Karen and I went to high school together at LaGuardia High School. She was already a star then. She was the poster girl. The girl always in front, always spot on. The teachers LOVED her. She was a modern diva… correction, THE modern diva. I smile when I think about watching Karen go across the floor in Graham class. The facial expressions…gotta love her. We made fun of her sometimes and I think she took a lot of dirty looks from the other girls but if I am honest, she inspired me a lot. Watching her move was always a pleasure. And you could not miss her, she has a big presence.She graduated in the top of her class. I am sure no one got a higher grade in dance that year.
When I saw her again, years after graduation, she was performing ballroom instead. And she was fantastic of course. We lost touch for a few years, but a few months a go, I was pleasantly surprised to see her in a dance TV show. A friend of mine saw the same clip and wrote me, completely blown away he said “Can you believe Karen is dancing like THAT on TV?” I replied simply: Yes.
Karen Clifton (formerly Hauer; born 20 April 1982) is a Venezuelan professional Latin dance specialist and World Mambo Champion known for her appearances on the British TV series Strictly Come Dancing and the American TV series So You Think You Can Dance. She has also featured on Burn the Floor. She participated in season 6 of So You Think You Can Dance and subsequently joined Strictly Come Dancing as a professional dancer.
Thank you Karen for taking the time to inspire! So nice to talk with you again.
When you were little what did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember always wanting to be an archaeologist but I also painted and loved doing karate .
Were you good at everything, I bet you were?
I wasn’t always good at everything but I was a bit of a tomboy so I always kicked butt specially if it meant running around kicking a ball.
What‘s your favorite thing to eat?
I love eating Nutella. I actually have two bottles with my name on it. I also I love a good old steak with some sweet potato fries.
I just recently read « Bossypants » by Tina Fey and also one of my favorites « One Hundred Years of Solitude » by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez .
My all time favourite movie is « Seven Brothers for Seven Wives » or « Pretty Woman » or « Dirty Dancing ». Love the all!
Favorite dance piece?
One of my favourite dance pieces is Matthew Bourne’s « The Car-Man » and it’s absolutely brilliant, one of the best things I’ve ever watched because of its rawness and brilliant choreography .
I like dancers who …
I like Dancers who have character, presence and are fearless on stage.
I am afraid of…
I don’t like sleeping alone in the dark.
A dance piece should…
A dance piece should inspire you so much that It will make you want to get back into a studio and create.
Can you tell me the biggest difference between being a concert dancer and being now more on the commercial side?
When you’re on stage you are in the moment with an audience right there and then . You feel alive. When you’re on television, you’re dancing to a camera but then you can’t see that 10 million people who are watching you but at the same time you still get a thrill from it. You almost hide behind the camera a bit and on stage you can’t hide.
Something you like to do that’s not dance?
I love to take naps and I love to cook. Cooking have become very therapeutic for me.
One of the happiest moments in your life?
One of the happiest moments in my life was my wedding on July11th 2015. I married my best friend and amazing dance partner Kevin Clifton.
One of your most unusual or coolest experiences?
One of my coolest experiences was dancing in Japan because it was seriously like being in a rock concert. The Japanese fans made us all feel like rock stars!!
One of your most embarrassing moments?
Funny enough I don‘t have any embarrassing moments. I’m quite boring!
How about in your non-professional life?
In real life I’m always either tripping over my own two feet or I Lock myself out of the house. I’m a mess!
Who’s been one of the most influential people in your career?
My husband Kevin inspires me everyday. I’ve grown up so much with him by my side as a person and as an artist . He’s so charismatic when he dances, and has a lot of power behind everything he does. He has taught me how to be myself… even though I am quite silly at times, I have accepted myself for who I am because of him.
What’s one of the hardest things about what you do?
One of the hardest things is Being judged by people that don‘t know you. It is hard being in a public eye sometimes but there are a lot of amazing fans and people that are always to support you and that’s what make it all better . You always want to inspire and be a good role model.
What‘s something you would change in the dance world?
From Ballet to Hip-Hop to Ballroom dancing, sometimes people can be very snobby about other styles. They should remember that we are all using the same language of “Movement” to express ourselves. It doesn‘t matter what style it is…
What would you change in the real world?
The most important thing is being at peace with one another regardless of your race, your sexuality, or religion.
Do you have any goals that you still wish to achieve?
Kevin and I would love to have our own dance company at some point and one of the most important thing is that we would like to do is have some kind of program for kids. I started out in a dance program in a public school called « Arts Connection » and it completely changed my life and I’d love to give back to communities with kids who are struggling or have no way of doing anything because their parents cant afford it or they have just difficult backgrounds. I‘d love to give back to the community in someway specially through dance.
A question you want to know the answer to?
What came first the chicken or the egg?
Do you have a piece of advice for people who want to do what you’re doing?
One piece of advice is to work hard now, tomorrow and forever. Follow your instincts and be yourself.
For more information about Karen check out: www.kevinandkarendance.com
Photos by Chris Mann Photography