Vanessa Carlton has always said that she’s a dancer first, and in her upcoming video, fans are finally going to see the proof of it. The singer plays a dual role in the clip for “White Houses,” in which she both stays seated at her trademark piano and bounces around it — and on it — to the annoyance of her piano-player self.
“There’s a bit of schizophrenia in the video,” Carlton said during a break from shooting. “I’m a musician who just sits there forever, and I’m someone who likes to jump around and move. I actually have legs!”
Carlton studied ballet as a teenager, but a sudden growth spurt forced her to leave her love of dance behind. Now that she’s older, she’s reclaiming her love of dance through a song that takes her back to that time period. “White Houses,” the first single off her upcoming Harmonium, due October 19, tells the tale of a girl coming of age, experiencing her first passions and reflecting on what she’s gained and lost in the process.
“It’s about jealousy, it’s about losing your virginity, it’s about living on your own,” she said. “It’s a story that most people can relate to, that chapter in your life from 16 to 25, where you’re trying to figure out who you are, and you go through all these triumphs and tragedies on a daily basis, and how they shape you. It’s really the journey of one girl and her perception of her environment and how she starts out as a wide-eyed person, but everyone gets hardened by life, but not necessarily to the point where you can’t feel anymore — all these things, in one little snapshot of a song.”
Confronting feelings from that tumultuous time, Carlton said, also meant confronting what ruled her life at the time, and finally getting over the hurt feelings of leaving something she loved behind.
“For the first time in years, I have somehow mustered up the courage to get myself to dance, not just in front of other people, but to get myself to dance by myself,” she said. “That was a huge transition for me to be completely, ‘I’m a ballet dancer, that’s all I do, do it hours every day’ to being this musician. I’ve always played piano, it’s been part of my life, but I always kind of looked at this as some kind of release from who I really am, which is a dancer. There was a lot of pain when I stopped dancing, and to be able to go back to it, I feel like I’m somehow healed.”
Don’t worry — she’s not wearing a tutu. Carlton said she’s more interested in “finding shapes and a feeling in dance” than doing anything too formal, to show that there can be something other than what she characterizes as the “masculine, gyrating, sharp” forms usually seen in music videos these days. “You don’t feel anything real from it, except for Beyoncé’s booty thing,” she said.
And she won’t be dancing on tour, “because who will be playing the piano?” she asks. In the meantime, she’s enjoying being able to incorporate dance in her life again, even if it is just for one video.
“I’m so sick of sitting down,” she said. “I can’t wait to finally get up and move around.”