The shoulders were chiseled and tapered down to a slim waist pivoting atop thighs and calves that launched the weight of roughly 110 pounds easily into the air.
Over and over the figure with ripped forearms, biceps and triceps, bent and lunged towards an adversary inside a musical beat.
“We are all powerful women,” professional dancer Genevieve Carson said to members of the Thunder Mountain Falcons dance team as she crouched and attacked into a rhythmic display of athleticism. “Have some attitude.”
Carson, a member of California’s Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company, spent last weekend in Juneau helping choreograph a dance routine the Falcons will perform at the Region V basketball tournament cheer and drill team adjudications in Ketchikan, Feb. 28-March 3 and in a season final performance for the community in late March.
“It is really cool that I can come back to Juneau and help them,” Carson said. “I know the challenges of being a dancer in Juneau.”
Thunder Mountain High School is a long way from the Los Angeles dance scene where Carson performs, choreographs and teaches a variety of dance styles.
It is also close to her heart as Carson, a 2002 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, spent three years on the Crimson Bears dance team under the direction of Leslie Dahl, the last two as a squad leader. Parents Tom and Sherri Carson still live in the capital city.
“Dance team taught me the importance of hard work, discipline and time management,” Carson said. “It also taught me how to work as a leader and a team player.”
Carson credits Dahl with not allowing mediocrity.
“That is something I have taken with me throughout the rest of my dance career,” Carson said from inside the TMHS gym. “Mediocrity is not an option, especially now that I call the cut-throat dance industry of Los Angeles my home.”
Being on a high school dance team can be tough enough. There is always school homework, tests, a healthy social life, and the daily pressures of high school dynamics on top of that, including the fact that Carson was also a competitive Scottish Highland dancer
“Learning how to juggle my time in order to excel in all of these areas has been key in the success of my career as a professional dancer now,” Carson stated, her eyes following TMHS dancers warming up.
Carson walks over to them, begins to stretch with them, and enters into a series of push-ups, crunches and thrusts that leave their mouths open in amazement.
“A lot of young dancers don’t know how to use their core,” Carson said. “I didn’t. I keep reminding them of things like that, keeping their shoulders back and their chest out, good posture.”
TMHS dance team coach Mikaela Levy, a 2006 JDHS graduate, stated that Carson’s presence alone was inspiring.
“Getting Genevieve here has been very exciting for us,” Levy said. “The girls get to spend so much time with our opinions. To get someone like Genevieve from LA and she is in this amazing dance company and is giving this time to the girls, is really awesome for them.”
Assistant coach Keegan Carroll, a 2002 Grand Junction High School (Colo.) graduate, choreographed last season’s tournament routine for the Falcons.
“The best thing about having Genevieve here right now is getting that outside perspective,” Carroll commented. “She brings new challenges and new styles. She is helping us distinguish ourselves.”
It was also a time for Carson to reflect. She stated her favorite part of growing up in Juneau was how simple everything seemed and she notices it now living in LA.
“The natural beauty we are surrounded by here, I don’t get a lot of that anymore,” Carson said. “I learned, living in LA, that in order for me to be happy I had to centralize my life around a ten-mile radius so I wouldn’t have to drive a lot. When you are in traffic you feel like you are wasting away.”
Continued Carson, “As much as I would like to live in Juneau, I cannot. There is nothing for me here at this point of my career.”
For young women dancers in Alaska opportunities are slim. Carson danced with Janice Holst and did the Grumpsicle, she performed with Juneau Dance Unlimited, teaching there as well as being in the Nutcracker and other shows. She was also a Juneau Ski Club Mighty Mite.
Carson’s natural and physical ability helped her through early dance years. She would often go to the JDU studio and dance alone.
Her parents would contribute by letting her train in the summer out of state. Their musical tastes also helped.
“I knew at five I wanted to dance,” Carson said. “Anything my parents played, from Tom Petty, Lindsey Buckingham , the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles. I would dance with my dad and we would get the vacuum cleaner parts out and use them as microphones. Dancers know that they want to dance. It is something you have inside you.”
When Carson graduated from JDHS she attended Chapman University in Orange, Calf., on academic and dance scholarships and earned a bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance Performance.
“At college I worked my butt off to catch up to girls that studied, seemingly, when they learned to walk,” Carson said. “Dancers down south are at high levels by the time they are in middle school.”
At college Carson was named “Outstanding Student Choreographer” two years in a row. She graduated Cum Laude and was named “Most Outstanding Senior” by the dance department.
Carson then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a professional dance career.
She is currently a member of the highly regarded Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company, performing in theatres throughout the United States. Carson has choreographed a company piece selected to be performed at California’s prestigious Celebrate Dance Festival in March.
Along with her company duties, Carson has also managed to choreograph two Comedy Central television shows, and work commercially on numerous music videos and dance films. One video, in the high desert region of California, was for a Romanian pop star.
“I was wearing a gold leotard,” Carson laughed. “That was not the moment I said ‘Yes, this is why I dance. And that was not the most absurd one. I have done others in body paint and really weird movements. It can get weird sometimes. You have to know what you are getting into.”
Carson is also a member of The Pin-Down Girls, a dance company that debuted at the Playboy Mansion’s 70’s Summer Party and has been sold out in every performance venue since. The company is made up of classically trained dancers with extensive professional dance technique.
Carson also teaches contemporary and modern dance at private arts high schools and studios throughout Los Angeles.
Last summer she studied in Tel Aviv, Israel with the Batsheva Dance Company, founded by Martha Graham with the backing of Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild , and learned the Gaga method invented by the company’s artistic director, and Graham protégé,’ Ohad Naharin.
“It was really improv-based and exploratory,” Carson said. “As soon as the instructor came in everyone stood up and started moving, non stop. Dancing is international, more powerful than language. Dancers grow up with such a structured technique, that they are supposed to look a certain way, and you end up doubting yourself. My limitations have been in my mind. In Israel I learned to let go of that and to accept that I was not going to be a prima ballerina, but that I could also do other cool things with my body and explore new pathways and realizations. I think the biggest fault any dancer can have is not believing in themselves and not feeling confident in themselves. As far as technique and what I can do with my body, that is going to continue to change as I get older. Accepting that and finding new ways to move and keep exploring will be keys to my success.”
Yet on Saturday and Sunday Carson was in the TMHS gym.
“I was so excited to do this,” Carson said as she moved among the Falcons team. “It is so different than what I do now because it is so structured and it reminds me of my roots.”
Carson said of working with the TMHS girls, “They know their team really well, who is strong in what aspects and they have shared that with me. They have pointed out who should do what, which has been super helpful.”
Carson’s advice for aspiring dancers is that they should do whatever it takes to keep their training active.
“We don’t have a lot available here but you can do it,” Carson said. “Work as hard as you can on dance team. It takes a lot of discipline and just sticking to it. It is easy to get frustrated. Stay focused if this is your passion.”
Carson found her passion at age five and again every time she steps on a stage.
“Any theater that has multiple levels and I look up and feel so small,” Carson said. “When I walk onto the stage and think, ‘oh my god, am I performing here?’ and then it fills up. That is such a cool feeling. I never thought I would dance on stage in such venues. I haven’t reached what I want yet, but I feel like I am on my way there.”
Said Carson of her career choice, “You are never going to be at a place where you feel satisfied. Even though I have accomplished a lot, there is still so much I want to do. Even when I can’t dance, I want to be choreographing and directing.”