Dancer, choreographer and model. Karel was part of the first dancer in the National Dance Company of Cuba (now Contemporary Dance of Cuba) for 5 years, has participated as an actor, dancer and singer in the successful musical of The Lion King in Madrid and Paris and also in the production of Cecilia Valdés by Carlos Wagner at the Teatro de la Zarzuela (Madrid). He is also an official choreographer at Worldvision Fashion Show and model/booker at Club chic models.
We talked to Karel H. Neninger, a multifaceted man where there are.
Q.- First of all, thank you very much for giving us this interview knowing how tight your schedule is. To begin with, tell us how your passion for dance was born? What was your training?
A.- I was always a dance lover, at four I was dancing in popular dance competitions with the Grandfather Circle of the House of Culture of my village. I loved watching adults dance and imitating them and they always said I had “a lot of art.” My references ranged from peasant dances I watched on TV, to Michael Jackson, who revolutionized my childhood. Within the Afro-Cuban religion in which my family participated, ceremonies knew how to ignite my body, and I kept moving with the drum touch. There was really born my passion for dance, which was then shaped with my training, with which I learned the necessary techniques of classic and contemporary, but also to value Art and to channel this passion into a professional career.
I trained entirely in the classical ballet career at the Vocational School of Art Alfonso Pérez Isaac (Matanzas), then became part of the National School of Art “Alicia Alonso” where I had the privilege of receiving classes, in addition to the same Alicia Alonso , with Marta Bosch, Josefina Méndez, Orlando Salgado, and other wonderful professionals. Finally, my career led to Contemporary Dance and I graduated from the National School of modern and Folk Dance (ENA) and finally joined as a professional dancer of the National Dance Company.
Q.- Contemporary dance is an art to express feelings. Just as feelings change, dancers must also change constantly. what role do you think individualism, abstraction and dedication to art play?
A.- In individualism it is important to set your own goal, keeping the self within the group is necessary in dance; with abstraction we transform everything around us into a message with an artistic code, and that is where we must not lose our way, precisely what defines us as artist-dancers within not only the artistic environment, but of society as a whole and delivery to art is a vital decision that allows us to channel our entire universe in the same direction, without doubt and without fissure, allowing us to realize in the physical, in the real, the whole of our ideas, efforts, what has been our life and our trajectory to draw all that will be. Without full delivery, there’s no dance.
Q.- have you ever thought of forming your own company?
A.- Yes, I have always raised it and when I arrived in Europe I had the opportunity but it was a very brief chapter that did not come to haystack. I passed the stage of foundation, ideas, capital acquisition and subsidies that never came in the end and in the face of new job offers in France, I had to abandon the idea. But it is always in the air, of course.
Q.- How was your arrival in Spain? How were your beginnings?
A.- I arrived in Spain for personal reasons, very excited about the formation of my family. I adapted quickly and had no problem finding a job because of my training and professional skills I have always been very well received in the auditions to which I have presented myself. I was lucky enough to start my professional life in Paris, a city I really like.
I have always felt very welcomed and supported both personally and artistically.
Q.- As a dancer you have performed performances that break the boundaries between art, artistic object and the spectator, how does that symbiosis take effect?
A.- Yes, many times. It is one of the artistic formulas that I enjoy both the previous research work that it requires, and the level of improvisation that the execution requires. The work on an initial idea that gives you the object on which to work and the reaction of the public, emulsify with the idea that we brought prepared and there is a totally magical and unrepeatable moment, that is the wonderful thing of the performance that elevates the concept initial proposal and allows you to provide your point of view that can never be rigid as it is exposed to the interaction of all elements.
Q.- The Lion King is not only one of the most successful musicals internationally, but also an absolute phenomenon of today’s theatre. In Spain it is already going for its ninth consecutive season, what qualities must be had to become part of this select cast?
A.- You must be a good dancer, with a control of different techniques, but you must also know how to sing and act. In addition to this, it is necessary to respond to prototypes that are designed and very measured for each character. It is a very physical and technical musical, of great complexity and to all this are added all the props with which you work, that hinder the work, and for this you must have a great physical strength and a lot of discipline. The Lion King is a great musical with many specificities that it requires on the part of all those who participate in a great concentration and professionalism.
Q.- In addition to the musical of El Rey León, you have also participated in the work of Cecilia Valdés de Gonzalo Roig under the Stage Direction of Carlos Wagner, which has been rated as one of the historical events of culture and the institution being the first production of a Cuban zarzuela produced at the Teatro de la Zarzuela, how have you lived it?
A.- It has been a great experience, firstly because it is a work of my land and being part of this production was very important to me. I have been fortunate to be able to work with the choreographer Nuria Castejón with whom I was able to share all my background and knowledge of Cuban dance culture, at the same time that she learned from her know-how and her great creative ability. A luxury to be led by Carlos Wagner, with whom I learned a lot in this period. The Teatro de la Zarzuela and its struggle to defend the small genre is a bastion that must be defended, and it was a pleasure to be able to do it active and with a Cuban zarzuela. A dream I’ve been able to make come true. YO MAMBÉ YO !!!! (which means “who’s in charge? me” and what we said in the play at the end of one of the Afro dances that were very successful among the audience)
Q.- Within your professional career you are also very closely linked to the world of fashion. In fact you are a choreographer of models at Worldvision Fashion Show, what is the secret to dazzling on the catwalk?
A.- Control, security, empathy, humility, technique, perfection, love, belief and being yourself.
Q.- You’re also a model, tell us what your experience in the fashion industry has been like?
A.- I’ve been lucky enough to work with renowned designers and all my experience in dance gives me a lot of aplomb and catwalk security, which is for me like the stage. That is why I think I have a lot to contribute, at the level of movement control and total concept.
Q.- Internationally we have seen a noticeable increase in ethnic models both on catwalks and advertising campaigns, do you consider it a tokenism practice?
A. – Unfortunately, still in the 21st century the struggle for racial equality must continue. Tokenism still exists because as in other media such as theatre, dance, film… on the catwalks ethnic models are seen as such, not as models without any adjectives. Until I feel like a model or a dancer anymore, and don’t go to auditions knowing that to those if I can go because they need a black and these others don’t because there I have no place, and the same thing happens on many catwalks, we will continue to have and belong to this fight , which is not only artistic, it is of course social. A reality that we have to live for and that we must fight for change every day.
Q.- We understand that a person as multifaceted as you barely has time, what will be your next projects?
A.- I have for a rule not to reveal them to happen. In Cuba we always say that if you want it to happen, don’t tell. But of course, I move between the stages and the catwalk, going through a fashion design course, which complements my training as a tailor for live shows, and a project as a stage assistant and choreographer that is being developed.
Q.- Finally, we’d like to know something about your more personal side. How is Karel defined? What’s most important to you in life?
R.- Humble, hardworking, enthusiastic and positive. The most important thing in my life is to be at peace and happy, because if this happens, everything around in my life will be fine.
Your favourite quote: “Pour’tre irrempla’able Il faut’tre différent”