Fil-Am dancer Sami Santos plays ‘Clara’ in Festival Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

IRVINE, CA — This has been 14-year-old Filipino American Sami Santos’ life for the past decade — for six days a week, she puts on her ballet shoes and trains.

“Ballet in general is really poised, and really delicate and I’ve always liked that since I was a little child. I’d watch TV shows and on the television, I’d just see them get gracefully, spinning, turning and jumping, an I just want to be that.”

Even when just started dancing and was playing smaller roles, Sami would always give it her all — and finally, she got to star in the most beloved Christmas ballet production, The Nutcracker — playing one of the lead roles, as Clara.

On top of playing the coveted role of Clara, Sami also danced in the Spanish number and in the Harlequinette. This is three different parts — a rare feat for someone her age.

“She really is technically talented. You cannot get all those parts when you’re 14 years old unless you are really something,” said Salwa Rizkalla, founder and director of the Festival Ballet.

With a supportive family behind her, the soft-spoken high school freshman with dreams of dancing professionally has already racked up several awards at the Youth American Grand Prix, along with some scholarships.

“Very proud of course, always proud of her, she started when she was 4, just amazing… she went all the way to become Clara,” said her mother, Nancy Santos.

“It’s crazy, when they call your name when they give you the plaque its like whoa and you really feel proud of yourself after years and so many training you go through. It’s a lot and its really worth it.”

There seems to be no stopping Sami, who already has her eyes set on another role after her stint with The Nutcracker. She intends to compete for her spot in the production of Swan Lake in the Spring.

Sami’s future is bright — in theater ballet’s history, many past Claras have gone on to win scholarships, and dance professionally throughout the world.


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