We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Diego Salterini a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Diego, appreciate you joining us today. Earning a full time living from one’s creative career can be incredibly difficult. Have you been able to do so and if so, can you share some of the key parts of your journey and any important advice or lessons that might help creatives who haven’t been able to yet?
Honestly I have been very lucky, I started studying dance late but through a series a fortunate circumstances I started working in dance right away. In Italy, where I am from and where I lived until I was 31 in the 90s, Television was where most of the professional dancers would work. There was a good amount of variety shows that hired pretty large casts. As usual in the world of dance, men are always in high demand, so once I reached a decent level of proficiency I started to work in TV variety shows and did not stop until I moved to the US. Once I arrived in Miami, I found a very welcoming community with a great desire to embrace new voices and new talent. At the time I already had a decent resume and I started dancing with several local dance companies while also teaching dance in several studios and collectives. This is how I met Hannah Baumgarten, the other Artistic Director of Dance NOW! Miami (the dance company we founded in 2000). Ilisa Rosal and Ballet Flamenco La Rosa sponsored my first O1 Visa, that allowed me to work legally here in the US, and, soon after, Florida International University Dance Department, under the leadership of Elizabeth Bergman, offered me a position as adjunct professor. I stayed there for about 10 year while, with Hannah Baumgarten, we started building Dance NOW! Miami. So, with a lot of luck and also simply lack of time, I did not have to nor needed to supplement my income with anything other than dance.
Diego, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
This is my bio: Diego, originally from Rome, Italy, moved to the U.S. in 1997 after an illustrious career as lead dancer and assistant choreographer for many popular Italian T.V. and theatre shows. In the United States he danced extensively with companies including Michael Uthoff Dance Theater. He trained with Maestro Roberto Salaorni who he considers his mentor, as well as Flavio Bennati (Teatro La Scala), Michelle Ellis (ABT), Mamy Raomeria (Maurice Bejart), Ranko Yokoyama (Luis Falco), Max Stone, Susie Taylor, Roger Dillhaunty, and Michelle Kadison. His choreography has been presented in nine states as well as Europe, Central and South America. His teaching career, spanning almost three decades, includes national and international organizations such as New World School of the Arts, FIU, Miami City Ballet School, Atlanta Ballet School, Mercyhurst College, Ballet Stagium (Sao Paulo) and I.A.L.S. (Rome), to name a few. Diego currently teaches at Conchita Espinoza Academy. Diego served as regional jazz dance adjudicator for Young Arts until 2012, served on faculty at the Interlochen Summer Camp for 15 years and the Joffrey Ballet School NY Summer Program since 2012 serving as master teacher and recruiter for both institutions Nationally and Internationally. Diego was recently elected to the Board of the Florida Dance Education Association.
Is there something you think non-creatives will struggle to understand about your journey as a creative? Maybe you can provide some insight – you never know who might benefit from the enlightenment.
Well, in my experience I have encountered a lot of people who just do not understand how all encompassing and all absorbing the creative process is. They also often have a hard time recognizing that the work flow of a creative person is just a unique path that each individual creator has developed for him/her self. There is no formula, there is no measurable and repeatable steps that can bring to the final product. Sometimes the process is fast, you get an idea and immediately it manifests itself, other times it’s a tedious process of small incremental gains and harsh fall backs that make you question everything. Specifically in dance, my art form, it is very difficult for “non creative”:people to understand that the 5 minutes choreography that they see on stage is the result of at least 50 hours of work in the studio which reveals itself in a small moment on stage and disappears just as you see it unfold in front of your eyes. The performing arts are fleeting; while a sculpture will exist as an object, a choreography only exists while the dancers are dancing it. The amount of work that takes to mount one dance concert is very difficult to grasp if you are not aware of the process.
In your view, what can society to do to best support artists, creatives and a thriving creative ecosystem?
Understand that even if we do what we love and we fulfill our dreams with our Art, it does not mean that we do not need to pay bills and be economically stable. For some reason there is this tendency to want to go see performances or visit museums paying little or nothing at all. The work we do is vital for the health of every community and spending money to go see a performance or visit an exhibit should not be a burden but a joy.