Published: November 1, 2009
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We are thrilled to give you this exclusive interview with SBF Member, Christina Riba, a living legend, who is respected and admired for what she has achieved throughout her showbiz life.
Christina will take you through her journey which started at the London Royal Academy of Dancing and then unexpectedly took her across the world where she was able to fulfill her ambitions dreams.
Christina Riba

Quote Most of us have become immune to live entertainment because it's all been done over and over again in the comfort of our living room...
  • How old were you when you started dancing and what inspired you to take it up?
    Christina Riba: I started dancing when I was four, due to a mutual friend who also wanted to start dance classes. "Inspiration" at such an early age is a very complex word to comprehend, so I have no idea what on earth drove me to become so interested in this new dancing hobby, but it seems that the passion that evolves from putting movement to music was something that I was very eager to decipher! I loved the dance classes from the very first day, literally putting my heart and soul into them, not really understanding at this early stage of my life the real meaning of dedication and the consequences this would have later on in life. By the time I was eleven years old I was granted a scholarship with the Royal Academy of Dancing, and went on to pass the five re-tests held in London every year, reaching the final year when I was fifteen. At sixteen I entered the Royal Ballet school and after the first year I was moved directly to the graduates third year class, where I was given the incredible opportunity to dance in the company at the Royal Opera House, and perform on the same stage with those such as Nureyev and Margot Fontaine. Christina Riba 'Tweet' Carter, Julia Angelica, Dick Powell, Ruth Chadwick, Marilyn Price, Linda Murray Amazingly, however, this is where my life took an unbelievable twist. I had grown nearly two inches in the last year making me ridiculously tall for classical ballet. In Swan Lake, being the thirty second swan (perhaps the first swan would have loved to change places) was no fun and stuck at the back of the stage was something that I had not anticipated. I was eighteen and without EVER having taken a modern or jazz class in my life, decided to switch to the commercial world. I was offered a contract with the Bluebell Girls for one year in Buenos Aires. The pay was three times better, but I had only one day to decide and if my answer was yes, I had to leave for Argentina in four days. How do you pack your life, your dreams and everything you have strived and lived for, practically since you were born, and leave it on the back doorstep to be picked up by the trash man and take a plane half way round the world to embark on something totally unknown?
    I accepted, of course, and even with wild memories of the turmoil in those five days, I can safely say I have never looked back with regret! The only problem now, was that I was the shortest of the company and later found out that even with my strong classical background, it was probably only my long legs that got me the contract!
    For those of you who know me as Tweet, this is where I got my nickname. The Argentinean boys in the company said that I looked like Tweety Pie the canary! The name soon got shortened to Tweet, but stuck with me throughout all my dancing days.

  • What shows have you been in as a dancer?
    CR: From this turning point in my life, I stayed with the Bluebell company and after a year in Buenos Aires, and a short break at home, my next job was in Geneva, Switzerland where we stayed for three months, and with the same show and company went on to do a tour of Italy, then Germany, Korea for two months, Japan for six, including places like Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, the Island of Kiiushu, and of course Tokyo. We then crossed over to Hong Kong for three months and visited Bangkok on our way to Turkey, where we spent three months in Istanbul, and three in Ankara. At this point, somewhat tired of travelling so much, I was offered a job in Barcelona, Spain for a new club called Scala that was about to open. The thought of being able to settle down for a while was extremely appealing, even though it was only a six month contract. I was also offered a contract to go onto Las Vegas to open what was to be the new MGM Hotel, directly after the six months in Barcelona.

