THIS IS CHRISTINE.
THIS MULTI-DISCIPLINARY DANCER AND CHOREOGRAPHER SHARES HER JOURNEY MOVING TO PURSUE DANCE, THE OBSTACLES SHE ANTICIPATED AND ONES SHE NEVER THOUGHT SHE’D EXPERIENCE.
Christine, you’ve been a professional dancer and performer for over two decades, but for our readers who haven’t met you before, would you mind introducing yourself?
My name is Christine Flores and I’m a 27 year old freelance performer based in New York City. I’m currently working with Pam Tanowitz Dance, Company XIV, Danielle Russo Performance Project, Caleb Teicher & Company and Crossman Dans(c)e. I started my training at Sean Boutilier Academy of Dance, Etobicoke and graduated from New World School of the Arts (Miami, FL) in 2015 with a BFA in Dance. I’m also a huge foodie and like to embroider.
You’ve been dancing most of your life, starting at age 7. How did you know this was the career you wanted to pursue? How has your relationship with dance changed overtime?
I wasn’t sure this was the career I wanted to pursue until I was almost finished high school. At the time I debated between becoming an engineer like my parents or continuing dance and I simply realized I never wanted to go a day without dancing. Back then I thought the only option I had was being a back up dancer for an artist or teaching at a studio. So I’m thankful my mom pushed me to go to a university for a degree in dance. I would have never learned about modern dance and the hundreds of different paths you can take. About dance companies that perform on proscenium stages and about having a career as a freelance performer. During college I only focused on pursuing ‘concert’ dance styles and looked for jobs in contemporary or modern dance companies. However upon moving to New York I was reintroduced into the styles I grew up doing, such as hip hop, jazz, and tap. I wanted to pursue both a ‘concert’ dance and a ‘commercial’ dance career but honestly kept open to any performance opportunity. It is a constant fight trying to keep up with both industries because if I focus on one I feel I’m falling behind in the other and vice versa. Aside from establishing myself as a successful performer, I’ve been realizing my affect on different communities/ that I want to affect communities. Dance can feel like a selfish endeavour and I’m trying to now focus on the larger impact. How can I give back to my home town instead of being another one of those dancers that leaves and never comes back? How can I bring awareness about Asian representation in the dance industry? I’m trying to choreograph and create more work that affects my community.
You’re currently based in New York, but you’re from Toronto. Moving from one city to another can be a bit of a culture shock - even more so when it’s from one country to another! What was your experience moving from one city to another?
Well it was an absolute culture shock moving from Toronto to Miami for college. Not only was it different living in the states but Miami has such a rich hispanic influence and it truly helped me break out of my shell. I was surrounded by bold charismatic people and it forced me to fight to stand out. I’m grateful for my time spent in Miami but I didn’t see enough opportunity in the concert dance scene that I needed at that time. So I then moved to New York and it was another huge shift. The city notorious for crushing people’s dream is extremely fast paced, especially compared to Miami, and relentless. The hustle never ends and the fight to stand out as a dancer is even more intense. It can get overwhelming but I’m lucky my experience in New York has continues to be a positive one. I don’t know if that has to do with my outlook on life but I’ll take it. I also lived in Mexico City for about half a year which I want to believe was a good experience because I learned to be more independent and believe in my own worth. However it was definitely hard because I don’t speak Spanish so I didn’t feel as free to explore on my own and I hate feeling restricted.
Growing up my sister would say I’m too sensitive (I blame being a Pisces), but moving around has taught be to be tougher and more independent. Overall living in different cities has also given me a better perspective about different cultures and now I am more empathetic to other points of view. I didn’t really understand racism until I moved to the states. I was taught to celebrate different races but it was such an obvious issue when I moved. Unfortunately that would be the biggest observation I’ve experience since living in the US.
What do you miss most about being home? If you could bring something, or someone from home to New York what would that be?
Without a doubt I miss my family the most. I would give anything to bring my sister and her fiancé to New York. They’ve always been supportive and have helped me through lows in my career. I’m grateful that New York isn’t that far from Toronto but having them in the same city as me would make a world of a difference. Joining a new community of dancers can be intimidating and as a woman of color in this community you stand out amongst other dancers.
