Joaquim de Santana, a Brazil native in his 30’s, was determined of becoming a skilled dancer at a young age. Now, standing at 6’2”, signed to Q Model Management and touring alongside Mariah Carey on her Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour, the possibilities have become endless.
“I began my journey as a dancer at the age of 14, with the dance company known as Balé Folclórico da Bahia. From there, I performed and toured nationally and internationally with the company, which took me across North America and Europe,” Santana said.
By the age of 17, he furthered his studies at the ArtEZ University of the Arts, in the Netherlands and the following years, he’s joined Introdans Youth Ensemble, Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, Cullberg Ballet, and by 2011, the late Cedar Lake Contemporary Dance Company of Chelsea Piers.
“I’ve visited many places in my lifetime. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve accumulated, but the thing about dancing is, there’s always something new to learn,” said Santana. “The body is a language itself, and each place and person has a language of their own.”
With the minor setback of the abrupt closing of the avant-garde Cedar Lake Contemporary Dance Company, Santana secured the leading role as Macbeth in the New York City production of Sleep No More.
“The production was deviating and interactive, but the role I played, caused me to get injured almost every day,” said Santana. Reluctantly, in search of his next move.
By the beginning of 2016, Santana went to audition for Mariah Carey’s Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour. With his experience and talents, he’s been traveling with his new troupe since.
As for whether he had any thoughts about his line of work, Santana said, “We’re putting on a show for people, we keep our professionalism, but behind the scenes, we’re still working for someone and they have demands that needs to be fulfilled.”
During his breaks from touring, Santana would visit his home in Brazil to see his family and to teach in The Afro-Brazilian Dance and Cultural Studies program.
Santana says, “It’s the adrenaline you feel when you perform, like you’re skydiving. It’s also the breeze you feel when you leap in the air, the attention that you capture, and simply the way movement has become my expression.”
Supporting the contrasts of the lifestyle, close friend and prior colleague, Ebony Williams, who is touring on the Formation Tour with Beyonce, shares her similar views and aspirations.
“Jo is a sweetheart, and also one of the hardest dancers I know. We use to stay in Cedar Lake for hours, trying to perfect our routines. I was excited to hear he was dancing for Mariah, because it’s a different ball game when you’re preforming in front of millions with these talented artistes,” said Williams, “Till this day, I still get nervous.”
As many times as they have executed their choreography, the unsettling feeling of mistakes or outshining the artistes are often overlooked.
“Maybe we make the struggle look easy. Maybe that’s why the general has this perception that everything just comes easy to us. I beg to differ, and I think my credentials and actions can speak for itself,” said Santana.
Touring meant months away from the familiar faces of friends and family, bringing a new meaning to homesick. Far from comfort, hours go by like minutes and home cooked meals are relished when home is an option.
“When you’re traveling every other day, the only thing you really get accustomed to, is the change of scenery,” said Williams. “It’s a lifestyle, not everyone can bear calling the road their home.”
Despite their busy schedules, when their travels landed in the same city, Santana and Williams would go to a local bar and carry on where they’ve left off, keeping their bonds strong and their sanity well-balanced.
While in New York, Chris Richards, co-founder of The Voice NYC, beau of Williams and friend of Santana, shares his assimilation of being in a relationship and friendship with someone whose dreams require their undivided attention.
“When I saw her perform, I knew I had to let her do her thing,” said Richards. “As brave adults, with individual dreams to chase, we can’t always rely on a shoulder to lean on or a hand to hold. We must rely on ourselves, and by learning to do things alone, it will condition us to be stronger for the future, in unimaginable ways.”
With just a few short days, Santana prepares for his travels to Los Angeles with a heavy heart, unsure if home will feel the same when he returns.
The pursuit of what he loves, makes it inevitably hard to keep his emotions grounded.
“It’s a given, the presumptions behind the choices we make in order to follow our visions. I don’t expect everyone to see what I see. But, I can say, I lived a rewarding life because I didn’t give up when the world tossed me around.” said Santana.