Education

A young dancer's passion: ‘I would rather fail doing what I love'

Joshua Castro, 18, graduated from high school in May. He'll be moving to Nebraska at the end of August to train and perform with a dance company.
Joshua Castro, 18, graduated from high school in May. He'll be moving to Nebraska at the end of August to train and perform with a dance company.
Jordi Navarrete/ Courtesy of Joshua Castro

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As part of our series Age of Expression, teen artists from around Southern California share stories about the art they create and why they do it. Listen to the third installment where two teens talk about learning to take digital art seriously.

Joshua Castro is crazy about dance – everything from ballet and jazz to lyrical dance, salsa and tap. But he says his passion was sparked by accident. 

"For me, dancing was a little bit of a mistake," said Castro, 18. "But it was a good mistake."

When he was in fifth grade, his mom signed him up for what she thought was a summer reading program. It actually turned out to be a hip-hop dance program. He decided to stay and he got hooked. 

"I couldn’t explain that feeling 'cause I was pretty shocked myself," said Castro. "I’m just pretty shocked that at such a young age, it just clicked."

He knew he wanted to dance, but couldn't afford to continue the classes after the summer program. He turned to YouTube to learn what he could and when he got to Anaheim High School, which has a robust dance program, spent four years learning all types of dance. 

He recently completed a one-year scholarship at the McCoy Rigby Conservatory of the Arts in Yorba Linda. At the end of August, he'll be heading to Nebraska on an eight-month scholarship to train and perform at Smitty’s Performing Arts Center.

He spoke with KPCC's Priska Neely about learning to embrace all forms of dance and how dance helped him get through difficult years in high school. 

INTERVIEW HIGLIGHTS

On trading baggy pants for tights

I came to Anaheim High school. I knew for a fact they had a dancing program. The moment I got my sheet to pick my classes. The first thing was dance.

My teacher [at Anaheim High School] told everyone the attire that we had to wear for dance. She started saying tights, ballet, tight-fitting clothes and then I completely freaked out. I was not used to that. I was all into the whole baggy clothes, sneakers, regular t-shirt and just doing hip-hop and then she started saying, "Oh we’re gonna do ballet, we're gonna do jazz, we're gonna do tap." I’m like, “Umm what did I get myself into?” 

And then I thought about it and I was just like just stay here, you like dancing, you might like what they’re offering. And it took me a while to like it and it just became a complete strong passion. 

Listen to the second installment in the series, on an unlikely rapper who gains confidence to pick up the mic. 

Joshua Castro started off in hip-hop dance and says it took him a little while to embrace ballet.
Joshua Castro started off in hip-hop dance and says it took him a little while to embrace ballet.
Jordi Navarrete/ Courtesy of Joshua Castro

On how dancing saved his life 

For me, high school was the most difficult four years of my life because of all the stress, the rumors – they just kept coming and coming and coming. I was basically alone. I did try to take my life. Dance, it saved me. It saved me from all this stress. It saved me from basically leaving here. Dancing – it was my escape.

When I’m on stage it feels like I’m in my own personal room or personal studio and just letting my emotions out and telling a story. This career is very risky and you have to basically hustle everyday just because you want to do what you love doing. A lot of people think it’s a waste of time or just unimportant, but the thing is – it sounds horrible, but I would rather fail doing what I love doing, that giving up and being stable.