MIKAELA LAURYN SANTOS, from the Philippines, began her ballet training at the age of age 4 with the Effie Nañas School of Classical Ballet, during which she attended intensives in Korea, China, and USA. In 2014, she was awarded second place at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Ballet Competition. In 2016, she was among the top 15 finalists at the World Ballet Competition in Florida. She joined the Philippine Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in March 2016. At age 17, she joined the Fellowship (Atlanta Ballet 2) program at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education and later joined the Company as an apprentice in 2017. Mikaela took the summer intensive ballet program under scholarship at Jacob’s Pillow and was featured in performances such as Kitri’s Friend in Don Quixote, Princesses in Swan Lake, Two Sylphs in La Sylphide, Denoument, and Spanish, Chinese in Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker. She had the opportunity to work with renowned choreographers such as Johan Kobborg, Gemma Bond, Liam Scarlett, Craig Davidson, Stanton Welch, Helgi Tomasson and Maxim Petrov, to name a few. Currently Mikaela is a Company Member with Atlanta Ballet.
I got the chance to meet Mika a year ago on a photoshoot we did with her for the dance wear. With all of these achievements you’d think one would get arrogant or change in character but after our second interview I was happy to listen to her as herself, still the same in fact even more humble than before. I want to take this opportunity to feature dancers of all kinds each month on our website and on my blog. One thing I really love about my dance wear is how it has taken me to meet the most amazing people around the world. Here are some of the questions we got to ask a dancer of such young age to suddenly leave the country and venture into a new world of dance, outside the Philippines:
- How did it feel leaving your home country to pursue your passion?
– Leaving the Philippines was definitely one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I wasn’t planning to move away from home at 17. I was originally going to study college in the Philippines and still dance at the same time, but I was given a contract to join Atlanta Ballet. It made me think about how much I wanted to pursue dancing as a career, I wanted to explore and experience what’s it like to dance abroad. During that timeI just knew that I had to go. Looking back now, I am so great full for all the support and encouragement that I’ve gotten. I’ve grown so much not just as a dancer but also as an artist. The support of my parents, friends and teachers means so much to me. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without their love and guidance.
- Are there other things and hobbies you like or do?
– When I have a free time, I take Pilates Classes. It helps with alignment, toning and strengthening muscles. Especially during the summer time, I like to cross train to keep my body moving and stay in shape before starting the season.
- Are there things that you regret not doing or wish you could do?
-I don’t really regret anything. But it would be awesome if I had the chance to compete again. I would love to meet and learn from other dancers, teachers, choreographers and directors who have the same passion as I do.
- What do you enjoy doing in your free time when you’re not dancing.
– When I’m not dancing I love to cook. Ever since I moved away from home, I had to learn to cook for myself and experiment with recipes. I have such a big sweet tooth, so bake deserts most of the time. One of my specialties are Cookies and Banana Bread.
- Do you still plan on studying or going to college?
– Yes I am doing an Online College Program, in Business Management. It’s very important for me to have outside influences and understand things beyond the world of ballet. I want to experience and learn other things I am interested in. I want to eventually be able to use all the years I’ve had in professional dance in another field.
- Do you still keep in touch with your old ballet teacher?
– I still keep in touch with my teacher, Effie Nañas. I look up to her so much. She was my very first ballet teacher and I am so honored to be mentored by her. I’ve spent most of my days in the studios training with her, she never gave up on me when I felt like giving up and continues to support me until now. Without her, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with ballet and dance.
- Are there dancers you look up to, and why?
– I look up to so many dancers, but two of them is Alina Cojocaru and Marianela Nunes. Both dancers are very different, but I love how effortless and strong they make every step look on stage and off. Both artist fuses amazing technique with soul crushing emotional performances that really takes my breath away.
- What advice can you give girls and boys in the Philippines or anyone who wants to pursue dance outside of the country?
– Dance as a career requires an extraordinary level of commitment and passion, years of training, and a professional career that is brief. Being in a completely different environment is not easy, not everything you planned will always go the way you want it to be. One advice that I could give any aspiring dancers who wants to pursue dance outside of the country is to be patient and be open to changes. There will be a lot of challenges along the way but take it as a learning experience. Never doubt or look down on yourself because no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, as long as you keep a positive mindset you will eventually reach your goals.
9. What are your favourite dance by Lina items?
– I really like the Cotton Warmers, because it helps me stay warm in between and before rehearsals. The skirts are also my favourite. I love the colours and how light the fabric feels when I’m dancing.
I was definitely glad that I got the chance to interview Mika even just for a bit and feature her on my personal blog, of which I love to connect to my Vlogs and my dancewear. I know it does seem like I try to do everything all by myself, and it might have really just been the overachiever in me. But I really am excited to showcase more dancers of different races, and backgrounds. People I meet along the way, people who continue to inspire and to just spread a good amount of energy in spreading good things about dance, but who can also handle the terrible criticisms with it.
I will end this by saying Thank you Mika for sharing your time, and to whoever is reading this, thank you for giving your time to complete this entry. Finally Thank you to Miguel who always takes beautiful photographs of my dancewear and of my students.
Let me know who you would all love for us to feature next!
Much love always,