After a serious back injury put a halt to her performing career, Royal Ballet-trained dancer, Karis Scarlette, decided to shake up the ballet world with the launch of her own school, En Avant Ballet, in 2009.
Since then, her classes and retreats, centered around ‘spreading the joy of ballet’, have seen her become the go-to teacher in London and she now counts Hollywood actors, singers, and Royals as her clients.
Her welcoming, inclusive and holistic approach to teaching has also been influential in changing how ballet is viewed in the fitness community, helping to bring classical ballet classes like barre into the mainstream.
We caught up with her at her retreat at Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, Maldives, to chat all things travel…
What is the first trip you remember taking?
I have some memories of my first trip abroad to Turkey with my parents when I was six. I nearly died twice! Once from being swept away by a huge wave at the beach and the other from food poisoning . . . My mum also got bitten by a horse so all in all, the holiday went down in memory as being somewhat dramatic!
Which holidays have been your favourite to date and why?
Each trip brings something different but I do enjoy the ones I get to spend with those I love. One holiday stands out in my mind though. Taiwan was the first time I really ventured out alone and explored Taipei and its surrounding areas with nothing but a map and a backpack! It felt so empowering and was a period of real personal growth. On that trip I also met a lot of incredible people whom I still call friends to this day.
Where do you go for the ultimate escape?
An escape for me means to completely break away from my everyday environment and routine so ultimately, most non-working holidays always include a beach, plenty of nature and no WiFi. Because of my very hectic work schedule at home I don’t often have time to treat myself to massages or spa treatments, which is something I really enjoy. So I do like to indulge in a little pampering during a holiday and there are many places in the world I have visited which have incredible spas such as Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa and Amilla Fushi, both in the Maldives. I am visiting UXUA in Bahia, Brazil later this year (2019) to hold a ballet retreat and I have been told I may never return home because it is the ultimate jungle paradise!
What does travel mean to you?
For me, travel is inextricably linked to my work. It was the one thing I wanted to do after my professional stage career so to have created a business whereby I get to see the world and still work in the ballet industry is more than I could have imagined. I guess it’s a way of measuring success but not from a materialistic point of view. I don’t need or desire a 5-star hotel to know I have earned a holiday! I am quite happy to spend a long weekend in a small Airbnb in Budapest and I will still feel as lucky as when I get to stay in luxury hotels! It’s having the option that counts.
Do you get away often? Is this important to you?
I have a rule that each year I will visit two or three new countries. In 2018, it was Hungary and Argentina and in 2017 I visited India, Switzerland and Croatia all for the first time. For work, I travel once a month to places around the UK and Europe and most of the time I take a day or two either side of the ballet retreat to relax and enjoy the new environment. When I take longer trips, for example to Asia or the USA, I try to stay on longer to explore. I will be working in China next year for a month and I already have a list of other destinations I want to visit while I am there, including Japan and Tibet.
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What’s the biggest lesson from your travels?
The world is a huge, intoxicating wonder that I never tire of exploring… If I couldn’t travel, I couldn’t live. Oh and always pack your own teas and hot sauce!
Where would be your ultimate holiday destination with friends?
I would love to visit the islands of Indonesia or the Philippines with friends as most of us are ‘hippies’ who love to take long trips to places where we can walk a lot, visit temples, eat, drink and swim in the ocean all day! I quite like the idea of attending a retreat in Bali with friends.
How do you look after your wellbeing when you’re abroad?
I always travel with my favourite teas! I need daily doses of different herbals teas in order to feel ‘well’ and hydrated. So these are essential, as is keeping to the stretching and meditation routine I usually do at home. I reduce my gym exercising as I often feel my body needs a complete break but this is compensated by more time spent swimming or walking. I also never go abroad without electrolyte powders as you never know when you could be in need!
What’s your idea of a luxury holiday?
Where I feel at home in a place which is far beyond anything I could create myself, where every detail has been thought through and I can share a hammock with someone I love while looking at the sunset!
Where do you get your holiday inspiration?
I get inspiration from being spontaneous. I am the type of person who just puts a pin the map and gets on the plane! I don’t ever plan holidays unless they are work-related. For a beach holiday, I only need inspiration in the form of books and bikinis and most of my city break choices are inspired by food and wine, dance culture and language. I like to learn something new every time I travel.
How do you recover from jet lag?
A long stretching session to promote deeper breathing and reduce muscle tension, then a quick meditation to adjust to the new surroundings. And a dose of melatonin!
Favourite Hotel? Why?
I love Atzaro in Ibiza. It’s my Spanish home! I feel like part of the family when I am there (I run ballet retreats at Atzaro several times a year) because the staff are incredibly friendly and fun. They’ve really grasped the concept of ‘relaxed luxury’ so the atmosphere is professional yet personable which makes working there a real pleasure! It also helps that it is set amongst some of the most stunning and peaceful countryside on the island. If you are seeking sanctuary under the stars, you will find it at Atzaro.
Nothing beats the ocean scenery of the Shangri-La Villingili Resort and Spa either… Teaching ballet with the Indian Ocean as our backdrop was more beautiful than you can imagine.
What are your must-have travel picks?
Whenever I am at the airport I buy Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir perfume. It’s the only thing I need from duty-free! I buy the small travel-friendly size bottle every time.
First thing that comes to your mind?
Toothbrush, eye mask and a golf ball for a quick foot massage!
Time killer on a long-haul flight?
Movies and red wine.
Bucket list top destination?
The entire world, but the first place that springs to mind is Angel Falls in Venezuela.
Best shopping gem found abroad?
Incredible cashmere from India.
Beach or City?
Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca, Mexico. No internet, no problems!
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