Although she’s a 5th grader at Clow Elementary school, Natalia Garcia is dancing at a level far beyond her years. Dancing with the Underground Allegro Dance, the ten year old is now winning competitions across the country while expressing herself through dance.
“Dance allows me to express my true feelings without talking. It just let’s me doing it even if I’m feel sad, it lets me release it. If I’m mad, it lets me release it too. I just express it through there.”
While dance allows 10 year old Natalia Garcia to express herself… the feeling most prevalent these days is fulfillment. She’s enjoying dancing, competition and the process it takes to win.
“I felt very, very proud because I was versing very, very amazing girls and I’m friends with most of them so it’s hard competing. For me it’s not about winning, just the feeling of how proud I am of myself. It just takes over everything.
“Some moms say I’m proud so easily but for me it’s hard. I don’t cry, but last Saturday, I cried. I was just really proud because she worked so hard for it.
Garcia is coming off wins on back to back weekends – first at the Dancemakers Inc competition, and then again at the Hall of Fame competition. Her routine is serious… but the hours spent getting ready are fueled by an infectious personality.
“She’s a firecracker – like, the most energetic sweet soul – you get that from the moment you meet her. She’s smiling from ear to ear all the time.
Callie Marik is the owner of Natalia’s studio – Underground Allegro Dance Center – and part of the team that coaches the 10 year old star. Along with Jessica Brewster, the choreographer of Natalia’s Dance, they infuse her routine with fundamental techniques rooted in ballet.
“While we’re a competitive team, we have a serious classical edge. They kids here are training very seriously in technique – both ballet, contemporary jazz, really serious about maintaining that base of technique.
This wasn’t always the path for Natalia. Despite dancing from the moment she could walk, she gave it up between the ages of 4 and 5 to play soccer. But that didn’t last long.
“I felt like I was missing something… so when I got back to it, it just jumpstarted from there”
“Dancing is my life, honestly. I do play soccer sometimes at school but dancing is my main focus.
It’s no wonder Natalia is a dancer. Her mother, Vanda Varnai Garcia was an actress in Hungry before accepting a theater internship in New York. And while dancing wasn’t her focus, it became a coping mechanism in her transition into the United States.
“When I was immigrating to this country it was harder than I thought. It’s cliché, but dancing saved my life after immigrating broke me. Being able to dance and communicate with people really helped stay positive and peaceful.
The transition was made more difficult by the timing. Vanda arrived in New York on September 10th…. 2001.
After 6 months in New York, Vanda moved to Chicago. And 10 years later, had Natalia.
“She is so much better than me. And it’s such an amazing opportunity that she has such a chance to soar.
Natalia is just 10 years old, but her list of accomplishments lengthening by the day. With wins in Florida, South Carolina, and Washington, to name a few, Natalia is taking the country by storm. But even if the 10 year old doesn’t one day become a professional, the lessons learned will persist.
“Even if she doesn’t become a dancer, but becoming a better human, is the most important thing a mother can ask.
But for now, Natalia is dancing… and pretty happy about it.
Reporting for Sports Story Sunday, I’m Kevin Jackman