Name: Dandara Amorim Veiga
Born & Raised: Alegrete-Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Joined BH: August 2017
What experience, mentor or teacher supported your passion for dance?
I have been very blessed throughout my journey with teachers and mentors who saw my potential and supported me over the years. The first was my teacher Fhernanda Kummer, who taught me when I started dancing with a social project in my town called Projeto Primeiros Passos. This project was created to provide access to dance for the low-income children in my town with the intention of integrating the families, schools and community in ballet. Fhernanda encouraged me to accept the invitation I received to join the main dance school led by Jacqueline Zacarias.
As my teacher, Jacqueline provided opportunities for me to start on the path toward my dream by helping me go with the school to competitions and showing me that with hard work and discipline it would be possible to have a career as a dancer.
The love and support of my family, especially my grandmother, my number one fan, who attended nearly every single performance and helped me sew costumes and ballet shoes, was very important to me.
In one of my last competitions with the school, I met Claudia Zaccari, who was the prima ballerina in Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and a judge with many big dance competitions around the world. After I won the nomination for a competition in Italy, she become a mentor to me, helping me go to the competition and also participate in an audition for the Ailey School, which took place while I was in Italy. To make this trip happen, I also had the support of my town: they helped me buy plane tickets that I was not able to afford, with the money raised from raffles I started with the help of the community, and with money from classes I taught at the social project. I will never forget this, and I will always be grateful for the kindness that my town showed to me so I could follow my dream.
When I went back home, another angel appeared in my life. Charlene Carey invited me to a competition in the United States. In this competition, I received a scholarship to Portugal, which is when things really started to change. I could not afford to go, but Charlene and the school owner from Portugal, Annarella Roura Sanchez, offered me the support to go. Annarella gave me the opportunity to improve myself as a dancer and artist with amazing teachers and a home in Portugal.
The day I went to Portugal was my birthday. It was the most unexpected birthday gift destiny brought me. There I prepared myself before I moved to New York to go to the Ailey School with the support of my mentors Claudia Zaccari, Andrea Baker, and Jean Emile. In New York, I met Caridad Martinez and Charla Gen who continued to see potential in me and help me to be the best I can be as an artist.
Thinking of all the kind people that have crossed my path and offered me support to go toward my dreams really keeps me hoping that everything can and will get better soon. We will all be able to keep making new beautiful stories in the studios and stages that will keep motivating us to continue and especially touching other people's lives.
When did you first know you wanted to dance?
My parents were teachers of Capoeira and Afro-Brazilian dance, so ever since I was a baby I was always around movement and dance. My sister took me to my first ballet class at Projeto Primeiros Passos, the social project in my town. At first, my parents did not want me to do ballet because of my color, and they were concerned about how I was going to be treated. My sister started taking class without them knowing, and they found out during the performance at the end of the year. After that, they realized they could not keep ballet away from me. I think the love for dance was born with me. It was not possible to go away from it. It is a very important part of who I am.
When and where was your first or favorite performance?
Each performance gives me something special to remember. My favorites were definitely the ones I had with my family, especially when my grandmother was in the audience. It has been five years since that has happened. I dream of being able to have them in the audience when things go back to normal. Just to think about it makes my heart jump.
Why did you choose to come to Ballet Hispánico?
I first heard about Ballet Hispánico when I was at the dance conservatory in Portugal. My teachers and the director of the school motivated me to explore the possibility of auditioning for the company when I moved to New York. While in Portugal, I also had the opportunity to meet a previous teacher from the BH School, Caridad Martinez, who sparked my curiosity about the company. When I moved to New York, even though I did not speak English at the time, I kept trying to learn more about the company. Charla Gen was also one of the teachers who strongly motivated me to audition.
The energy, repertory and especially the diversity I saw during my audition really confirmed this was the place I wanted to be. When I moved to America, I did not have professional experience. However, I got the opportunity to be a part of the Company as an apprentice, and since then I have been growing so much, not just as an artist but also as a human being.