We had the good fortune of connecting with Carly Topazio and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carly, what role has risk played in your life or career?
My life has been defined, in every way, by taking risks. From a very young age, I’ve always been drawn towards overcoming challenges, and confronting my fears. Proving myself, if you will. I’m not exactly sure why, but it might have something to do with being the only girl and the youngest of three, I always wanted to show that I could run with my brothers and excel the way I saw them succeed. I didn’t ever want to be told I couldn’t play on their team because I was too weak or not good enough. I’ll admit, some risky endeavors, like jumping off a ski lift as a child, might not have been the wisest of choices, but even just the practice of consistently taking risks, whether consciously or not, has made me more comfortable with feeling fear, living with it, and pushing forward regardless. For me now, risks, fear, trepidation, anxiety, or discomfort are synonymous with possibility, and opportunity. In a way, you could say that my entire career thus far in the dance world has been one giant risk. When I was young and in school I was told I shouldn’t pursue ballet by a few of my teachers. That it wouldn’t work out, and I should focus my attention elsewhere. So my 13-year-old self made the decision to dive in head first despite being warned it would be all for nothing. It was the biggest risk I could take, betting my whole future. And I just kept betting the odds. Going after a career in ballet is like trying to fit yourself into a world that, at every turn, is telling you no. Even for those who have everything going for them, the dance world is an extremely difficult profession to ‘make it’ in, and I can honestly say that I didn’t have much going for me. No natural abilities, the wrong shaped feet, the wrong shaped legs, undesirable body proportions, not much there except for the fact that I wasn’t afraid to jump without knowing what would come next. And that has been my reality everyday for the better half of my life. Had I given into my fears and “played things safe” like I’d been advised to do so many times over the years, I would have completely subverted to my own growth. I don’t think there is anything more empowering than doing what you can’t. Every risk is just my next step forward, another opportunity, another glass ceiling to shatter, just more life to be lived. And the result for me so far is that I’ve been dancing professionally since I was 18, and three years ago started my very own company, The Rosin Box Project. So yes, I think that has been well worth the risk 🙂
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Was it easy? No, it was hard, life is hard. I’m a professional dancer, specifically ballet and contemporary ballet. I also am a professional photographer, and just over three years ago I started my own contemporary ballet company, The Rosin Box Project. So yes, I like art a little bit. At the root I think I’m most drawn to the creative process and the ability to express, and connect through art and specifically movement. I’m originally from Massachusetts, I started studying ballet at Boston Ballet, then when I was 14 I moved to Pennsylvania to study at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. From there I went on to dance with Alabama Ballet, and then Ballet Inc., Eglevsky Ballet and Ballet Neo in NYC. In 2014 I moved to San Diego where I danced with City Ballet of San Diego for six seasons. In 2018 I founded The Rosin Box Project, of which I am currently the Artistic Director and a resident choreographer and dance artist. I think it’s safe to say that I got to where I am today professionally through a lot of blood, a lot of sweat and a lot of tears. Quite literally and figuratively. The dance world is particularly tough to make a career in. It takes heart, and a whole lot of it, if not all of it. One thing I’ve learned along the way is the harsh, but also empowering reality that there is no one you can depend on but yourself. I am really not a fan of the saying ‘that’s just how life is’. I believe that your life is what you make it, and it’s up to you and only you, and not until you can fully understand and come into that, and take control of your life, will truly incredible things happen because you made them happen. That is what I think sets my art apart from others. The Rosin Box Project is a fresh new company that is reimagining the way audiences and artists experience and connect with dance because we truly believe in what we’re doing and creating, and are sharing what we WANT to share. We are not just going through the motions because it’s what others before us have done, or what we’ve been told to do. That sort of impetus and drive behind the passion of an artform is truly transformative, and the genuine nature of our company makes the humanity of it that much more palpable. I am beyond excited about everything The Rosin Box Project is doing because each and every day we are growing and exploring new frontiers. I wanted TRBP to be a platform where artists can make the art they want to make, and a safe space to explore and grow expanding the artform as we know it, and I think we’re off to a really great start!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well for starters, I would probably tell my friend to reschedule that trip for another time when we weren’t in a pandemic! But in a post pandemic world for food we would have to hit Oscars (they have the best tacos and ceviche), Pannikin (also the best coffee… which I drink a lot of), and Juice Wave for their acai bowls. As for bars my favorites are Coin Op in North Park, Aero Club, and Panama 66 in Balboa Park, especially when there’s a live jazz band. We would probably spend the most time site seeing, because it’s San Diego and everything is stunningly gorgeous. Pre-pandemic life I use to do little photoshoots at San Diego’s best hidden gems, and I always love bringing family and friends to some of my favorite spots like this little secret beach and cliffside in Birdrock, the coastline just north of Scripps Pier, Rum Runner Cave by Sunset Cliffs that you have to time with low tide to climb inside, the Tide Pools in La Jolla (also best at low tide), and a few others that, again, are best kept secrets :).
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh, there are countless people who deserve a huge amount of credit in ‘my story’, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say the biggest credit goes to the lady who’s been fighting just as hard by my side since day one, my mom. Everyone should be so loved.
Instagram: @cktopazio, @ctopaziophotography, @the.rosinbox.project
Jim Carmody, Brian Powers, Anna Scipione, Rony Lenis, Carly Topazio