This past summer, the Hult Center hosted our first “Stay Home Talent Show” with the intent of encouraging people to get creative at home and share their skills with us through social media. This contest ended up giving us an amazing opportunity to connect with local artists & performers and One of our finalists, Carlos “Retro” Rasmussen stopped by the Hult Center recently to pick up his prize and stuck around for a quick interview with our marketing team.
Tell us a little about yourself and what initially got you interested in dancing.
The performance name I go by is Carlos “Retro” Rasmussen. Retro was a dance name I chose when I first started out because I like a lot of old school things and then it grew into me adapting more of an old school mentality with my music and ways of life. I became interested in dance in 8th grade ( about 2014) and it was my friends, Dillon and Mason, that came up to me and started to include me. This was the first time I saw dance as such a cool thing to do and it became so therapeutic for me. It really helped me to connect with a lot of different people and provided me with a sort of release. Dance has helped me to express stories of mine through movement.
It sounds like your friends had a really big influence on your decision to start dancing. Do you have any other big inspirations that have impacted your dance career?
The people that actively inspire me are my close group of friends: Dylan, Mason, Jaquire, Boon and Izikaula. When we were young and first starting out, I remember always dancing at the bus stop or the movie store late at night because it was so lit up. They’re sort of my dance brotherhood; it’s really hard to find people interested in this type of movement in our area so I’m really thankful for them. I have no idea if I’d even be dancing if it weren’t for them.
In terms of more established dancers, Marquese Scott inspired me a lot and I wanted so badly to mimic his moves. I saw a video of him dancing to “Pumped Up Kicks” and was kind of hooked on him.
Lil Buck and Jon Boogz are also two dancers that I really admire. I got to come to the Hult Center and see them perform “Love Heals All Wounds”. Being able to talk to them and shake their hands was a really crazy feeling for me because I know at one point, they were in my position, shaking the hands of someone they looked up to. It was insane to be able to talk with them and ask questions. Those two definitely have a huge influence on my dance style and what I want my future career to look like.
I know that teaching dance is another one of your passions as well. Can you speak a little about that and where you teach in Eugene?
So, my style of dance is called freestyle animation and those are the types of classes I teach, but that can sound intimidating to a lot of dancers. It’s all about freely flowing with yourself and pushing energies different ways within your body. The “animation” part comes later as you adapt these movements with your individual style. I try to get my students to focus on where the energy is passing in their bodies, and we work with that concept to create more of a story through these movements. The next step I challenge my students with is conveying that story to an audience.
I work with both kids and adults at Flex Studios and was also teaching at Xcape Dance Academy before the pandemic. I tell both groups of students the same things, though, when it comes to technique. I’ll usually have them start with a prop and get familiar with the feel, weight, and texture, then take away the prop and have them use their imaginations to create new movements. Imagination and creativity are two crucial parts of freestyle and that intimidates people because they are usually given choreography to learn, rather than reacting to their natural flow of movement. This style of dance really pushes the boundary of people’s capabilities and lets them to push past what they think they cannot do.
My teaching styles also definitely vary from person to person. I don’t want to make any more of ‘me’. Everyone has that unique piece of themselves that makes their freestyle form different, and I just want to give people a safe space to explore their creative side and shed feelings of doubt. Everyone out there can dance, it’s just mind over matter – test your limits and push beyond the mentality you might originally have and just let that feeling take you where you need to go.
Teaching while in a pandemic can’t be easy, either. How have you had to adapt to these changing circumstances?
As a teacher, it was so strange to attempt to engage and connect with my students through the little white dot of my webcam. It’s been weird because I want to see all of their faces and engage physically with them, but I just had to get over it and try to give them the best experience I could. I’m very sociable and outgoing, so trying to hone that in a little while keeping up my energy on camera has been a challenge. On a personal level, I have spent a lot of this time focusing on myself and making sure to take care of my mental health. Getting the chance to dance more during this time has definitely helped with my overall well-being. Of course, this situation isn’t something that we can control, but what we can control is how we react to the situation in front of us and make the best of it.
As you start looking ahead to the future, what are some goals you have moving forward?
My ultimate goal would be to do an east coast to west coast tour, where I could bring along some of the artists that have inspired me along the way. I don’t want to headline as a performer but want to be responsible for bringing people together – that is all I really want to be known for; as someone who works to bring people together. I’ll always see Eugene as my home, but I really want to travel and continue to teach & reach as many people as I possibly can. I want to challenge myself as an artist and be placed into situations that feel a little uncomfortable at first. I think that’s the only way to grow as a dancer and a person. I also want to continue teaching for as long as I possibly can. As long as I can keep dancing and teach people to find their own styles, I’ll be happy.