My name is Berkleigh Hernandez and I am 14 years old. I live in Maryland and I dance at CityDance School and Conservatory.
Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started taking dance classes at three and a half years old. I joined my first competitive team at 4 years old. I did competitive dance until I was in sixth grade and then switched to pre-professional ballet training. I am signed with Clear Talent NYC and have enjoyed getting to audition and do some dance-related work. During my years of competitive dance, I did very well in competitions securing many first-place wins and title champions, such as national Miss Petite Dance and national Junior Champion. I was selected to join the Abby Lee Dance Company as a trial team member on Dance Moms. I won the youth Grand Prix in 2021 at my first YAGP in Winston Salem. Last year I placed second in contemporary and second in classical at YAGP Toronto. My favorite styles of dance are ballet, technical jazz, and lyrical/contemporary.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The hardest part of my dance story has been moving a lot because of my Dad’s job. Every time I move, I have to start all over at a studio. Nobody knows your strengths or what you need to work on, so you can’t keep progressing like you were at your last studio. I also switched from competition dance to a ballet route. People dismiss your ballet technique. They think you were just a competition dancer because not every competition studio has a strong ballet program. I have always loved ballet, so I always took extra ballet classes.
What personal limitations if any did you go through in your young career?
I am lucky to have never had a dance injury that took me out of doing what I love. Sometimes it can be difficult to balance school and dance. I might procrastinate school work a little bit. ;)
Has anybody ever tried to limit you on what you could do? If so how did you fight it?
I’ve had people I used to call friends who have tried to sabotage me. Some of the worst things were my shoes stolen before a performance, things poured into my dance bag, teammates who would heckle me from the wings during my solos, and a grandma who told me things like “I’ll feed you so many brownies that you will be too sick to compete, then my grandchild will finally win”. A teammate told me she was going to lock me in the closet so I would miss my solo and she would have a better chance at winning, parents saying they hoped I fell or messed up so someone else would beat me because they were sick of me winning, parents over analyzing my face at awards ceremonies to where I now just stare blank-faced bc if I smiled I was cocky, or if I looked sad, then I was unappreciative. These same parents and kids expected me to be excited for their good moments but shamed me for mine. I absolutely cheered for my team regardless of how they treated me as a soloist or a dancer who was doing skills they were still working on. I do not miss that part of competition dance and almost quit dance entirely because while I loved dance, it’s not great to feel like everyone hates you for working hard at something you love. Sometimes I still feel anxiety before performing because of those moments, but I am grateful for the people who have always supported and cheered for me.
How do you conquer negative talk?
I try to stay away from people who are negative. I will just go away to keep the peace and to focus on my own dancing.
What is your favorite quote?
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
For now, I’m just focusing on working on the things I need to do and hopefully will continue on the path towards a career in dancing.