– As told to Ellen Haile
Professional contemporary dancer Lidia Carew was born and raised in Italy to a white mother and Nigerian father. She has worked internationally for several projects, like the box-office hit film Divergent, and has caught the attention of many artists’ who’ve requested to work with her, such as Alicia Keys, Pharrell Williams and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few. She shares what sparked her interest in dance and what it was like growing up as a Black girl in Italy.
Name: Lidia Carew
How did you get started?
My first formal dance training started at seven years of age, at the only dance school in my town. I eventually progressed to the Accademia Danza Milano, which has a distinguished reputation for developing top international professional dancers.
Then, in May of 2007, I saw the Alvin Ailey Dance Company perform at the Teatro degli Arcimboldi in Milano. I could tell from the way they were performing and the look in their eyes that they were proud, confident and black. From that experience, I focused all of my energy into getting to New York City to audition for the Alvin Ailey Dance School. By August of that year, I was accepted into the Alvin Ailey Independent Study Program. From there I started my professional career!
What’s an average day like?
Because I wear my hair short, I can shower and go straight to rehearsal. Then it’s back on Facebook. Depending on the time zone, I’m in meetings in pursuit of the next project while I’m having lunch and then it’s back to rehearsal because I’m currently featured in a show, “AROUND,” which is touring throughout Italy from the 18th of March to the 27th of April. After dinner, I continue to rehearse. Then, later in the evening, I follow up with my contacts in New York and Los Angeles. I consult with my coach in New York who I have on call 24/7.
Why do you do it?
I do it to realize myself, an Italian black woman in this world. I do it for “La Dolce Vita” (The Good Life) because there is an Italian way to carry oneself, which I value. As far back as I can remember I have always moved my body to music. Dance has been my way to express myself, to transmit my emotions and to send a positive message.
What are some ups and downs you sometimes face on the job?
The threat of stereotypes is the downside. Growing up in Italy where there is a negative stigma to having black skin can overshadow one’s true value and can undermine one’s performance. I have experienced a great deal of anxiety and frustration because of this issue. Having my sense of competence upset and trying not to do anything to confirm any of the negative beliefs people have assigned to people with my skin color.
My greatest achievement has been using my set of challenges to trigger my superpower; which is using my self-integrity to replace the anxiety. I have begun to be successful at achieving the “good life” by performing, working and dancing as an Italian, black woman.
What might be next for you?
Next, I see myself working all over the world… shows, television, movies and plays.
Any hair tips?
Growing up in Italy with a white mom, she was unable to teach me anything about my hair. In school, the kids teased me for having “Lion King hair.” On occasion, my Nigerian father had a local Nigerian woman braid my hair with beautiful, colorful perline. It was a way to keep my head in order. Using a lot of conditioning was a tip that was told to me, too.
For me, a “buzz” haircut has been the route to easy hair care. I’ve been told I have the right head shape for it.