THEATERMANIA: When did you decide to be a performer?
KARINE PLANTADIT: I decided when I first saw a bootleg tape of the television series Fame when I was a teenager in Africa. Prior to that I would dance, but I didn't know that it was an actual profession. Once I saw the tape I knew it was absolutely what I would be doing. The first thing I had to do was to convince my parents. Every day -- every lunch, every dinner -- I told them I wanted to be a dancer. Finally they asked me what the deal was and they let me pursue the proper training.
TM: How aware are you of the potential for injury on stage when doing a number like "That's Life," where your dance partner Keith Roberts seems to throw you around?
KP: It is not what it looks like. Keith doesn't throw me -- even though it looks like he does. When working out a number like that, Twyla is extremely aware of what's going on. And Keith knows exactly what he is doing; so I know, depending on the night, from what distance I'm going to run. If I feel strong in my body, I might jump from far away; if I sense in his eyes that something is up, then I'm not going to jump too far. We are not taking chances; everything is calculated -- even if there is room for play. With a genius like Twyla there are thousands of moments where the actor can play and infuse the character with something fresh.
TM: What was the first thing you knew you wanted to convey about your character?
KP: A full ability to love, laugh and cry. A moment to moment intensity to live fully with no regrets. The characters came out of natural organic contribution with Twyla in collaboration. I enter a studio in the same way that my character does -- very big, very open. Twyla starts with that, finds something she can take and then goes with it. Keith, on the other hand, is more quiet and more accommodating. The essence of each character can be found in each of us. Twyla took it and multiplied it.
TM: Is there a moment in the show that you can't wait to get to each night?
KP: "One More For My Baby," the last one that Keith and I do, and also "My Way." That's the moment where all the couples, including the ones in the ensemble, embrace an enlightened way of loving. Each couple gets to be with one another in the most genuine, fantastic way. I know for a fact that anyone who comes to the show has to relate to at least one of us up there and be reminded of their first love, or the love they have now, or the love they wish they had. That's what we all want at the end of the day.
TM: What sacrifices do you make to be a dancer?
KP: The first sacrifice I made was the separation from my family. I left them at age 15 to study in Paris, and once I got to New York and started to do shows like The Lion King, I couldn't spend Christmas and New Year's with them. The other sacrifice is knowing what is good for your body at any given time so that you can pursue your life on stage. I have to be extremely wise in my choices from moment to moment, because everything after one show either increases or decreases the next performance. You have to have the focus of an athlete.