How would you describe your experience as a racialized dancer?
I never thought my race would have such an impact on my dance career but it has become one of my main focuses moving forward. In high school I was accustomed to not having a lot of Asians in my class but Toronto has such a high Asian population in general I never really thought anything of it. When auditioning for commercials and movies, I did find it odd that my agent said I might have a tougher time because I looked mixed and not full Chinese. These changes in perspective grew in college because I moved to the states. I was one of three asians in my class, the other two being from Taiwan. I had the nickname “China” and at that time I saw this as a positive because I stood out amongst everyone and knew that my classmates weren’t trying to be offensive. I felt empowered being different and didn’t see how this could ever affect my abilities as a dancer. Once I moved to New York and started to apply for my artist visa, I’ll never forget my lawyer telling me I had to try extra hard since I had everything working against me. She said that since I was Canadian and Asian, I am naturally more apologetic and I like to belittle how talented I am. I was confused, I didn’t think this was the case. I realized I do like being modest but I didn’t think that attributed to my race. Trying to get an agent in New York and audition for commercial work I thought back to high school days, do I look too mixed? Should I style my hair to look more Asian?
What really shocked me was recently being the lead in Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge. Numerous audience members, most young Asian women, would come up to me after the show and explain how they thought they would never see an Asian Clara. They were extremely proud and happy to see an Asian woman in a traditionally white role. I’ve since found my role as a racialized dancer confusing. Of course I want there to be more diversity and representation in the dance world, but it’s frustrating when dancers are hired for tokenism or for the company to appear more diverse. In an ideal world, you are seen as talented and then you happen to be a different race. Luckily the ‘concert’ or contemporary dance scene feels more genuine, so I don’t feel I’ve gotten the job based on my race. The commercial industry is all about type casting but there has been a lot more opportunity for all races as society becomes more aware.
What was one of the biggest challenges you faced as a dancer? How did you overcome it?
Injuries are the biggest challenges because they hurt physically and mentally. I tore my FHL (flexor hallucis longus) in my senior year of college and was out for six weeks which felt like a life time. Since I actually didn’t feel any pain in my foot, I waited until after graduation to get the surgery. It felt like it was happening at the worst time, right before I moved to New York and when I should have been at my peak looking for jobs. It took a lot of patience and physical therapy to recover. Grateful for my long time friend Dinah at Pivot for helping me get back to optimal physical strength and my mom for helping me stay positive.
Your styles of dance and performance vary greatly, which is fascinating and extremely inspiring. What style(s) of dance do you feel the most confident in?
Contemporary for a few reasons. I love that it’s an umbrella style of dance, it can incorporate my ballet, modern, hip hop, and jazz training. When learning contemporary choreography I feel I can be most myself and express my true artistry instead of trying to imitate someone else’s style. I find it easier to make my own choices in the movement because I’ve been studying/doing it for so long and I feel it doesn’t have to look a specific way like a codified technique. However, I think I feel the most confident in any dance style that has shape and lines. I wouldn’t categorize myself as a ‘flow-y’ liquid like dancer, even though I try to work on these styles more often. Precision and quick dynamics are my jam.
If you had access to infinite resources, what would be your dream project?
I would love to create an all Asian contemporary dance company. We would perform each others work, collaborate and tour internationally. It’d be thrilling if the collaborators for music, design, costume and lighting would also be Asian. Simply giving a bigger voice to a community that often gets over looked.
At this point in your life, what would you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Choreographing and dancing in Hozier’s Almost Sweet Music video is definitely at the top of my list. It was my first time choreographing for a music video and I got to work with the most amazing team. I think me and Cameron Boyce created something really special and it meant a lot getting to work with him before he passed.
When do you feel most empowered?
I feel most empowered when I’m performing or on stage because I am in control of whatever happens.
Also when I’m baking and get to share the deliciousness with friends.
Which of your physical attributes do you love the most?
My hands and my lips.
Photography by Mary Chen.