50 over 50 interviewees – Caroline Waters- Performer, Director, Teacher, Producer, Model and Festival Organiser

  1. Tell us more about yourself. What do you do and how long you’ve been working in this industry?

I’m a Performer, Director, Teacher, Producer, Model and Festival Organiser. I’ve worked internationally in Dance and Theatre since I was 16, so for nearly 40 years. I’m dedicated to the art of Improvisation in Performance and am especially interested in Site-Specific Multi-Disciplinary Performance and Theatre for non-Theatre spaces. 

I am also a Festival Organizer and part of the organization is providing a context for the performances to happen. Alongside my freelance work, I’m currently teaching Contact Improvisation at Chichester University and have previously taught Contextual Practice at Dartington College of Arts.

I’m glad to be asked to participate in this project because I feel as if the international scene I have existed in is unseen. I am a 50/50 person I have always been employed part time and then usually create or co-create the opportunities for the other 50% of my time. 

  1. Who did you want to be when you were a kid?

I wanted to be Paul Newman or Vivian Leigh.

As a kid, I thought I wanted to work with horses. I was a ridiculously unambitious child. I thought I was going to be a farmer’s wife and have six kids and foster children.

As a teenager, I did think I wanted to be in the arts. David Bowie inspired me. I saw him as a multi-disciplinary performer, not a singer. I was also inspired by the Beats. I wanted to work and travel, and I ended up being able to do exactly that.

  1. What was your ‘punch in the stomach’ or when did you first realise that this is going to become your career?

There was no punch in the stomach, but during my four-year degree at Dartington College, I gradually realized that there was nothing else I wanted to do. At Dartington, there were so many brilliant practitioners passing through that I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to figure out how to make it happen. It was a College with an international scope. My first job on leaving College took me to The States and Europe. I never looked back.

  1. What were the 3 biggest obstacles in pursuit of your career?
    • Funding. The world I participate in is always under-funded and opportunities for payment are hard to find. Especially finding funding for improvisation.


    • I left school and home at 16. So my education got interrupted and I got into college as an older student. Somehow this fostered a sense of low self-esteem. I was always thinking I got in through the back door.


    • I’ve been too multi-disciplinary and working in too many different countries. I’m not known in my own country. My international experience seems to have not given me much purchase back home. A jack of all trades and mistress of none means sometimes it’s hard for me to get work as people are unsure exactly what it is I do.

  1. Where do you find inspiration?

I find it in the every day. Being a collaborator I’m inspired by what is present with what and whom I am working. Music has always been a huge inspiration. Words, poetry and prose too. Nature, being outside, the sea, mountains our wonderful environment. The city and urban decay.

  1. What challenges do you face in this industry as a ‘50+ artist’?

I see the opportunities go to younger people all the time. Because my life-work has been so ephemeral, I find it hard to document what I’ve been doing. In the last couple of years, I have been feeling that the current generation is not very interested in the past and in older artist’s experience. I’m bored by people who keep reinventing the wheel. There is a manual for that.

I am low tech. I still don’t have a website and work in live performance. This is a huge challenge especially being over 50 and needing to figure out how to still be relevant.

There has always been a sense of a challenge with my chosen career because there seems to be little understanding of what Improvisation in Performance is unless it is  comedy. Now coupled up with ageing there is a double whammy of obstacles in the 21st Century.

  1. What advice would you give someone who is about to start their career but is being told that it’s ‘too late’?

It’s never too bloody late. Don’t listen to them. Over the years students have told me I am the one person who has told them, “All right then. Go for it, do it.” I am a “yes person”

  1. Do you have any idols and if so, who and why?

Grace Jones, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Henry Rollins, Nick Cave the Beat Poets and Women Writers. 

Steve Paxton has not been an idol, but he has been a mentor and an inspiration. It’s not the Contact Improvisation side of him, but his interest in improvisation in performance. Simone Forti, The Judson Church Crew in some ways. Katie Duck. Sara Shelton Mann.

Ten or fifteen years ago I might have been quite clear about these people, but at this moment in time, I am not sure who or what are my idols.

  1. What’s your life motto?  


  • Keep life live. 
  • I’m as much the person who brings people together to do the project as the one who does the project. 
  • I’m a no person as well as a yes person. 

  1. You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why?

I am one of those rainbow pens, you don’t know what colour will come out as there are several colours in the same stroke. Because I have always been multi-disciplinary and a multi-tasker. I have had to be to make work happen. In the mix who knows what will come out first?

Want to know more about Caroline’s work? Connect with her on Facebook or follow her on Mixcloud