|Cristel Alvarado, 15, of Panama, joins|
us this week for the NGB summer
As a classical ballerina who hopes to make dance her living, Cristel has been exploring her options for serious ballet training.
“We’re constantly looking at competitions and looking at where the students come from,” said Cristel’s father Pete Garcia.
“When we saw that Next Generation Ballet was really starting to make a mark, we wanted to look at it,” he said.
A native of the Tampa area, Garcia owns an adventure company that brought him around the world. In 1997, he moved to Panama City to help develop high end excursions for a new resort. There, he met his wife Nelly and decided to stay.
Their only daughter Cristel started dancing at age seven. She soon realized that dance was her calling. The following year, she began studying with Maitre Amparo Brito, of the Cuban National Ballet.
Cristel has performed with the National Ballet of Panama and with the Laura Alonso Ballet in Havana, Cuba, and she’s a three time gold medal winner at Panama’s Danza Activa competitions.
In 2011, Cristel began training at the Laura Alonso Ballet School in Havana, where early this year, she was selected as one of only seven classical dancers to perform privately for Fidel and Raul Castro.
But traveling to Cuba for training is costly, said Garcia, who plays the role of dance dad.
Nelly works for Boskalis, a Dutch Dredging and Marine Company that does work on the Panama Canal. Since he owns his company (Panama Pete Adventures), Pete has more flexibility with his schedule.
“I’m the one who travels with my daughter, and runs out to the store when we accidentally got ‘theatrical pink’ tights and need ‘ballet pink’,” he laughed.
In researching the best places for 15-year-old Cristel to continue ballet, Garcia’s search brought him back to his hometown.
At a competition in Panama they met dancer Katherine Gazda, from Canada, who attended the NGB summer intensive in Tampa last year.
“When we saw what the Patel Conservatory did for Katherine in two weeks...we thought we need to be there,” said Garcia.
“Our child has never been to America, and here we are, back in my hometown. We’re just overjoyed,” said Garcia, a former wrestler for East Bay High School and wrestling coach for Jesuit High School. He’s looking forward to re-connecting with former wrestling teammates while in Tampa.
Staying with his mom in Ruskin, he and Cristel practice speaking English on their commute to the Conservatory.
If all works out, he’s thinking of making the move to Tampa so Cristel can train full-time with NGB.
“We know she wants this as her career,” said Garcia. “Just the whole vibe of the Straz Center on the river. We feel like this is Cristel’s future.”