2 minutes w/ Dancer Alexandra Carson
Alexandra Carson is living the dream travelling the world as a professional hip-hop dancer for American pop star Janet Jackson.
The 24-year-old from Canberra admits that she’s a lucky girl as her “fiction became a reality”. Her journey, and adversity she’s had to overcome to reach her dream makes her real and inspiring.
“I never really believed that I would be able to make it. I grew up in Canberra, which is far from a plethora of opportunity…. especially for dancers! I knew that the journey would be hard, and whether I got there or not I had to give it a solid shot,” she said.
“It took many years of training, travelling, networking, and re-locating just to even be in the right position to be asked to audition.”
Carson persisted to reach her dream, from fund-raising $11,000 for her U.S. visa, graduating from a 3-time world champion hip-hop group based in New Zealand (who have choreographed and performed in Justin Beiber’s latest video concepts… just by the way!) to rubbing shoulders with a “Jackson” everyday!
I caught up with Alexandra over the holiday period ahead of her leaving to the U.S. to prepare for Jackson’s upcoming “Unbreakable” world tour…
How did you get into dancing?
Since watching music videos with my sister and when dance movies became a thing, it was game over and I’ve been doing dance lessons since age 11!
There’s a little more freedom to the style. In ballet, jazz, tap etc there’s a certain technique applied to each move. Hip-hop however relies on the music and how you wish to interpret it. I love that about hip-hop.
You’re a professional dancer for Janet Jackson, how did this happen for you?
Well it definitely wasn’t an overnight accomplishment. I did quite a bit of traveling and re-locating before landing the job with Janet, mainly just to up-skill, train and network. Luckily it paid off! I first moved from Canberra to Sydney. In Sydney I tried to get to as many classes as I could whilst studying and working. A workshop I took in Sydney led me to meet “Royal Family” choreographer Parris Goebel. I had always followed her work; she suggested I come train in New Zealand. From there I auditioned for her group and ended up moving to Auckland, New Zealand. I trained there for about and year and a half before landing the gig for “Unbreakable”.
From there it took 2 trips to L.A. and 5 rounds of callbacks to finally land the job which was hands down one of the most nerve racking experiences of my life. It was my first Audition in America for one of the biggest pop artists in the world. I think that would be nerve racking enough for anyone. Not to mention having to dance in front of a Jackson. There are many moments in my dance career I’ve felt like giving up, but this was not one of them. I felt more inspired and driven than ever. I was not about to let this opportunity slip by.
What is “the Royal family”?
The Royal Family is an absolutely phenomenal hip-hop dance crew from New Zealand. They are three time world champions of Hip-hop International (dance equivalent to the Olympics). They are the best of the best when it comes to Hip-hop dancers and this year was particularly successful for them being heavily involved with the creation of Justin Biebers latest video concepts for “Purpose the movement”.
Parris (the leader of RF) choreographed all of the clips for the (Justin Bieber) movement, allowing the New Zealand dance community to be highlighted on a world stage. All the girls in the infamous “Sorry” film clip are in fact from New Zealand. As are the amazing kids in the clip create for “Children”, also apart of “Purpose the Movement”.
I could literally go on for days about how amazing these dancers are…. You should definitely look up their videos!
I had the honor of being apart of the crew for 2 years! I was living in Sydney at the time of the audition, and as soon as I found out I got into the group I left my job, packed my belongings and moved to Auckland.
How did the Royal family shape your career?
RF instilled me with a very hard work ethic, a strong drive and a hunger to create and achieve great things. When you are surrounded by such talent you have no choice but to step up or fade into the background. The groups reputation alone granted us with so many opportunities that all dancers dream of. We created multiple viral videos on youtube, featured in New Zealand’s first dance movie “Born To Dance”, were supporting act for Ciaras New Zealand tour, we travelled throughout Australia and Europe teaching and performing shows, won multiple championships worldwide and it led me to working with Janet.
What’s it like being a dancer for Janet Jackson?
It’s still quite overwhelming. It’s challenging, tiring, surreal and overall a phenomenal experience. To me she is truly the ultimate person to work for. She embodies everything I wish to be as a female.
