Where Are They Now? Follow Up with CONNetic Dance Founder Carolyn Paine
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: What’s new?
CAROLYN PAINE: I continue to strive to create with CONNetic Dance. This year’s production of Nutcracker Suite & Spicy marked our eighth year bringing our unique holiday show to Hartford at the Aetna Theatre at the Wadsworth Atheneum.
This year the show reached our largest audiences yet and featured some new choreography, some rapping from Hartford’s Tang Sauce, and a cool visual effect with LED lights in the tutus, which added to the whirling Snowball scene.
Personally, it was also a hard year as I slipped on the ice a few days before opening and broke my ankle. Three months later, I am recovering well and am back in the studio. I’m excited to be back on stage with CONNetic and am looking forward to some video choreography projects, live performance opportunities, and of course Nutcracker next year.
Along with the directors of Boston Ballet and New York’s Brooklyn Ballet, I was featured in an article in DanceInforma magazine about the revamping of the classical The Nutcracker.
Also, I continue to make regular appearances on WNPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show.
IDH: Have you experienced any major pivots since we featured your story?
CAROLYN: We have continued to struggle with funding and had a disappointing season in which we were unable to launch a production I wanted to do based on the music of David Bowie. But I did channel creative energy into creating a short dance horror film based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart.” This short film won laurels at the ScreamDance Film Fest in New York City and was featured in the 2017 5x5 Dance Festival at St. Joseph’s College with other dance films.
I also produced, directed, choreographed, and co-wrote a short called “You Can’t Do That” with fellow University of Hartford alum and former CONNetic dancer Adam Sarette. The short ended up winning an award at the Women in Comedy Festival in Boston and got featured on many national blogs.
These projects have really inspired me, and I would like to put more of CONNetic Dance’s existing work or dance story re-tellings—like our production of Dracula—on film as well as create other new short pieces specifically for the camera.
Creating dance for film is an amazing way to get my voice, point of view, style, and choreography in front of an even broader audience—beyond Hartford.
Professionally, beyond CONNetic Dance, I have keeping busy. I worked on a web series “Unsure/Positive” as an actress and writer and have been involved with other projects including stand up gigs, doing theatre across the country, continuing to tour with comedian Hannibal Buress as his stubborn ballerina, and shooting some other commercials and web series.
IDH: Have you collaborated with other Hartford area entrepreneurs and organizations?
CAROLYN: Yes. This year, I brought CONNetic Dance to collaborate with Connecticut photographers Bill Morgan and Greg Bernier for some amazing photo series. We work with A Little Bird Told Me for social media and marketing and do some great collaborations with them—including creating a dance flash mob in West Hartford center and using dancers as models for Lux Bond and Green jewelry store.
Our friends at Brockman’s Gin sponsored the Nutcracker Suite & Spicy again. We also collaborated with local artist Michelle Hawran, who created beautiful watercolor depictions of moments and characters from Nutcracker Suite & Spicy that we sold as prints and notecards.
And one of my favorite new collaborations with a local business this year was with Hartford restaurant The Place 2 Be (stay tuned for an upcoming interview from Innovation Destination Hartford). Owner Gina Luari, another fierce female entrepreneur, proved to be an amazing collaborator. Her restaurant’s unique milkshakes and cocktails made the perfect pairing for Nutcracker Suite & Spicy characters and cross promotion.
My roommate and CONNetic Dance member Alex Zarlengo, Chion Wolf of WNPR, and I recently had fun hosting the annual AIDS Connecticut Red Carpet Experience fundraising event at Spotlight Cinema in Hartford.
I would love to continue to work with other local businesses and creators for all sorts of projects and collaborations!
IDH: How are you building a customer base?
CAROLYN: Everything we are doing, from cross promotions, to collaborations, to building our Instagram/social media following, continues to build our customer base. And I’m hoping we continue to build beyond Connecticut. Social media really changes the way you interact with world and is so important in a visual medium like dance.
IDH: Tell us about the importance of encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship in Connecticut.
CAROLYN: Connecticut is a small state and, because it’s so close to the artist mecca of New York City, it can be a challenging place to create art. Just as it’s important to support local when it comes to food, farms, and shops, it’s important to remember to support local artists.
With CONNetic, I work hard to hire and support local dancers. Dancers need to get paid. Experience and stage time are great, but won’t pay bills. I’m hoping that with more corporate and business sponsorships I can continue to work toward paying the dancers what they deserve.
Connecticut has amazingly talented artists and much young talent coming up through schools. I see it as my responsibility as an art creator to keep talent here in Connecticut with professional opportunities that are innovative and inspiring.
I have been excited to see the CT Dancers Facebook group I started really take off as a networking place for Connecticut dancers and other dance companies to connect for great opportunities. It has become a real forum for dancers to see that Connecticut has a thriving dance community to explore. And I think it has helped dance creators and visionaries to connect with each other and open a dialogue among us about what we need for support and what we are doing or want to do.
IDH: What’s next?
CAROLYN: Alex and I are excited to have the opportunity to return to professional dancing in May as special guest artists with Ballet School of Stamford in its production of Hansel and Gretel. This is especially exciting, since I’ve been recovering from my broken ankle and Alex has been recovering from a torn Achilles.
I am also in talks to direct a play this summer with a professional theatre company, which would be an exciting opportunity to direct for stage beyond CONNetic Dance.
And as always, keep an eye out for some new choreography projects from CONNetic—especially online! And believe it or not, it is almost time to start work on the 2018 production of Nutcracker Suite & Spicy.
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