Carlynn Reed is a seasoned cabaret dancer, and yes, you read it right, she is 75-years-old. A friend of the famous World of Dance duo Luka and Jenalyn, the Canadian native has worked closely with them to produce her recent video. Cabaret is one of the most difficult and dangerous styles out there because of the lifts and tricks involved, and as the oldest cabaret dancer in the scene- working with the youngest professional team- she constantly strives to be the best dancer she can. World of Dance recently got the chance to speak with Carlynn about her experiences and upcoming performances.
WOD: When did you start dancing?
Carlynn: I will be 75 in a few weeks. Unlike Jenalyn, who started very young, I didn’t have much dance experience growing up. I come from a military family who moved around a lot, so there wasn’t much stability. I took tap class at the age of 11, and got out on my own in my 20’s. I explored ballet and modern, and found that modern was the most meaningful to me. Twenty years ago, I was introduced to contact improv, doing lifts and swing dance, and I came across a professional cabaret couple in rehearsal. When I was almost 68, I had the desire to learn it. Cabaret dancing can be more gymnastics or acro oriented, so I went to a gymnastics trainer to learn handstands and cartwheels to elevate my skill level. Now, I train at home every day on my own, and I take tap and ballet lessons two to three times a week to work on my instrument. If I am faithful with training and practicing to improve my skills, I become more flexible and my body accommodates a greater range. I am more flexible now in my 70’s than I was in my 20’s!
WOD: What is cabaret dancing?
Carlynn: It’s a term used under the umbrella of ballroom dance, and it’s basically defined as dancing with at least five lifts in a dance. Luka and Jenalyn have their own twist on it that I really like. I have done theater and dramatic dance in the past, and I came into this not afraid, but needing expertise. I like that you can get a lot of energy and a story out of it, and how there is a real relationship between the characters.
WOD: How do you know Luka and Jenalyn?
Carlynn: I met Luka and Jenalyn just before they became dance partners. I began doing choreography with a 70-year-old man named Harold, and I wanted to introduce him to Luka and Jenalyn so he could be introduced to lifts, and that was when I really saw them as teachers.
WOD: How is it working with Luka and Jenalyn with such a large age gap between you?
Carlynn: The years between us melt away and dancing with Luka, who is 22, is the most natural thing. He and Jenalyn are wise and mature, which is unusual for two people so young. Because of my age, I have to find people to dance with that are younger than me considerably, and Luka is the youngest guy I have danced with by a number of years. I don’t think about it though, just that he is strong and I can trust him. Jenalyn coached me when she was only 18, and she was beyond her years. They both respected me and didn’t patronize me.
WOD: How did you come up with the idea for this video?
Carlynn: Luka and Jenalyn liked the song, “A Million Dreams”, and I had done training with them and wanted to do something to perform with them. Because they worked with such maturity and I needed to have dance in my life, I approached them and thought maybe we could all dance together. That’s when they proposed the video, and after working for four or more hours a day, in less than three weeks it was produced. Luka is also interested in film and how angles affect a dance. He suggested the video, and we just went for it. This theme worked well for me because people often lose their dreams as they get older or stop dreaming altogether. I got great feedback and people still can’t believe I am 75.
WOD: What are some of the coolest experiences you’ve had through dance?
Carlynn: I have done sacred dance and liturgical dance through my church for a number of years, and I have also participated in a theatre festival, including dance and theatre segments. I have performed in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and London and I have competed in 22 competitions working with my dance partner Carlos, and we won all except two, where we took second!
WOD: What are some of your goals moving forward?
Carlynn: Working with Herald (my 70-year-old dance partner), I want to do multiple performances because this definitely doesn’t feel like the end for me. I want to perform at parties and work in theatre writing for kids groups like I have done in the past.
WOD: What advice can you give to other dancers?
Carlynn: I want to let others know that age is not a limiting factor and you can approach your dream no matter what it is and find people to help guide you. Inching forward one inch at a time is okay – the hunger for it is the important part. Older people may not think they can do it but they can inch forward. My work is surprisingly the most encouraging to middle-aged people in their thirties and forties that think they’re coming to the end. When they see me they think it’s maybe not the end because they see I keep getting better and not deteriorating because the body wants to do more as we get older. I think the learning curve is as high as ever, and I am just trying to be the best dancer I can.
Choreography: Luka and Jenalyn (Instagram: @Luka.Jenalyn, Twitter: @LukaJenalyn)