  • Barcelona, Scala                                                                  'Cita en Scala', 1973                                                 Stephanie, Claire Stacey Ayres, Jan, Anne Beedie, Christina Riba... How & when did you make the transition into choreographing and directing shows? CR: The transition into choreographing and directing shows came during this wonderful period of my life whilst dancing in the four large productions created for Scala, Barcelona. These shows were choreographed by many well known choreographers, including Gisa Geert and Nick Navarro, from whom I learnt a great deal and were produced and directed by the famous Riba brothers, Ramon and Antonio. After the initial opening in 1973 and the ongoing success of the Scala, the Ribas decided to renew all of the contracts with the artists they had meticulously searched for, to open their massive new project and investment. By this time I had fallen in love with Barcelona, the fantastic climate and the friendly and open culture of the Spanish people. Las Vegas could wait. I decided to settle down for a while, and take a second contract for the first time in my life in the same place. Soon, however, ambition took the front seat in my life. In the second year I felt totally capable of taking care of the company of 26 dancers, the show, the rehearsals, the accounts and all the ups and downs of a large company of dancers, put together in a foreign country for Miss Bluebell who, as most of you know, was based in Paris. I applied for the job and got the reply back from Bluebell: "My goodness Tweet, you're only 21! Do you really think you can do it?!" Of course, I took the job, put my heart and soul into it like I did and still do with everything else in life that I have a passion for and in this position of Captain/Company Manager is where I started first of all directing the company in their everyday needs and secondly choreographing and artistically creating some of the many, many, galas, conventions and fashion shows that we had to do as extras alongside the nightly two shows, and three on Sundays! I thoroughly enjoyed the magical moments of creating choreography by putting movement to the beauty of the music. Unfortunately in 1978 Scala Barcelona was burnt down by a terrorist attack. Barcelona, Scala                                                                    'Esta Noche Scala', 1977                                           Margie Kreger, Ruthanna Levy, Pamela Smith, Christina, Michael, Andrea Grant, Leigh Gough

  • What productions have you choreographed, directed?
    CR: With the opening of Scala Madrid in the Melia Castilla Hotel in November of 1981, two years after the destruction of Scala Barcelona, I took over the direction of the company, hiring dancers directly for the "Scala Ballet" with, of course, the backing of the Riba Brothers. The first shows that we reproduced in Scala Madrid were some of the great numbers that had been performed in Scala Barcelona, using the wonderful music created especially for Scala by composers such as Adolfo Waitzman and Joan Vives, costumes from Folco, Corrado Colabucci, Ruggero Vitrani, and sets from desigers such as Gianni Villa, and Gaetano Castelli, the brilliant choreography of Nick Navarro and direction and production of Ramon and Antonio Riba, plus many many more talented people. From this time in 1981, when Scala Madrid was born and over a period of the next 15 years with Scala Barcelona re-opening and Scala Canaries making it's debut in 1985 my life was dedicated to all of the fifteen large production shows which were produced in all three clubs during these years, plus bringing up my three children, of whom I am very proud, at the same time. My life was absorbed not only by the production, direction and choreography of the new shows in each and every Scala every year, but by the still constant galas, television shows and conventions.
    Quote Soon, ambition took the front seat in my life. I felt totally capable of taking care of the company of 26 dancers, the show, the rehearsals, the accounts and all the ups and downs of a large company of dancers, put together in a foreign country...
  • How have productions evolved since you were a performer yourself?
    CR: I would have to say that productions have evolved tremendously since the days when I performed. The little square box, or should I say the big flat screen that we all have in our front room at home has killed much of our illusions and fantasies by feeding us with non stop entertainment, be it good, bad or indifferent. Most of us have become immune to live entertainment because it's all been done over and over again in the comfort of our living room.
    With all of that said and out of the way I must however stress that there is still a whole wide world of spectators waiting and wishing to see live entertainment at it's best. Quality, innovation, and creativity would be three adjectives I would give as a necessity to any production hoping for success in today's show business world, putting on one side the monetary aspect which undoubtedly helps when taking into account all these amazing large productions with dazzling effects and resources that we see in Las Vegas.

