Like many little kids, junior Ariana Castillo loved to dance. Except unlike many little kids, her passion has not faded after 12 years. Castillo’s love of dance began at the age of four when she would put on a CD and dance around the house for hours.
Castillo began her ballet lessons at All American Ballet with the encouragement of her mother who noticed her talent and drive. At the age of seven, she transferred to the Oakley Ballet Center, where she still dances today.
For the past two years, Castillo has been a level 7 dancer, the highest level her school has to offer, which places her in a pre-professional position. She is now living the dreams she had as a little girl, watching a family friend perform on stage.
“It looked [like] so much fun when she was on stage. She was really enjoying it and ever since then I’ve always wanted to perform and be on stage,” Castillo said.
However, as a dedicated student, Castillo said that she sometimes struggles to balance both her schoolwork and dance. In order to be successful in both she often has made one priority.
“[Balancing dance and schoolwork] has been my hardest struggle, it has been for all of high school,” she said. “What I try to do is prioritize. Some days I know I have a really important school assignment […] but other days I really have to rehearse.”
When her workload gets too heavy, she will either skip practice or try to finish her work done at the studio; when she has less homework, her energy is focused toward ballet.
After high school, Castillo hopes to continue dancing by majoring in ballet in college. She is still deciding what she wants to do with that major, but is considering options such as becoming a professional ballerina or dance teacher.
“I’ve known her for six years and ever since the beginning she always been fully committed to her ballet career and I know she has crazy plans for the future […] and I’m proud of her for even knowing what she wants to do,” junior Emma Esparza said.
Instead of being pushed by a coach or a parent, Castillo’s aspirations are set by herself and are focused largely on her own passion and the joy she receives from dancing. After finally accomplishing her goal to get the lead role last year as Snow White in a production of Snow White, Castillo has chosen to “just enjoy” the time she spends in the ballet studio.
Castillo loves to perform and on the days she feels unmotivated or frustrated she reminds herself about how practice or a coach’s criticism will help her performances. Criticism is vital in ballet, because it is so technical and precise.
“I want to dance for myself and not dance for other people,” Castillo said. “[…] I dance to make me feel better and it’s my passion.”
Throughout the years, ballet has not only given Castillo an opportunity for self-expression and enjoyment, but has taught her the importance of discipline as well. As a highly demanding and intense sport, ballet requires hours of rigorous training to make physically draining and difficult maneuvers look both effortless and elegant.
According to Castillo, passion is the most important quality a dancer can possess.
“When you’re performing, an audience member can definitely see that and tell the difference between someone who is passionate about ballet and someone who does it just because,” she said.
— Clare Knutson