As a female she embodies power, class, sexiness and love. Her music is a testament to all of this, and now spending time and working for her I can honestly say she is one of my biggest inspirations in my life. Her kindness and generosity beyond anything I’ve ever experienced and it’s truly an honor to be apart of her legacy. She goes out of her way to show her love for her team, treating us with gifts, dinners, parties and outings regularly just to show her appreciation. Her qualities are unheard of in artists these days.
What challenges/adversity have you faced to get to where you are now?
I think just as anyone with big dreams will understand that the road to success is far from easy. Location, motivation, resources and funds were all huge challenges for me.
Coming from Canberra I had to research where would be the best place for me to learn the things I needed to succeed in dance. I then had to find a way to make the money to get to these places. I worked multiple jobs, and travelled the world solo at the age of 18 just to experience different forms of dance and build on my skill. Dancing on its own is already quite a daunting feat let alone dancing in a room full of strangers on the other side of the world. However these were all things that developed me to be the dancer I am today.
I encountered many finances issues with the biggest hurdle being my work visa for the U.S. when I first had to start working for Janet. My visa plus lawyer fees were set to cost me over $11,000 and was required in just a couple of weeks if I were to start the job on time. I felt like there was no way I would ever be able to get over to the U.S. I was already in debt just getting over to L.A. for the audition. But there was no way I was giving up. Two of my close friends suggested starting a fundraising page to raise the funds for my visa. At this point I was desperate and was willing to try anything! Honestly I never thought that people would be so generous towards making another persons dream come true. I had only ever heard of these pages being successful for elite athletes or people with illness however, I was still hopeful. I was completely overwhelmed to the response of page and was able to raise all funds for my visa. CRAZINESS!
What’s been your most defining moment, the standout moment which stands out as being the determining factor in shaping your career?
Definitely the moment at the audition when we were told we were going on tour. It was an emotional moment for me, I had finally achieved something I had dreamt of and worked for my entire life. All of a sudden my fantasy had become reality, and it was truly the most AMAZING feeling I have ever felt in my life.
Do you have a favorite dance/song that you perform for Janet? Which is it and why?
My favorite song on the tour would have to be “Together Again”. It’s a really feel good tune that holds so much meaning to myself and of course to everyone in the audience. I can really feel the love from the crowd when she performs this song. They light up the entire arena at this point and you just see thousands of people jumping and smiling yelling the lyrics as loud as they possibly can. It definitely motivates me to push through the final art of the show.
What does your annual schedule look like?
Busy to say the least! Once tour starts back up we will be traveling for the next 6 months with multiple different shows, around 95 different cities, 17 countries and 2 continents.
What kind of training do you need to do to be “performance ready”? And what does this involve?
To prepare for this particular show, rehearsals went for about 2 months, gradually introducing different elements (staging, lighting, pyro etc). That all really adds the overall performance. Fitness and health was definitely something we all had to work on as well. Typically I would wake around 9 am, spend half and hour running, spend time reviewing notes and choreography, rehearse from 12-8, return to the gym for around an hour or so for extra stamina training and again review any new choreography or notes from that day. This was 5-6 days a week. Pretty full on!
What inspires you?
Passion inspires me, seeing people do what they love, to me is inspiring and goes to show that we are capable of anything!
Music, fashion, and those motivating quotes I catch on my daily instagram scrolls heavily inspire me.
Who inspires you? Who are (or have been) your role models?
My mum, my sister, and my Jtribe sisters are all major inspirations and role models to me.
All the dancers on the “Unbreakable” tour are strong, amazing, inspiring woman. We are all very different, but fortunately get along like a house on fire. Their energy, drive and positivity get me through most days. They’re passionate and have worked hard to achieve a dream which to me is inspiring.
Your biggest achievement?
Dancing for Janet of course!
What advice would you give to an aspiring professional dancer?
Just keep working hard, even if there is no opportunity in sight, keep working hard towards something. That way when your opportunity does show itself you will have the skill and confidence to grab it with both hands and own it. Take risks and learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable or foreign situations.
And if you weren’t a pro dancer?
I was studying fashion business, it’s my fall back plan!
Finally, what’s The Upside to being Alexandra Carson?
The Upside to being Alexandra Carson would have to be, after all the madness of tour I will always come home my amazing supportive family. They’re a weird bunch, but they’re the bomb!
------ As posted on TheUpsideSport. Story by me #SarahLeach