Beyond Chiropractic: Patient Perspective: Interview with Professional Ballet Dancer, Caden Santander

True Artistic Expression Requires Discipline.

This is a fact Caden Santander knows well. This talented young woman (who you may recognize from previous newsletters) has been dancing since she was a child, and recently graduated from the Ellison Ballet Professional Training Program. 

At times, the extreme competitiveness of the dance industry made her question her career path, but intense amounts of practice, self-reflection, and determination solidified her resolve. Now, she is joining the illustrious Grand Rapids Ballet, the only professional ballet company in Michigan.

Our office reached out to Caden to chat about what she likes most about ballet, as well as how recovering from injuries over the years has made her more aware of her body, and her responsibility to keeping herself limber in order to truly dance like a butterfly.

Frank J. Valente, D.C., P.C.: How long have you been dancing?

Caden Santander: I have been dancing for 12 years. I started when I was six years old at the School of American Ballet.

FV: What made you choose Grand Rapids Ballet Company, and what are some of your goals in joining the dance troupe there?

CS: Grand Rapids was my choice because I believe it offers the best chance for me to launch my career. I can absolutely picture myself in the company because it is full of strong, enthusiastic, and innovative dancers and directors. I would love to work in such a stimulating workplace.

My objectives would undoubtedly be to continue working on my dancing and physical treatment in order to maintain my health as well as to work hard in order to advance in the company's ranks.

FV: Tell me about one or two highlights of your dance career, some of the moments that have made you feel most proud and/or exhilarated. 

CS: When I did my first solo on stage, it was one of the highlights of my dance career. I remember how much practice and effort I put into my rehearsals; it was difficult at first, but it paid off in the end, and I am very proud of myself for that. My graduation from the Ellison Ballet Professional Training Program after completing six years of ballet training was another highlight. I had always dreamed of graduating from the school, and although there were many ups and downs along the way, I was eventually able to graduate with the support of my family and professionals.

In addition to back pain, Dr Valente treats lower extremities! Contact our office if you have hip, foot, or knee pain!

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'If you don't take particular precautions and put in the work, your lack of preparedness will hold you back.'

FV: Any dances or performances that really spoke to you?

CS: I adore dancing in the Spanish style, such as flamenco and character dance; it is my artistic forte.

A contemporary piece titled Vita that I performed that also won first place in the youth American Grand Prix particularly spoke to me because the music, which was Joseph Haydn's Cello Concerto, was so dynamic and made the movement thrilling and sharp

FV: Our office has been working with you for years, almost the whole time you've been at Ellison; can you talk a little bit about how chiropractic and treatment has shaped your healing and career? Are there any specific injuries that our office helped you treat?

CS: Dr Valente has played a big part in my career. When I started to get serious about my dancing, I noticed how quickly I was getting sore and how slow the healing process was. Because I'm en pointe for the majority of my day, my feet and muscles can feel jammed and restricted. Dr Valente helped me by showing the importance of stretching after my classes and on days off, as well as teaching me helpful exercises that prevent recurring injuries.

FV: Obviously injury is a part of life for such an active profession. What have injuries taught you about your body and dance?

CS: I've learned that injuries are extremely common in the dancing world, but there are numerous ways to prevent them. If you don't take particular precautions and put in the work, your lack of preparedness will hold you back.

FV:  Are there any ballets that you haven't performed in that you'd really like to, or any dream roles you're hoping to land in the future?

CS: One of my favorite ballets is Sleeping Beauty, it will be performed during my upcoming season with Grand Rapids Ballet. One of my dream roles would have to be Juliet from the drama and ballet Romeo and Juliet. Dramatic ballets are my favorite.

FV: How are you feeling now that you're graduating and going forward with Grand Rapids?

CS: Since graduating, it's made me reflect on what brought me here today and the person I am because of it. I've gone through a long journey of hard work, finding myself, and rediscovering my passion for dance. Being in such a stressful environment made me want to stop dancing, but the only thing that kept me going was wondering what would happen if I gave up now? I learned that it's those who fight to stay who go through the most trials to eventually succeed. That struggle and ultimate triumph, that's what got me through my years at Ellison, and I was able to graduate at 17 with a contract from a professional company.


Our office would like to thank Caden for taking the time to answer our questions, and we extend our heartfelt congratulations to her and her entire family. We hope they will keep us updated on her many new adventures at Grand Rapids!

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June 21, 2023
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