Rubbing elbows with those we’ve seen on stage and screen is common when living in New York City. While walking down the street, waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, or riding in a taxi, a sighting can occur. It’s rare when a brush with fame goes one step further.
Friday night, I had the pleasure of meeting Karine Plantadit. I saw Karine for the first time in Twyla Tharp’s Movin’ Out, back in 2002. Two years ago, I watched her sultry and powerful Tony-nominated performance in Come Fly Away, also directed and choreographed by Tharp.
Karine is more than a technically-proficient performer with stage presence. She has a way of acting through movement, and expressing herself clearly as that actress, using her body as the instrument. Her style of dancing is captivating, especially in combination with Twyla Tharp’s athletic choreography. In my opinion, Karine is one of the finest dancers of our generation.
Born and raised in Cameroon, Karine moved to Cannes, France to study dance at the age of fourteen. Later, she came to New York to attend the Alvin Ailey School, eventually dancing as a soloist with the company for seven years. Additional Broadway credits include the Lion King and Saturday Night Fever. You may recognize her from either acting and dancing roles in Chicago, Frida, Sex and the City, and most recently Smash.
When we arrived at French Roast around 9 pm, I noticed her immediately, with her wild, reddish hair and cocoa-colored skin. The bar was full, but a woman was leaving, freeing a space for Mike and I to sit together. The seats were next to Karine and her friend. Somehow, I made it through dinner, and aside from a few casual glances here and there, I didn’t appear too starstruck. At least I hope I didn’t. I never approach celebrities, and I ‘ve seen my share since moving to Manhattan, but I couldn’t ignore this one. As an admirer of her work, I had to tell her.
Finished with dinner, Karine sat, sipping her wine. After cleaning my plate, I had an opportunity, “You’re a dancer, aren’t you?” Karine responded with a smile, “Yes, I am.” “I saw you in Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Away,” I went on. “You are a beautiful dancer. I loved your performance.” “Thank you so much,” she said in a humble tone. Karine was gracious, friendly, and down to earth. Like two New Yorkers meeting each other casually on a Friday night out, we talked about dance, writing, and more. She mentioned French ballerina Sylvie Guillem’s upcoming performance at Lincoln Center, and that she intended to go. I had just read about it, and planned to buy tickets myself.
I found irony in the circumstances. Only a few years apart in age, Karine grew up on the other side of the world in West Africa, and aspired to be a dancer too, so much that she came to New York to fulfill her dream. I was just a girl from Reading, PA who loved to dance and loved NYC. I knew that if came here, anything would be possible. Continents separated us, but our dreams danced side by side. If I had moved to New York at that time, would my life be completely different? Would I have danced on Broadway like I imagined for so many years? By chance, the 42-year-old from Cameroon, and the 45-year-old from Pennsylvania happened to meet in a bistro on the Upper West Side.
Will we reconnect? Anything is possible in this big city, but small town. Watching her dance on the Great White Way one day again would be fantastic. Sitting next to her at French Roast again would be great too.
To watch Karen’s physical performance in That’s Life, go here.