Professional dancer takes on smaller stage in Yampa Valley
December 9, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Solange Guenier owes it all to the rain.
It was that driving London rain soaking into her suede jacket on an afternoon in 1999 that forced her into a nearby cafe, where the French dancer pulled out her phone to pass the time.
She had called the number before, asking a prominent talent agency again and again for a dance audition.
But this time, as the rain pounded the windows outside, Guenier heard the voice on the other end of the line tell her to show up in less than 24 hours to audition to be a backup dancer for superstar Tina Turner.
"When people complain about the rain, I'm like, 'Bless the rain,'" Guenier said. "It was like my whole world changed, everything around me."
Eight years later, on tour in the United States as one of three backup dancers for Tina Turner, she met Routt County resident Steve Chambers, who worked on stage production for the tour. In March, she moved to the Yampa Valley, and the couple plan to marry next fall.
Today, her stage no longer is a packed arena; it's singing Afro-Cuban music in the corner of underground Bella's Wine Bar, where she'll perform Saturday night and Wednesdays from now on.
The glitz and glamour of performing on an international stage now only surface in the stories she tells her elementary school-age dance students at Elevation Dance Studio in downtown Steamboat Springs.
It may not be a world tour or a Super Bowl halftime show, but it's a rush in its own right.
"It's an amazing feeling when the children get better and better," she said. "To give them a love of dancing, a love of music, it's very rewarding.
"I'm happy because in the end, I've really found that what matters is your inner private life, and I've found a really amazing person."
Finding her place
Guenier was born in Havana, Cuba, to a Cuban mother and French father. She moved to a small town in France when she was 3. Even today, her accent reveals hints of Spanish, smooth French undertones and a tinge of British English, which she didn't learn until age 19.
She was born a dancer and knew when she was 5 years old that it would be her life.
"As soon as they played music, I was dancing," she said. She won Swiss national championships competing in ballet and jazz, but her career began to succumb to injuries.
Realizing her limitations in professional ballet, she sought opportunities in modern dance.
"You don't really think about it properly," she said about her career path. "Your body just takes you there; your mind takes you there. Music and dancing is my life, and I had to make a living at it."
Her career took her to London, where she suffered 1 1/2 years of rejections before the Tina Turner opportunity came to fruition.
In the 10 years she spent on the road with Turner ("The most amazing person to work with," she said), Guenier appeared at the Super Bowl, the Grammy Awards and the American Music Awards. In between, she was working on her singing career in France.
Singing, she said, always has been there in the background, and as her body grows tired from years of dancing, the next stage of her life will have a greater focus on music.
Starting about six weeks ago, Guenier began performing on Saturday nights at Bella's Wine Bar as a singer for the new Afro-Cuban Jazz Night.
Singing has helped her through the past two months, during which a calf injury has sidelined her from teaching her six dance classes at Elevation.
Studio owner Renee Fleischer, who helped sponsor Guenier's visa to move to the United States, said the injury didn't stop Guenier from sitting in on all of her classes while a substitute taught.
"Her experience and the people she's worked with are tremendous talents, but it hasn't changed her in how humble she is, and friendly, and her ability to share all that with this community," Fleischer said. "We're very lucky."
Guenier still walks with a limp, but she plans to begin teaching again next week and will continue to perform at Bella's.
She's not a skier — even though she grew up next to the Alps — but that doesn't mean her future in Steamboat Springs won't be filled with opportunities to feed her soul the same way the mountains do for so many others.
"A wine bar, underground, with red lighting … that's my powder day," she said.
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-8714204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com
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