spirit and soul.    

Judd: I have seen that you also receive donations that help towards children in other countries, how important is giving back?

CS: It’s mostly all about giving, you give to the movement and it gives you the gifts to move the earth. I always say “To whom much is given, much is required” and with that I try to share. The Foni Berefet Village project is one of the current agenda’s then I really want to focus on the Congo.

Judd: Who's your favourite dancer or dance company?

CS: Alvin Alley American Dance Theatre is one of the companies I believe everyone should see, at less once in their life. It's a Must.

Judd: You are based in London, a multi-cultural hot bed for talent. Is there enough being done by our media and government to match theatre and film for black Caribbean/African dancers? What would you do?

CS: Yes, we sit in a hot bed of talent, sometimes among them who do not wish to see, but we also now have the world at our finger tips out side of the control of the gatekeepers. So we should find other door ways to leave the room.

Judd: Finally, please give some tips to anyone wanting to train and become a dancer- what’s first?  

CS: First get good training but even if its bad training still be willing learn and then unlearn bad habits quickly because we learn from mistakes. Know what you want and go for it. You have to start the journey sometimes to know where you’re going. Everything happens for a reason.

May the Dance be with you. JB

 

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