Here, I will be updating you on my latest happenings, and posting some of my experiences and adventures as I teach, choreograph, and coach through life! I want to dedicate this first post to telling you a little about myself, and my undying passion for this wonderful art form we are all in love with: DANCE.
I started dancing at a very young age, because my mom wanted to expose me to the arts…and because she needed to keep me out of trouble after school since I’d run around with the boys and come home full of dirt, scrapes, and bruises. Because I didn’t necessarily love ballet (butterfly walks, bunny hops, and frog leaps weren’t my thing) she signed me up for flamenco classes. At first, I had no idea what this meant. After all, I was only 5 years old and the only image of dance I was familiar with involved tutus or salsa dancing. But, as soon as she showed me the skirt I’d be wearing, the heels I’d be stomping in, and the castanets I’d be causing a ruckus with, I was ready to go. So, off I went to my first flamenco class. I absolutely loved it! Slowly, my love for dance began to grow, and at the age of twelve, after getting caught in the studio bathroom wearing someone else’s pointe shoes from the lost and found box (it’s a long story for another day, folks) my mom received a phone call from the studio owner suggesting she sign me up for ballet classes to save me from injury.
Soon after, I was all in. Obsessed with the craft, all I wanted to do was dance and learn about dance. My flamenco teacher, Pepe Bronce, took me under his wing and was my mentor and biggest inspiration. I began dancing at flamenco restaurants to earn a little money and ease my mom’s financial responsibilities with me, so I danced day and night. I never wanted to go out or spend time with friends; I only wanted to take classes, rehearse, and perform. I was Pepe’s assistant for a few years before he gave me my very first class to teach. Since he kept me on scholarship at the studio, I always tried to help whenever I could. At 16, he decided I was ready to have my own little group of beginner dancers. I was stoked! The road wasn’t a smooth one, but he was there every step of the way to help me, always encouraging me to push through and believe in my ability. I remained on scholarship/work study at the studio, began auditioning for summer intensives, attended a few, and then graduated high school in the top ten percent of my class with a Bright Futures scholarship. Although I’d auditioned for and been selected for an unpaid apprenticeship position with a smaller ballet company out of state, my family was not in a financial position to send me out of state unless I was fully employed. Thus, I stayed in Miami and attended New World School of the Arts College.
You know the saying “everything happens for a reason?” Yeah, firm believer over here. After getting past my overdramatic teenage devastation at the thought of having to turn down my dream apprenticeship with a ballet company, I decided to make the best of life and prove to everyone that I was going to accomplish all the things I’d set out to do. The next four years in college proved to be both eye-opening and inspiring. I began working in the commercial dance industry with choreographer Manny Castro and his wife Lory. They taught me so much about commercial work, which was a whole new world for me. I also continued teaching a few classes a week, and juggled rehearsals after school as well as all the other obligations any performing arts college student has. There were days I was sure I’d never make it through, but occasionally, a silver lining in the form of another TV gig or amazing performance opportunity would arise, so I’d snag it and keep on dreaming. Well, four years came and went in the blink of an eye, and I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance graduating with honors. I received a scholarship to train at the Martha Graham Center in New York that summer, so I packed my bags after graduation in the hopes I’d stay for more than just a few months.
As luck would have it, I landed a tiny (and I mean tiny) job performing in an off-Broadway show called Rumba Dreams. I returned to Miami to grab more of my stuff, and move back to New York. As I was preparing, I received a call from Ray Sullivan, the director of Miami Contemporary Dance Company, offering me a position, but I had to turn it down because I had already signed the contract for the show in New York. So, I went to New York, I fulfilled my contract, and I took a lot of classes and met a lot of people. The experiences were unforgettable, but I was ready to see the sun and smell the ocean again. After all, the Cubanita in me calls for tropical weather at all times; I feel incomplete without it. I called Ray back in Miami and begged for the position he offered me that past summer. It was no longer available. He asked me to come to company class either way to see if there would be any possibility of convincing the board members to add one more company dancer to the mix mid-season, so I did. I missed cafe con leche so much that I booked my plane ticket while I was still in the dressing room on the last night of my contract in New York.
So there I was. My future relying on one single ballet class. I was nervous, but I really needed to make things work in order to stay on track with my overdramatic teenage aspirations. I’m not sure how I did it, but it worked! The board members liked me, and soon I was a company member with a full season’s worth of rehearsals and performances. I was in heaven! To say you do what you love for a living should never be taken for granted. Not everyone could truly say they want to work all day, but I could. And I did. I danced during the day, and taught in the evenings. I continued doing commercial work on TV every now and again, whenever I was able to fit it in my schedule. Soon, I started going on tour with Miami Contemporary Dance Company and then I began training to become certified in the technique Ray had created for his movement style. I danced professionally for seven amazing years, and I continued teaching and choreographing at different studios, among them Miami Contemporary Dance Center and Dancetown; but I truly felt at home at Miami Dancity Studios, where I grew the most and truly developed my teaching style.
Once I finished dancing professionally (we can all blame my mysterious back injury for the quick retirement) I took to Miami Dancity as full-time faculty and staff. I taught multiple hours in the evenings, choreographed pieces for groups, soloists, duets, and trios, and coached these as well. I took on more creative responsibility alongside the artistic director, Yvonne Alvarez, who became one of my great friends along the way. Did I mention how awesome it is to truly love your job? It suddenly doesn’t feel like a job anymore! In addition to all of that, I began to work on the other side of the business, and learned all about the administrative workings of the dance world, mostly marketing and coordinating. I became a guest choreographer for Miami Arts Charter School’s Dance Department after my friend Valerie Barreiro called me in to work with some of the dancers in her program. I also started working with independent dancers looking for different styles to enhance their performance abilities and coached them for competitions.
This past year, I received a call from my friend Valerie, the director of the dance program at Miami Arts Charter School, and she offered me a full-time position that had suddenly become available. Remembering my teenage self and all the goals I set out to achieve, I took the risk and accepted the position…and I’m so happy I did! Although it’s been tough to manage my schedule this year, I can truly say the change has allowed me to grow even more and share my love for dance with young aspiring artists who would otherwise not have the ability to be exposed to the art form. I’m continuing to grow and evolve, and I couldn’t be happier.
Now I’m here! Ready to learn from others as they learn from me. I believe in the magic of dance and its ability to bring people together with its universal language. I love to work with people who share the same passion for dance that I have, and be in new and different experiences where we can all bring what we have to the table and share it openly, free of judgement. I can’t wait to continue sharing with all of you!
I hope you enjoyed my first blog! Now that you know a little more about me, follow along and see what I’ll be up to next! Have a great day!