Dancer-choreographer Clymene Aldinger left for NYC over a decade ago, but her work retains a deep Orlando connection

She's still collaborating with her secret weapon, Kurt Rambus

Kurt Rambus and Clymene Aldinger
Kurt Rambus and Clymene Aldinger photo by Beau Austin

In the last few years, I've written a depressing number of columns bidding farewell to Central Floridan artists who have departed our state seeking bluer pastures. So I'm always delighted for the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend who has found success in the big city, yet still remembers their roots. It's been well over a decade since dancer-choreographer Clymene Aldinger left Orlando for New York City, where she performed as a principal dancer with the acclaimed Elisa Monte Dance before founding the nonprofit Clymove Dance in 2019. On April 2, her company held their 2024 gala at the prestigious Ailey Citigroup Theater, where they debuted the latest in her long line of collaborations with veteran local DJ Nigel John, as his stage alias Kurt Rambus. I recently caught up with the pair — whom I've known since they first met in 2009 through my wife's company, Voci Dance — to hear why and how they've maintained their productive long-distance partnership.

"Being in Orlando and being with Voci was kind of a saving grace for me, because I had done the New York thing and it was pretty stressful," Aldinger recalls of her arrival here in the aughts, after training at NYC's Fordham University. "It was a lot to take in as a young person, and I needed a mental health check and emotional [and] physical break from that life." While pursuing her master's degree in mental health counseling at Rollins, she began dancing with Voci, which she says "was perfect for me, because it was more about the inspiration and the development of character, and just your whole self — your real self, whatever that is, it doesn't matter what it looks like. ... I just got to investigate a lot of different things ... there was a lightness to it, but it was also depth-oriented at the same time."

During this "magical time," she first met John, who was contributing music to a Voci production. "His music is ultimately what we connected over, and his collaboration with dance was what I was inspired by, so when I needed a new composer he was in my mind just a perfect fit," says Aldinger.

"I was originally attracted to his music because, while I am a classically trained dancer, there is a darkness to me; there is a funkiness, a soulfulness and he seems like a kindred spirit, in that we're both sort of paradoxical," says Aldinger. "It's dark, and yet it's upbeat; it's depth-oriented, but then it's funky and fun; it's like being at a party, but also you're thinking about really deep things."

For his part, John — who is studying cognitive neuroscience at UCF when not dropping beats — explains that he and Aldinger were drawn to work together because they are both "unconventional," adding, "That's where we fit. We kind of like to experiment; she experiments, and I experiment." Aldinger echoes that, saying, "When I'm inspired, I can say some pretty weird things and ideas, and he's never been like, 'What the F are you talking about?'"

Aldinger creates all her postmodern choreography without any music at all, and then sends Rambus suggestions of sonic inspirations that he turns into an original soundtrack. On their first collaboration, Rambus remembers Aldinger referencing a Big Boi song and asking for something "that BPM, that speed, that kind of vibe. So I listened to it, and then I kind of did my own thing." Since then, he says, they've developed a routine of working back and forth over the internet.

Aldinger calls "Hips," their eighth and newest joint piece, their "most collaborative yet." Rambus' contributions haven't gone unnoticed by Clymove's audiences, according to Aldinger, who reports that "at every show someone asked me like, 'Where's the vinyl? Where can I get the record?'" And she's looking forward to this Orlando connection continuing, saying, "I'm not going to mess with something that isn't broken. It's literally perfect for what I'm trying to achieve."

Although she recalls her move back to New York as being "really, really, really hard, because I had found a life in Florida," Aldinger was able to achieve her dream of dancing professionally until her retirement in 2017. Today, she's focused on being her company's artistic director, which she calls "really stress-inducing [and] anxiety-provoking." She credits her delegation skills for her success: "When I was a dancer, I had to do everything I did. [Now] I'm able to listen to other people's advice, and rely on my board, and follow those who've done it before me."

Manhattan may seem a world away from Orlando's comparatively minuscule market, but Aldinger has some advice for fellow artists that rings true regardless of their city's size. "You need to find your angel investors, and there's really no other way to get started without money. You rely initially on your donors and patrons and sponsors," she says. "Fundraising is the only thing that saves art. Ticket sales are the lowest hierarchy of where you make your money. Everything comes from people actually caring and giving their money over for a good cause."

Many artists in the area may dream of escaping to NYC, but Aldinger isn't closing the book on her life here by a long shot. "I love Orlando, and in fact, when my husband and I discussed where we move when we're done with New York, that's one of my top votes," she says. "I'm always gonna have a spot in my heart for Orlando."


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