Student spotlight: Carina Conti ’16
Carina Conti ’16 took her first dance lessons at age three at the suggestion of her mother, a former professional dancer. Conti said that she began with ballet, and her first distinct memory of dance involves a frog suit and a recital.
“It was a onesie,” Conti said. “I was adorable.”
Conti danced all throughout her childhood and high school years, the way other kids joined recreational sports teams and specialized in a particular sport as they aged.
“It’s my creative outlet, and I’m emotionally attached to it and that’s like I think all of it — everything I need is embodied in dance, so like physical expression and emotional expression, too,” Conti said.
Conti’s passion for dance extends to all forms of performing arts, including acting. Conti participated in a student-directed production of “Cabaret” her freshman year and has acted within the film department, including the role of Penny in a recreation of an episode of “The Big Bang Theory” (2007).
While Conti said that she has a desire to participate more in acting, her dedication to Sheba, the dance group which she co-directs, has required her full attention and commitment.
When Conti attended Dimensions of Dartmouth her senior year of high school, she was drawn to the student performance groups.
“My favorite movies — like ‘Chicago’ (2002) for example — are musicals, and I think that also is related to the fact that I love theater as much as I love dance and to me acting and dancing have always been connected in physical expression,” she said. “And singing is in there too. I absolutely love ‘Chicago’ and the way dancing is incorporated to tell stories.”
Conti said she decided to join Sheba due to the opportunities it gave her to grow as a dancer.
“I loved Sugarplum, and I also loved Sheba and I didn’t make my full, final decision until auditions,” Conti said. “I decided that because I had done contemporary and ballet and jazz my whole life, I wanted to try something that I knew I was not very good at. I wanted to start over and take on the challenge of assuming a new persona essentially.”
Conti admitted that adapting to the hip-hop style for which Sheba is known did not come naturally to her.
“I still make fun of myself all the time because I don’t really have natural swagger, and that’s something I kind of have to study and observe a lot and practice,” Conti said. “That’s still something I’m working on, but it’s almost like an acting exercise because it’s a whole different persona.”
Sheba practices seven hours a week, not including fundraisers, tech time or performances. The group typically does about three shows in Greek houses and one staged showcase in any given term, as well as intermittent charity performances. Conti said that her group members influence her “enormously.”
“I think something that is true for probably all dancers is that you notice people’s bodies very specifically, and I think that comes from ballet… because you pay attention to feet and legs and the way that bodies are shaped and the way that they move,” Conti said. “Because of that it’s very clear to me that everybody on the team has a very unique style.”
Conti described the diversity of people, styles and movements that all characterize hip-hop dance as part of what drew her to the genre.
“Anyone can fall in love with hip-hop,” Conti said. “It’s an indulgence.”
Conti said that she has stayed involved in Sheba for three years because of its family-like atmosphere.
“I’m not affiliated but to me Sheba is my sorority and my fraternity and my extracurricular team all rolled into one, and it’s wonderful because they’re the people that help my grow in dance but they’re also the people that I go out and love to dance with on the weekends… and the people I love to talk to,” Conti said.
Lauren Fox ’17, a member of Sheba, said that Conti is a strong director because of her “phenomenal” dancing skills and positive attitude.
“She definitely brings light to the room,” Fox said. “Even if you come in to rehearsal and maybe feel down or don’t want to be there or just had a long day, she always finds a way to brighten up the mood and bring everyone together.”
Sheba member Desmond Fambrini ’16 also emphasized Conti’s positivity and previous training as key things she brings to Sheba.
“She basically brings just the most positive demeanor and overall enhances the environment more than I’ve seen anyone do anywhere,” he said. “It’s like a breath of fresh air...when she walks in the door.”
While Conti said that the commitment that Sheba requires can put strain on group relationships, the personal growth achieved within the group ultimately makes all the sacrifices worth it for her.
“The greatest joy that I’ve had this term has been Sheba,” Conti said. “The reason for that is the unity I have found and the way the relationships have just become really healthy and really wonderful. People… have come back and I think that’s a testament to the fact that the atmosphere is becoming really healthy and very encouraging and that matters so much to me.”
As a co-director, Conti said that she has had a personal goal for this spring term.
“We’re trying to organize a spring arts showcase on the Green,” Conti said. “This is one of the first years we’re not doing a traditional spring show.”
This idea involves collaboration with members of Street Soul and Sugarplum as well as graduate students and would require significant fundraising.
It would ideally be Sheba’s last performance of the term, Conti said.
Despite the amount of time she has committed to dance, Conti said that she does not feel “called” to open a studio or teach dance after college.
“I love to dance and I haven’t had the heart to imagine my life without dance,” Conti said. “But I don’t think that I will ever have the chance to be as involved as I am now, and I think that’s also what has kept me so attached to Sheba during my college experience.”
Conti said that while opening a studio is out of the picture for her, she does envision herself working within the performing arts after college.
“I would love to go into the performing arts, so whether that’s from an administrative standpoint [or] if I’m lucky enough to be a performer than that’s what I want to do,” she said. “The performing arts are always going to be a part of my life, and whatever role that is that’s the place that I will fill. But I can only be lucky enough to be able to dance after college.”
The Last Word with Carina Conti ’16:
Currently choreographing: Bottlez by T-pain
Dream stage: Broadway
Dance class with any teacher in the world: Luam at the Broadway Dance Center