My name is Valerie Santana and I am 16 years old. I live in Orlando, Florida and I train at In Motion Dance Project.
Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started dancing at the age of 3, and ever since, I have loved it. I’ve trained in all styles: ballet, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, tap, ballroom, and many more! I always say that no matter what, there is always something new to learn in every class. I’ve also always enjoyed attending dance conventions to further my knowledge of dance. Learning from teachers in the dance industry who have done things I could only dream of is so inspiring. Sharing their knowledge with future generations sets us up for success and is such a fulfilling experience. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get where I am today, and with my family's support, the sky’s the limit. Being only 16 years old, I have my whole future ahead of me, and the dance training and experience I have right now are setting me up for it!
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?
I wouldn’t say things have always been easy for me. Dance is always a mental challenge, just as it is a physical one. It takes a lot of time and strain on one’s body. However, in the end, it is worth it. My love for dance is what keeps me going, and the challenges are what motivate me to be better!
What personal limitations if any did you go through in your young career?
One personal limitation I’ve had in my young career is balancing school and dance. I am very involved in school, so it takes a lot of my focus and time, but I am also a dancer. Splitting my focus between dance and school has been hard. But since I’ve been going to a performing arts school, it has improved! It helped me plan out my days, so I have time for school and dance. I find both are very important to me. So it’s always a priority to give both my full attention.
Has anybody ever tried to limit you on what you could do? If so how did you fight it?
Of course, there are negative people in the world. However, I’ve always tried to avoid that. Staying in an environment where everyone is supportive of your dreams and believe in you is very important. You are in charge of your own future, and it’s important to know that the people around you can impact that as well.
How do you conquer negative talk?
I conquer negative talk by continuing to do what I love because I know that when I am dancing, nothing else matters. It’s hard to not let negative comments get to your head, but remembering why you do what you do is important. I try to turn the negatives into positives and continue with my life because if you let one comment stop you, how will you handle multiple? It’s all about your own mindset, so once you have control of it, there is no stopping your growth.
What is your favorite quote?
“My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” - Oprah Winfrey
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I am currently a junior in high school, so my senior year is coming up! I’m starting to look at Universities and plan out what my future in dance looks like!