nicole is a fire and belly dancer and member of the lux arati troupe. she and the rest of the lux arati ladies always go above and beyond with professionalism — we KNEW we could rely on lux arati to show up and perform IN THE MIDDLE OF A BLIZZARD (we have since even seen them perform in a thunderstorm in a graveyard).
nicole has also always been on hand to lend a dress dummy for a gallery exhibition, text me from manhattan to find out what sizes the kids are wearing so she can buy them moomin t-shirts, or even bake moomin cookies! her mother, chris carter, is also a fascinating artist.
listen to the conversation embedded below, or on soundcloud.
nicole vergalla at the “krampuslauf philadelphia: parade of spirits” exhibition opening at imperfect gallery, january 2014. photo by steve schultz.
TC: My name is Tucker Collins and I’ve been coming to Krampuslauf since 2013, and today I’m interviewing Nicole Vergalla, who is one of the Lux Arati fire dancers, and here she is.
TC: Now, how long have you been coming to Krampuslauf Philadelphia?
NV: I’ve been going to Krampuslauf since 2012, I think, yeah, 2012. 2013 was the snowy year, right?
TC: Yes. Yes it was.
NV: Yeah, the year before that.
TC: OK, and what was it that first brought you to Krampuslauf?
NV: One of the performers with our troupe — she goes by Jex in the troupe but her real name’s Jen — I think she was working with Amber’s kids at school, and started talking to her, and she brought it to the troupe as something we might be interested in performing at. We really didn’t have a lot of information, but it sounded like something fun.
TC: Obviously, coming without very much information isn’t the kind of thing that would be a reason that people would stay, and keep coming back, so what was it that made you continue to want to come and do this and be part of it?
NV: The event was really really fun; it was great to be able to perform for a real neighborhood feel; we do a lot of stuff at large venues, or big parties or bars or something, but this, it felt like our performance really fit with the theme of the event and the types of people who were there and everyone was super, super nice, and welcoming, and it was just really really fun. And seeing all the costumes and the time that everyone put into them was great, because oftentimes we show up and we put a lot of work into our costumes and it was great to be around other people who seem to do the same and it was truly inspiring, and we just started thinking of, how could we be bigger and better next year, to help contribute to the whole feel of the event.
TC: While you’ve come wearing costumes that are fire safe, you have been dressing up as you come to Krampuslauf too, though, is that right?
NV: The first year we didn’t really know what to expect, so we just kind of did, as sorta “Creepy Christmas” as we could without really having a basis, but over the years our costumes have evolved to be more fur and horns and really get in the theme more than just “we’re dressed up for our performance”. More trying to make it work within the feel of the rest of the costuming, at Krampuslauf.
TC: Do you see your role at Krampuslauf as being strictly related to your performance, or is there more to it than that?
nicole vergalla performs at krampuslauf philadelphia 2014. photo copyright jill saull, 2014. all rights reserved.
NV: One thing that’s great about it is we practice in the park, and a few of the girls who are in our troupe work in that area, so it’s a really good way for us to give back to the whole community too, like the people who have seen us rushing from one gig to another, or who catch glimpses of us around. So I guess as far as the troupe goes, we are trying to participate more than just a show, we are trying to get people to go to it and bring people along. Personally, I’ve gotten my mom involved, and her friend Deb. It’s tough because we can’t really participate in the parade, but I did get to see a lot of great pictures from it, because my mom was doing the procession, this past year, she did tell me some really fun stuff about it.
TC: What were your expectations going into this event, the first time?
NV: I think my expectations the first time were more performance anxiety related, because it was early on in our troupe’s performing as a group so I usually end up focusing much more on trying to not get stage fright, so I wasn’t really focused on the whole group, or the whole event. But over time, my expectations — it’s just a magical event, and I can’t wait to see what people come up with, and how many people show up in costume, I think it’s really one of the view things I’ve seen that’s across the board, everyone’s participating. So it’s really great to see how it’s growing and growing… as far as negative expectations, that’s more just weather-related, like “How cold is it going to be?”
TC: In 2013 we had some pretty rough weather.
NV: I wish that I had been able to be there for 2013. I know that the girls who did go, they had a great time even though it was snowing, and I think that it was because the people are so amazing. I mean, the first year I was focused on stage fright, but now it’s one of the most comfortable events for me, because even though we’re performing it’s really low stress, if that makes sense, because it’s such a welcoming environment. And having the kids’ (flow toy mini-) showcase this past year was amazing, the energy from everyone was so great, because they were amped up and and excited to see all these people getting into it; and it was just really fun. So even with bad weather I think it’s such a great event run by such great people…
TC: I suppose that part of what would make it more comfortable could be that it’s not just you that’s performing; in a way, everyone is, through the ways in which we come to particpate.
NV: Yeah, I think so. We happen to be on stage because we’ve got fire, and the stage is great because it makes an enclosed environment so it’s not like we’re worried about kids walking up to you while you’re spinning fire, you know, you’re sort of protected by the stage, but because it is very much a performance event, it’s probably why everyone’s so welcoming and great.
TC: But it’s not a performance event where people are coming to BE entertained by other people.
NV: Exactly. It’s a collaborative performance.
TC: Do you have a most memorable moment from attending Krampuslauf Philadelphia?
NV: I think it was really fun for me to see my mom and her friend Deb there this past year because it was great to see her and Deb really enjoying themselves, and sometimes, if you bring someone to an event, you feel like you should, you know, be participating at it with them, but when I’m performing, I can’t really, you know, I just have to sort of, “Hey, I brought you here, sorry I have to ditch you and go set up the stage now,” and she had a great time regardless. And I think it was really great to see that she really took to the event also, and her friend Deb really took to the event, and I feel like the more people of like minds this event draws together, it just gets better and better.
artist chris carter, nicole’s mother, sketched DURING the procession as well as before and after in 2014. this is a sketch of the kid’s flow mini-showcase before lux arati’s performance.
TC: I suppose that yeah, bringing people to an event can make you feel obligated to make sure they have fun. Even with that, the two rules for Krampuslauf, the first one is that “You are responsible for your own fun and a bit of someone else’s.”
TC: And other is not to scare any children.
NV: That’s what’s fascinating, is it’s so — it’s creepy and scary and some of the costumes are you know, they could be terrifying, but at the same time it’s so welcoming and I’ve never seen kids really crying — maybe I just missed that — but the fact that it is so family friendly and has these amazing things happening that are very adult but the kids are totally welcome as human beings, just little ones.
TC: Given the two following prompts, what would you say to those, how would you continue them: “Krampuslauf will always be like…” and “Krampuslauf will never be like…”
NV: Krampuslauf will always be magical and inspiring. It’ll never be warm; it’ll always be a night that could possibly be VERY cold, and weather-dependent, but it’s always gonna be fun; and I think it’ll always be an enjoyable event that we participate in because it’s just a great meeting of artistry and neighborhood and interesting culture stuff and cool things for kids to learn and be inspired by. So it’s just always gonna be a great event, I think.
TC: Great! Thank you.