My friend Carolyn Holden, a.k.a. Carolina Rosa, died this last week of brain aneurisym. She was 50 and in the prime of her life. Professionally she leaves behind her the La Rosa Spanish Dance Theatre and at home, her enchanting adopted daughter, little Eli-Rose. She also leaves a vast mass of friends, students, former students, fellow-dancers. Her sudden death has been a huge shock to us all and I can find little to comfort us.
Penning an adequate tribute to such a strong spirit, such an example of perseverance and fortitude, seems rather beyond me at this point in time, but I'll do my best.
I first met Carolyn around 1980, when I was working with her teacher and my friend, Mavis Becker, on the establishment of Mavis' Danza Lorca Company. Blonde and pretty, she was not immediately recognisable as the Spanish Dance force she would become. But she was no fluffy blonde ... her financial job kept her life ticking over and in all her spare time she danced, studied Spanish, went to Spain, danced - and dreamed. We worked together on the Danza Lorca Oude Libertas shows, she was one of the featured members of the Flamenco de Africa ballet that Mavis choreographed for M-NET in 1994, and lots more besides.
I remember when John Caviggia was fitting Carolyn for her Vlisco print flamenco dress for our first fusion of Flamenco and African dance (the aforementioned Flamenco de Africa). The huge frill on the sleeve was right over the top, and when Carolyn raised her arm, it covered her face! "Ja well, no fine," said she ..." And laughed her famous, gutsy belly laugh. The offending frill was cut back, and Carolyn's contribution to the hugely successful All Africa Film Awards cabaret was joyous and infectious. In my house I have a great shot by Rebecca Hearfield, of Carolyn and Sonwabo. Since last week, a blue glass rosary which I bought at the Monastry of St George, near Homs, in Syria, hangs over it. I am not sure of the heaven and hell scenario, any more, but if that's the deal, I am sure Carolyn is teaching the angels flamenco 101, or maybe emersed in a fiery discussion on flamenco fusion, with Luisa Aranda, and Antonio Gades!
Carolyn never let circumstances stand in her way, she persevered and succeeded. She started her own company, she obtained funding and started an amazing training programme. Sitting watching her female dancers, when I was privileged to watch the dress rehearsal of her final show, on January 26, I was astonished. I looked at Mavis and she just said, "She's phenomenal, her students are great, they dance wish such musicality ..." Right before she died, Carolyn was fighting to keep the company going, waiting for funding, doing deals with the landlord, hearing the good news that an outreach programme she'd tendered for would be funded, and then ... 4 April: headache, faint, vomiting, coma, and death. All in a matter of hours.
But that's not the full story ... at home was Eli-Rose, the vibrant little livewire, found in the ladies room of a garage in KZN, adopted by Carolyn, and the new love of her life. They played, they laughed, they loved. And in the midst of it all, Carolyn completed her M-Mus, in Dance, with distinction. So it's easy to say, she achieved her dreams ... maybe she did, but this was only the beginning, and the decade to come would have seen her scaling amazing new heights.
I can't offer any good words of consolation, I am devastated by this tragedy and have no answers. I can only pay huge, extravagant tribute to a woman who lived her life to the full, and met all challenges head-on. The duende was present on many occasions in this relatively short life and the results were spectacular. Carolyn, you are a inspiration and we will keep you and your example alive. Olé, besos querida.