Meet Santiago Paniagua, Former BBS Trainee

Boston Ballet School Staff

Santiago Paniagua by Igor Burlak Photography

Photo credit: Igor Burlak Photography

We spoke with Santiago Paniagua who was introduced to ballet through Citydance, a Boston Ballet School program that provides 3,000 third grade students a tuition-free introduction to dance education. 

Image courtesy of the Paniagua Family

Photo credit: Igor Burlak Photography

Image courtesy of the Paniagua Family

Photo credit: Igor Burlak Photography

Tell us your story…how were you introduced to Boston Ballet School?

The first time I was ever exposed to Boston Ballet School was when the Citydance instructors came to my third-grade class at the Beethoven Elementary School in West Roxbury.  Everyone danced and moved to music and they chose a few kids to go to Boston each week to take classes.  At first when I heard I was selected, I was hesitant about attending ballet classes every week but my parents thought it was a good opportunity so I did it.  I remember coming to Boston and everything was so exciting, I even remember the first time I went into the studio to start barre.  So I participated in the Citydance program and then I was invited to join the School in 2008 when I was 9 years old and I just kept going. 

Did you immediately feel passionate about dance?

When I was 12, I realized that I really wanted to dance.  It was when I was in the Summer Dance Program in Newton and I had Mr. Anderson as a teacher and he showed me what ballet was for a male dancer and I finally understood how powerful and how beautiful it really is. I remember I was really inspired after that summer.  I was initially planning to stop dancing after that summer but Mr. Anderson was so influential and it was at that point I realized that ballet is what I wanted to do. 

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue ballet as a profession?

After the Summer Dance Program, my dream was to be a professional dancer.

What has been your favorite part about your dance education?

My favorite part has been the work ethic I’ve acquired and knowing that I’m in a place where I have the support to improve every day.

How has Boston Ballet School helped you grow as a dancer?

From the beginning I’ve been fortunate to be in a place like this where Margaret Tracey and all the teachers I’ve had know the art so well.  I have learned great technique and have been very fortunate to receive such amazing training.  I have also learned discipline, how to be focused and how to respect myself and those around me.

What advice do you have for young dancers?

Appreciate ballet even if it’s not exactly what you want to do right away.  It’s important to respect the art and understand the beauty in it.  Work hard while you are dancing and you’ll know if it’s really what you want to do or not.

Citydance Graduation 2017

Citydance Graduation 2017

Photo credit: Boston Ballet Staff

Tell us how Citydance has impacted your family.

My sister was involved in Citydance, she is now 16 and takes classes six days week in Newton. My family and I never thought ballet would be a part of our lives but now it’s a very large part of every single day.  I come home and talk about my day and my parents have learned different things about the art form overtime and they enjoy going to the ballet.  It’s kind of cool because it’s something that was completely off our radar and now it’s a large part of our lives.  I really appreciate the fact that my parents encouraged me and pushed me to keep dancing, even before I was fully into it.  They saw that it was a great opportunity and they have been so supportive. 

What is next for your dance career?

This fall I’m joining Pennsylvania Ballet II. I’m excited because I’m going to be working with the Artistic Director there, Angel Corella, he is known to be very influential and I’m just excited to work with him and to work with a company with such a great reputation. Ballet is what I love to do and I feel so happy that I’ve found something that I want to do at this point in my life. I’m working every day to get to where I want to be as a dancer and I love doing it.

The illusion we create is intended to deepen your understanding of reality.

Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director