Where are They Now: Charly Santagado

Charly Santagado graduated from Rutgers in 2017. She was a staple in the bars and floor lineups and competed every event at least once for the Scarlet Knights. Her strength was floor, where she scored a career-high 9.875 during her freshman season. She was part of the 2014 Rutgers team that competed at the Athens regional. Santagado’s sister, Eriel, will be a senior at Rutgers in 2019. The pair have a dance company, Mignolo Dance, and are currently actively performing.

Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.

College Gym News: You are a dancer as well as a gymnast; how did your dance training aid your gymnastics? Did gymnastics help your dance at all?

Charly Santagado: Both absolutely impacted each other, although in different ways. First of all, I took ballet classes at my gym when I was little, and I loved them, which is how I started dancing in the first place. In the beginning, gymnastics really helped my dance because I had a “gimmick.” I could do crazy tricks that nobody else could do, and that really paid off in the competition dance world I grew up in. It also hurt at some points, causing me to be stiff and to power through movements unnecessarily. Beyond stylistic impact, most of my injuries (and I’ve had a number of major ones) came from gymnastics, which obviously didn’t help with dance.

Flipping things the other way around (pun intended), dance absolutely impacted my gymnastics for the better. Other than some chronic injuries that it contributed to the plight of my overworked body, dance actually made my gymnastics life easier. For example, on floor most gymnasts have to do three tumbling passes to have enough bonus in their routines and start from a 10.0. Instead, I did two passes and a triple turn into a jump—it made my life easier and the judges really enjoyed my dance skill and style.

CGN: What was it like to compete with your sister, Eriel? Did it help motivate you, or did you get on each other’s nerves?

CS: I have always loved competing with my sister. Luckily, as far as dance was concerned, we were generally in different age groups and didn’t compete directly against each other often. Eriel was much better at dance than me when we were younger, but with hard work I improved a lot. We also always did duets, which were usually even more successful than our solos, enforcing the idea that we were better together, something I still think is true today. It’s a similar story with gymnastics; we rarely competed against each other, and even when we did, we always wanted the best possible outcome for each other and for our team. I think it also helped that we had different strengths. For example, I was very strong on floor and bars, and Eriel is and has always been the beam queen. Being on a team with my sister is something I will always cherish.

CGN: You studied both philosophy and dance; was it challenging to pursue both academic and performance coursework while also being a student athlete? What did minoring in dance entail?

CS: The balance was challenging but no more challenging than I initially thought it would be or than I would have wanted it to be. I have always done a lot, kept a lot of different avenues in my life going, and it didn’t seem like too much of an adjustment once I got to college. It really helped that I loved everything I was studying—being busy didn’t bother me much.

CGN: The Rutgers gymnastics program seems to attract a fair number of artistic people; what is it about Rutgers that makes it attractive for people looking to study performance or studio arts?

CS: Mason Gross School of the Arts, NYC, Philly—so many artistic opportunities (especially in comparison with many other gymnastics schools in conferences like the SEC or even other Big Ten schools).

CGN: When did you know you wanted dance to be a lifelong pursuit? Has it always been a goal of yours?

CS: It has been a goal of mine since I can remember. I have never felt anything quite like what I feel when I am dancing, and I knew how special it was from a young age.

CGN: You do a lot of choreography; where do you find inspiration for your work? Are there any dancers or choreographers you view as role models?

CS: I find inspiration in everything—particularly through other artistic mediums (I.e. visual art, music, etc.). My biggest choreography role model is definitely Crystal Pite of Kidd Pivot.

CGN: What disciplines of dance do you choreograph? Have you ever done any gymnastics choreography?

CS: I mainly choreograph contemporary dance works, but I dabble in jazz and ballet as well. I have done quite a bit of gymnastics choreography, including my own routines from around the age of 14 and those of many Rutgers gymnasts.

CGN: You and Eriel started a dance company, Mignolo Dance; what motivated you to do that, and what are your goals for the company?

CS: We have been planning on opening a company for some time now. We love creating together so much, and people seem to enjoy what we come up with. We think we have things to share with not only the dance community but the artistic community and the general public as well. I know these are vague answers, but I don’t have anything more specific for you—it really is that simple! Our main goals for the company are to continue to build up an audience, and to provide opportunities for other artists of all genres.

CGN: What has Mignolo been up to lately? Are you and Eriel performing regularly?

CS: Mignolo has already had a few performances this summer (at Amalgamate Artists Series, Newburgh Illuminated Festival, Common Ground and KoDaFe) and has a few more coming up (Koresh Artists Series, Triskelion SummerFest and Peridance APEX). We are so excited to have been provided with so many performance opportunities this year and hope to continue the trend. Visit our new website, www.mignolo.dance, for more information about upcoming performances!

CGN: What does a day in the life of a professional dancer look like?

CS: It’s a lot less glorious than it sounds most of the time. Like most professional dancers, I hold a number of part time jobs; for me, these include dog walking, writing articles, etc. When I’m not working on those jobs, I am rehearsing, applying for performance opportunities, updating the company website, posting on social media and so on. Of course, I still make time for friends and family, and I travel as much as I can. It may not be glorious, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

CGN: What are your goals for the future?

CS: Woo! What a question. Right now, I’m focused on the International Dance Program I will be participating in from September to January with Kibbutz Contemporary Dance in Israel.

Article by Emily Minehart

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