Every day is like an audition,” said Lamin Pereira dos Santos, company member of the Kansas City Ballet. “You have to show good work.”
In his first season with KCB, the Brazilian dancer performed lead roles in every program, including Albrecht in Giselle.
“It was a privilege to be able to perform such a big role,” he said in an interview at the end of last season. “I am thankful I was trusted with this responsibility.”
Pereira dos Santos is compact, lean, coiled, taking all of the stage under him in twisting leaps, yet he partners with sensitivity and subtle detail and is fluent in both classical and contemporary movement.
Originally from Rio de Janeiro, “I grew up dancing. It’s in our blood,” he laughed. At first he wanted to dance hip-hop, but at 10 years old he was introduced to ballet and he knew that was what he wanted to do.
In Brazil, though, the arts are not well supported, he explained, and many aspiring dancers look to make their professional careers in the United States or Europe. Pereira dos Santos’ opportunity came when he placed second in Youth America Grand Prix. He had just graduated high school.
“I was 18 and I left at the right moment,” he said. The final round of the international competition was held in New York City, which led to a scholarship at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre, and, eventually, to the Kansas City Ballet. “I just love the Kansas City Ballet,” he added, “because I get to be part of an amazing organization that is really well supported by the community.”
Pereira dos Santos also expressed gratitude for his girlfriend of almost four years, Lilliana Hagerman, an apprentice in the company. “It’s awesome when you get to do the things you love with the people you love.”
But his first support came from his family. “My mom and dad never asked me if I was sure about this, they never went against it. They were always there for me in the audience.” His brother is also a professional ballet dancer, and visited last year to see Pereira dos Santos perform in The Nutcracker. His parents, though, have never seen him dance in America; the last time they saw him dance professionally was in Brazil in 2009.
Fortunately, social media provides opportunities to stay connected with his family, his roots, and the global dance community. He’s active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@laminpereira): “I love sharing what I do as a dancer, and not just as a dancer, but as a human being.”
His passion for dance, for learning the craft and connecting with the audience, is evident in performance and in conversation. Next season, he looks forward to dancing Swan Lake, working with choreographer Helen Pickett, and to the company’s choreographic showcase, New Moves.
“I always want to be better than I was yesterday and bring the best of me,” he said.
Above: Kansas City Ballet dancer Lamin Pereira dos Santos (Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios)