Daniel Alaya is 18 years old and was born in Bogota, Colombia. He took his first ballet lessons at the age of 14, as the only boy in a girls’ class. Touched by the magic of classical dance, since then he had only one dream. To dance, to put all his energy into dancing and reach the highest stage of performance, as a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet in London. A dream for which he has made many sacrifices but for which he is determined to continue. With the support of his family, despite all difficulties, he is now trying to get a visa for the United States of America.
If I were to quote the famous Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose memoirs were entitled “Living to tell the tale”, I would say that Daniel Alaya lives to dance.
Ballet gave him a purpose and a meaning in life. With many hours of training a day, he also finds time to relax. He walks his dog in the morning, cooks passionately and works with his partner Isabella McCool for his YouTube channel “Ballet for Two“.
He performs as a guest dancer for St Lucie Ballet and the Classical Cuban Ballet of Miami and hopes to meet someday his idol Vadim Muntagirov.
Photo credit: Ava Sheppard, Kenny Palacios
What is your first memory about ballet?
I took my first ballet class when I was 14, I had done musical theatre for many years before, but I always loved dancing the most. It was terrifying! First of all I had no idea what male dancers wore for class so I just wore a t-shirt and some shorts. Then I was trying to keep up with all the girls, as I was the only boy. I have always been very energetic, so I remember trying my hardest and trying to make the best impression. When the class was over my teacher said that I had a lot of good qualities but that I needed to work on all my basics and technique. She also said that since I was 14 already I had some serious catching up to do. But I was up for a challenge, so I was ready to start training.
Where did you take your first ballet classes?
In Bogota, Colombia, at the “Ballarte Escuela de Ballet”, my teacher was Monica Pacheco.
When did you decide that this is what you wanted to do in life?
After a few months of training I realized how much I enjoyed dancing ballet, how it made me feel when I was rehearsing a variation or dance in a group piece, and I was very happy that I was making good progress. When I decided to start looking around I found “Miami International Ballet Competition”, I came to the US and got the chance to dance as a guest of St Lucie Ballet and The Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami.
What did your parents think about that?
My parents were very supportive of my decision, they said they were going to support me in each and every possible way. Sometimes it was hard because I wanted to take summer intensives or participate in competitions, but the exchange from Colombian pesos into dollars was crazy and they couldn’t afford it.
How did ballet change your life?
Ballet changed my life as it gave me a purpose. My family were impressed by how much dedication I was putting into it but I don’t even realize it as I really love what I’m doing. I stopped hanging out with my friends so much because I would rather be constantly in the studio. I have some clear goals I want to achieve, and the only way to achieve them is putting myself 150% into it.
I know ballet classes are not easy… How is it for you?
Ballet class is hard, but everyone knows it! I love performing in class so that I feel like I’m in a show. I have so many things to work on and I am constantly trying to improve. Somedays things go better than other days but I am enjoying the process. I love turning and jumping (especially when I nail it, ha, ha, ha), lately I’ve been working on getting better in adagio – it’s a real struggle!
What is an ordinary day in your life like?
I usually get up at 6:30am, walk my dog and then get ready for ballet. I arrive at my studio around 8am and do my stretching and strengthening exercises to warm up for class. Then from 9 to 10:45 I have a technique class, after that I have a men’s class until 12:30. I grab some quick lunch and then we rehearse until 3pm classical solos, pas de deux, contemporary solos, duets and ensembles for the upcoming performances and competitions. At 4:00pm I go to the gym and workout to get stronger. After that I go home to either work on my YouTube Channel “Ballet For Two” that I own with my partner Isabella McCool or read a little bit and spend some time with my family.
What else do you do besides ballet? Take academic courses? Some other hobby?
At the moment I am really interested in cooking and reading. They both make me feel relaxed and happy. I am preparing to start online college next year.
What about your country? Are the young artists and ballet dancers supported by the Government? Is culture well financed?
Sadly, no. Colombia is a country in which the arts are not as appreciated as they should be. We don’t get a lot of support or income, so being a ballet dancer in Colombia is not a reality yet.
Who are the most famous male/female dancers in your country?
I think Fernando Montano is the most famous, he is currently a soloist with Royal Ballet in the UK.
Who are the ballet dancers you admire the most?
My biggest inspiration is Vadim Muntagirov. He is such an inspiring performer, he literally can do anything and everything, and his artistry is impeccable, plus he seems so noble even when he’s rehearsing. I hope I can meet him one day and learn from him.
You will go study abroad. Are many young people like you studying in other countries? Do you want to go back home someday?
Yes, I know there are many dancers who want to go abroad and dance with different companies. I do want to go back to Colombia one day when I am a professional dancer and give my tribute to my country. I’d love to teach classes or workshops there.
Who are the people who support you on your professional journey?
My parents and family, they made the impossible possible in order to help me fulfill my dream.
Where are you with your application for a US visa?
Right now I’m working on it with my lawyer, while I keep myself in shape and continue to perform as a guest with the St Lucie Ballet and the Classical Cuban Ballet of Miami.
What is your biggest dream?
My biggest dream is to be a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet, and it would be awesome if I got to perform the role of Colas in La Fille Mal Gardée! This ballet is everything for me, the costumes, the music, the choreography are just mesmerizing. I would adore dancing this pas de deux with my partner Isabella McCool, as it was the first pas de deux I’ve ever done in my life. I would feel accomplished and happy because I’m working really hard on this. Sometimes it can get a bit too much but I don’t mind because I know one day I’m going to make it. It would be awesome if my dream could come true like 5 years from now…