Dancing through Life Featuring Married Ballet Couple
Read more from this story in The Grace Issue.
From moving to a new country and becoming professional dancers, to finding love and buying a home together, Rupert and Karina’s relationship spans over eleven years. They first met in Oklahoma when Karina joined the same dance company as Rupert. They hit it off almost immediately and started dating that first year. While they don’t necessarily dance as partners in the same piece, Karina, who has played Juliet in the ballet, is quick to declare that, “Rupert is [her] Romeo.”
The two of them live in Houston, Texas, where they recently purchased their first home together and were married a few months later. With busy dancing schedules, Rupert doing full-time school studies on the side, and plans of travel, the two of them truly encompass what it means to live life to its fullest, while still finding balance. Karina reflected on their relationship as dancers and how ”you need to have a level of understanding the other person.” If a dance move didn’t work well in the studio, they can practice together at home. Or, when they both need a break from dancing, they will head out to eat or go to the movies. They are in-sync with one another, whether in the studio or at home.
Ballet was an accidental discovery for Karina. After she and her mother had been given the wrong address to what they thought was a folk dance audition, they found themselves at a ballet studio. Karina became mesmerized by ballet, and though she was a young child, longed to be in the studio while she was playing with friends. Despite her energy and enthusiasm for dance, Karina’s father didn’t find out about her dancing until about a year later when her family went to see the Nutcracker. She laughs, recalling how he, too, fell in love with the ballet. From then on, she continued to pursue dance.
A lover of movement, she was thrilled to move to Oklahoma after being accepted into Tulsa Ballet when she was 18 years old. Venezuela had been home, but she was determined to make dance her future and the opportunity had presented itself. Her move was handled beautifully and with lots of determination, which shouldn’t be a surprise if you were to talk with Karina. She is filled with laughter and joy and wasn’t afraid to move again after being accepted into the Houston Ballet. It is here where she met Rupert and began to feel at home.
Rupert’s childhood was carefree. He climbed fruit trees with his sister and spent lots of time running around his backyard in Kingston, Jamaica. He remembers this time vividly, recalling how he was able to locate his childhood home from memory when taking Karina for a visit. When he was ten years old, his family moved to Connecticut, where the city’s ballet school held annual auditions at all of the local schools.
Convinced that ballet was for girls, Rupert auditioned for ballet after being encouraged by his substitute teacher. Before you know it, he had been accepted into the program. He was surprised to discover that ballet was a sport, one that took great amounts of physical strength and perseverance. He was submerged in the worlds of tap dance, ballroom, hip-hop and ballet; gradually, his ballet classes became longer as the other classes grew shorter. A few years later, Rupert began dancing professionally.
As life’s curveballs come, it is both humbling and heartbreaking to realize that after putting so much time and energy into a craft, such as dance, it can be cut short. Dancers do not have long careers, and as Rupert explained, many of them get to the end of their careers and face an identity crisis, unsure of what to do next. Thankfully, this hasn’t stopped Rupert, in fact, he’s excited about his next venture. With a full-time dance schedule, you will find him studying science and kinesiology during breaks at the studio, in the evenings and on weekends. He retires at the end of this dance season and starting this fall, he will attend school full-time to become a Physical Therapist. As for the physical process of stopping dance, he is enthusiastic about riding his bike to school, or being outside in his backyard doing yard work, anything to keep him moving, really.
When Rupert and Karina are not dancing, they are at the movies or getting lost in the classical music playing at a local Houston restaurant called Madalin. “You sit there and choreographing is easy … You can see the moves in your head,” Rupert explains. Movement, whether through their imaginations or in real life, is such a crucial part of who they are. They love doing yoga and travel as much as they can, hoping to get back to Venice where they were engaged. Over the summer they spent time exploring Australia and later had their honeymoon in the Bahamas. Their love is not only for movement but for the ability to move through life itself, seeing new things, tasting new foods and getting lost in new places.
Marriage has been new and exciting for them, too. “The actual act of getting married was fun,” Rupert recalled, “[and] now when you fill out all of those little surveys, you get to check off the married box.” What they thought would be a courthouse wedding turned into a backyard celebration under the pergola Rupert and his neighbor had built for the occasion. Their property is small, but it allowed 85 of their friends to attend, filling the space with laughter. Karina wore her sister’s wedding dress, and her mother was able to come up from Venezuela. There were tents and food, and the night was magical.
Unfortunately, the majority of Karina’s family wasn’t able to attend their Houston wedding, and so her mother and sister went ahead and organized a second celebration for them in Venezuela over the summer. It was a traditional wedding, complete with a white dress in a church, followed by live music in a reception hall. Home is where the heart is, and while their hearts have been together in Houston, their hearts are both devoted to the love they share with their families. Having a second wedding celebration only added to the romance of newly-wed life.
Back in Houston, their home has become a sanctuary for them, with zero threat or competition. After long days at the studio, Karina described how much of a support Rupert has been to her and how nice it is that as dancers, they both understand one another’s world. They embrace each other’s passions, and Rupert even chuckled as he described how much he loves that Karina helped him when they were landscaping their yard in their new home. “She likes to do everything I like to do... I like that.” They both laughed, and it is their laughter that is so contagious.
As for the future, they tease at the idea of opening up a ballet school. It is a secret dream of theirs, and they like the thought of training up the next generations of dancers. Still, it is just a dream, and they are not too concerned about the reality of it yet. They have enjoyed the natural progression of life, from dating, to careers, to buying a house and getting married. Next up will be kids, which they are very excited about, but until then, Karina will continue professional dancing as Rupert pursues physical therapy school. The change is welcome.
And perhaps that is just it, two individuals open to change and embracing all that life gives them. With Rupert’s dedication to what is next for him and Karina being fully supportive of his next adventure, the two of them flow together. Whether at the studio or home, they create balance and are eager to try out new things. When I asked them about their favorite thing about one another, they both laughed, and their faces lit up. It’s one another’s smiles, and I couldn’t agree more. Not only are their smiles bright, but their laughter and affection towards each other and life are contagious. It makes me want to get up and move, perhaps doing a little happy dance, too.