Dancing with Ballet Hispanico


Omar Z Robles

Dancers at Ballet Hispanico bring Latin American culture to audiences around the world. (Courtesy of Omar Z Robles)


Not all college students get an experience like Alvin Ailey/Fordham BFA student Daniel Salas, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’16, who is one of the youngest dancers to sign with Ballet Hispanico Dos, one of the leading contemporary dance organizations in the city for Hispanic dance. The ballet brings Latin American culture to audiences around the world, through roots in ballet, contemporary and character movements. Being a Latino himself, Salas has the opportunity to continue his passion while keeping connection to his Hispanic roots.

According to the organization’s website, its mission is to display and preserve the Latino cultures around the world through the art of dance. Salas found his own cultural connection through Ballet Hispanico Dos. “As a Latino, I was really excited to find an institution like this that directly links my culture to my passion. It’s a place where I feel like I belong, both culturally and artistically,” he said. “My father’s side of the family is Mexican, a culture which played a huge role in my upbringing.”

Salas’ career in dance began in high school, when he made the choice to pursue the art as a career. “I started dancing when I was six years old at a really small school in California. Although I always thought I was pretty serious about it,” he said, “it wasn’t until I began studying in the Ballet Division of Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Massachusetts where I realized the professional possibilities and potential in this art form.”

It was not only his own growing passion for dance that made him decide he wanted to pursue the art as a career.. His mother’s interest in dance, especially ballet, also inspired him to take this career path. “While my mom was pregnant with me, she would attend ballets, as a close friend of hers was a professional dancer. She loved the ballet – I feel like I was born loving it from her,” he said.

Despite his Latino background and dance experience, it wasn’t until seeing Ballet Hispanico Dos in person at New York City’s Joyce Theater, Ballet Hispanico’s main recital hall, that put it on his radar. “About a week before classes started back up for me in the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program last fall, I heard about the Ballet Hispanico Dos audition in an email blast from a dance publication and went to it on a whim.”

That whim eventually would become a signing contract as he would go on to get the position. His success within his first season at Ballet Hispanico Dos landed him another position for the second season that is currently underway. The reason behind his current success, Salas said, “has always been [ambition]. I started auditioning at a young age, for big things and small things, things I thought I could get and things I thought I had no chance at getting. But for me, it was all about taking pleasure in that fear of the unknown and not letting a rejection letter discourage you.”

With the rigor of the Ailey curriculum combined with the Fordham workload, Salas juggles dancing Ailey and Ballet Hispanico Dos with school. “It’s definitely a challenge trying to juggle Ailey, Fordham and Ballet Hispanico Dos – but it’s not impossible. It’s all about taking things one step at a time and not trying to do everything at once,” he said. “When I’m in rehearsal, I have to be 100 percent there and not be worrying about a paper I have to write or how much work I have to get done. And when I’m in class, I can’t be thinking about choreography or the performance I have this weekend.”

That being said, one can say his passion for dance is certainly innate. “It was always something that was a part of my life in some way, whether I knew it or not. When I started dancing, something just felt right,” he said. “There is nothing quite like losing yourself in your dancing while finding yourself all at the same time.”

Of all the performances Salas has done with the company, he said, “My most memorable piece has been entitled ‘Tango Vitrola,’ choreographed by Alejandro Cervera for the first company. I dance the French duet in it with a female dancer and it is a piece where I feel I can really be someone other than myself. It’s dark and alluring but still extremely technical, and partnering is one of my favorite aspects of dancing.” While continuing his college studies at Ailey and Fordham, Salas gets to pursue an opportunity that connects his culture and passion in one.