Traditional guitar and cultural dances; modern music and sensuous performances; packed audiences, bright lights, and television cameras. These are some of the elements you will find when you enter the world of Loreto Astroza Beltran.
Loreto Astroza Beltran is a professional dancer trained in ballet and modern technique, as well as contemporary, street dance, jazz, and Latin styles. She was born in Santiago, Chile in 1982 and started her professional career in 2002, at the prestigious Academia de Humanismo Cristiano University. There, she graduated with high honors, obtaining a degree in dance with a minor in pedagogy. In 2008, Loreto won a scholarship to an intensive dance seminar in Buenos Aires, Argentina, rounding out her performance education.
Fast-forward three years, and you’ll find Loreto living in New York City. She moved to the Big Apple to experience Broadway Dance Center’s International Student Visa Program (ISVP). There, she entered “the most celebrated dance community in the world,” and received a Certificate of Excellence.
Since moving to New York in 2014, Loreto has continued to stay busy with outstanding performances. With dance companies such as Casa Brazilia, INNO’vation Artist, and Forza Malizia Dance Company and performances at distinguished venues across the United states, including the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, the Frank Sinatra Theatre, Times Square, the Wawa Festival, Julia de Burgos Theatre, Dixon Place, Highline Ballroom, the Team USA Olympics Road to Rio 2016, the Radio City Music Hall, and the stage of the Today Show.
Below Astroza shares her story and her go-to Latin gems in New York City:
When did you begin to have an interest in dancing? What sparked your desire to dance?
Astroza: “My passion for dancing started as a child. My older brother Jose and I always danced at home. I remember dancing in family reunions and celebrations. Dancing was always part of my life. Even though I did not take dance classes in the beginning, home was the best school to discover my passion. My parents Maria and Reynaldo are from the late 40’s so they taught me how to dance rock and roll and also the twist. I had so much fun and have great memories of dancing with my mom and dad. With Jose, my brother, I always danced merengue. Juan Luis Guerra was very popular in my country back in those days so we always played his songs and dance to them. Same thing with Salsa, I knew most of the biggest salsa artists and started falling in love with salsa at a very early age because of my brother. What really sparked my desire to dance was when I started taking dance classes at Balmaceda 1215 Cultural Center at the age of 14. I fell in love with dance. I started taking Modern classes with a very well know dancer by the name of Magdalena Bahamondes. After that I took African Dance, Capoeira and Samba and that is how I started and never stopped again.”
What was the most challenging aspect of starting your dance career, of breaking into “show business”?
Astroza: “I think that I can’t name one specific thing. I feel that being an artist is a challenging journey that every day presents a new everest to climb. With time I realized that being disciplined to train every day regardless of how drained I was after taking a bunch of classes all day and rehearsals. Pushing myself to the max to get better. Being rejected from an audition and becoming resilient to keep fighting. To master my strengths and discover my weaknesses and face them. To have the courage to keep training and improving. These are all aspects I believe were the most challenging in the beginning. Even though it was hard, if I had to do it again I would always choose to be a dancer.”
Besides the International Student Visa Program, what motivated you to move to New York City?
Astroza: “First thing that motivated me was the International Student Visa Program. But the reason I got into the program and got to come to NYC was because I started taking Hip Hop classes and other street styles back in Chile. In 2010 I attended one of the biggest workshops back at a time, the “Arken Festival”, where i had met three important precursors of street dance. After that I was fascinated with street dance and wanted to know more and more about the culture, how it got started, and where. So after that I decided that i wanted to come to NYC. I wanted to live and experience this beautiful city and all the magic that brings together all the mix of cultures, the art everywhere, the nightlife, the museums, the festivals. Wow, so much to name, but yes basically all that.”
As a dancer, you no doubt work up an appetite, but your work also requires that you make healthy dining choices. Since your move to New York, what is your favorite place to refuel after practice?
Astroza: “Ufff, tough question. I love food !! But yes, as a dancer I always have to take care of my diet. I love all types of food especially Latin American and Asian. My favorite spot is PIO PIO, a Peruvian restaurant where you can find delicious and fresh ceviche, which is my favorite.
Is your dancing strictly work related, or do you go out dancing just for fun? If so, what is your favorite Latin venue for a night out on the town?
Astroza: “Of course i do and I have a list of places that I love to go to. My favorite is Camaradas el Barrio in Spanish Harlem. There is always live music on Fridays and Saturdays. They play live salsa, bomba y plena, pop latino and more. I love Favela Cubana, Verlaine, Gonzalez y Gonzalez, Copacabana and the Latin Mondays at Taj.”
What goals do you have for expanding your career over the next few years?
Astroza: “My goal is to get in a Broadway and off Broadway show. I to also produce my own show that I have been writing and developing for about 2 years.”
What advice would you give to young people who are nurturing dreams of success in the big city?
Astroza: “Self discipline, self discipline, self discipline. I repeat it 3 times because i think that is one of the most important bases of success. Also be constant and consistent in any discipline. Be resilient and work on that every day, because there are a bunch of doors that you will knock on and the will stay closed. But there are a bunch of them that will open for you, to bring you new opportunities. Have self love for yourself and love for your art and others. Take care of your body, soul and mind. Celebrate your glories, but stay humble. Be aware and grateful for the little and big things that you get. Enrich the spirit with great experiences and do everything with love in order to enjoy the process and every step that you take to accomplish your dreams.”
Where is your favorite place to experience Latin culture in Nyc?
Astroza: “There are many places that I love going to, but La Marqueta is my favorite. I like it because it is an accessible place that is open for everybody. Where you can find local vendors promoting their products and food and there is always a Latin band playing. I love the atmosphere and it is beautiful to see the mixed generations enjoying themselves and dancing. I love Latin culture and I’m happy to be surrounded by my people. I always support and go to Latin festivals and parades. It makes me feel at home.”
When you get that craving for a mouth watering latin dish, where is your go to spot?
Astroza: “There are no Chilean restaurants in NYC where i can find traditional, high quality foods. Lucky for me I was able find two Latin spots that I love in NYC. They are both located in the lower east side. One is Casa Adela. This place has authentic Puerto Rican food, which I love! My favorite dish there is the Mofongo. The other is El Castillo de Jagua. They specialize in traditional Dominican cuisine and they have the most delightful rice and beans with avocado and maduros. The mangu there is amazing!!!”
What is next for Loreto Astroza? Look for her upcoming performances, including New York City’s Los Pregones Theatre for the “Stage Garden Rumba” and Julia de Burgos Cultural Center for “The Seasons of Love” a Forza Malizia Dance Company Production.