  • What has been your most challenging production?
    CR: I would have to say that it would be impossible to put my finger on any one particular production. Every single show that I have been involved with has been a challenge right up until the opening night when the curtains close on the finale, the lights dim, the music dies and you feel and hear the enthusiasm from the audience. I would probably also have to add that once one show was open and running, the challenge was already starting to build up inside to make the next one even better. Barcelona, Scala                                                               'Scala de Barcelona', 1984                                                   Elsa Alberti, Stephanie, Christina, Debbie Rodney Parry, Julie Smith in rehearsals
  • What has been your role in the making of the two Pirate Dinner Adventure shows?
    CR: Pirates Dinner adventure is a totally different ball game. We've put away all the glitz and glamour of Scala and created a show with entertainment for the whole family. The original show was designed, created and produced by Ramon and Antonio Riba, directed by Michael La Fleur, with Dave Morizo as stunt co-ordinator and we are now fortunate to have Imre Baross as vice president of the company and who over the years has introduced many new and exciting stunts and helped to maintain a thoroughly exciting and energetic ambiance.
    Swashbuckling pirates is a far cry from ballet dancing, so I have taken a back seat in this production as far as the staging is concerned. I have however helped out with some of the musical scores, and written most of the lyrics to the musical numbers.

  • The Pirates Dinner Adventure is a family orientated show that focuses on interacting with the audience, how does this compare to your La Scala reviews?
    CR: Interaction with the audience is extremely well accepted, and a fun part of the show. Pirates is one of the largest interactive shows in the world and we use over two hundred people in every show including mums who search for treasure, dads who raise the sails and even their kids who love getting dressed up as soldiers to capture Captain Sebastian the Black! Interaction is a phenomenon of today's world as we have all seen with these numerous "reality shows" popping up constantly on television, but it was also a very well accepted part of the shows back in the wonderful days of Scala when act's such as "Borra, the fastest pickpocket in the world" would enthral the audiences by removing not only a poor unsuspecting client's watch, but his tie and maybe even his braces without him noticing a thing. Definitely audience participation at its best!
    The Ribas cruising
    Quote Once one show was open and running, the challenge was already starting to build up inside to make the next one even better...
  • Do you think that the way showbiz is today puts more (or less) pressure on a dancer's career than it used to do in the past and what would you say to encourage today's performers?
    CR: Without a shadow of a doubt there is more pressure on a dancer's career today than it used to in the past. In today's world you have to be an excellent all round performer, with many skills in all different aspects of dance if your aim is to be in one of the top shows. However, I honestly believe that those who truly have their heart set on being a performer can achieve whatever they want. Some of the things a dancing, acting or show business career teaches us is consistency, dedication and professionalism, which not only help us reach our goals as a performer, but also flows off into real life giving us an advantage in our every day chores and obligations.

  • Would you like to share with all ShowBiz Friends a memorable moment in your career that you treasure dearly?
    CR: Memorable moment that I treasure? Thousands! The only answer I can give to this question is that I have been fortunate enough to share many many wonderful moments with many many wonderful people. I cherish all the hundreds and thousands of memories that I have been fortunate enough to accumulate throughout all my life in show business, that I have kept dear to my heart and, may I add, that I am still accumulating.

  • If you had the chance, who would you thank for what you have achieved?
    Quote In today's world you have to be an excellent all round performer, with many skills in all different aspects of dance if your aim is to be in one of the top shows...
    CR: Firstly my parents, who sacrificed and helped me when dancing was the only thing I had in my head, permitting me, as an only child, to leave home at such an early age to go to London and fulfil my dreams.
    Secondly my wonderful husband Antonio and my three children, who have been patient and understanding when "mum" had to be away at work, and have grown up to be responsible adults.

  • What do you think of ShowBiz Friends?
    CR: ShowBiz friends is an amazing website that has brought together so many long lost friends, and is the best thing ever that has happened on the Internet for all those of us that have show business engraved in their hearts.

    Thank you Christina for your brilliant interview and for all your invaluable help with this month's articles!