DS: What have you been up to since your trip to NYC?
TM: Since the trip, I attended the Houston Ballet summer intensive for 6 weeks and am still currently training at the Houston Ballet Academy in the professional division (it's my second year!). I've been involved in two performances so far: Stanton Welch's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and "Full Circle" by Oliver Halkowich in Sustatined by Breath and Line.
DS: What was your favorite part about the whole experience?
TM: My favorite part of the experience was having the opportunity to work with so many incredible people, as well as getting to know and dance with the two other phenomenal finalists, Briar and Kerrynton. Everyone was so positive and fun to be around—it's an experience I'll never forget. Oh, and of course seeing Finding Neverland on Broadway and site-seeing around NYC were highlights!
DS: Any exciting dance things coming up in the next few months?
TM: Since the trip, I've become a JJGirl and represent Jo + Jax. I've also been preparing for Houston Ballet's brand new Nutcracker production, which runs from November through December.
DS: Do you have any advice for future CMS finalists?
TM: The best advice I can give is to just be yourself and not be afraid to stand out or be different. Really absorb everything and don't take anything for granted. Lastly, have fun! There's no reason to hold back.
Check out Tatiana's letter to readers!
Wow, where to begin? I want to start by saying how incredible this experience was and how much it meant to me. The amount of love and support that I received throughout this process is something I cannot even fathom. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share, comment, campaign and vote for me! I am so incredibly grateful and overwhelmed by this entire experience. I also want to thank the entire Dance Spirit team and the two other dancers and friends that I shared this journey with, Kerrynton and Briar, for making this experience so unforgettable. I wouldn't have been able to do it without you all and am so grateful to have been given this opportunity of a lifetime!
Tatiana Melendez's powerful presence isn't just evident onstage: Even her Instagram videos of ballet-class combos show her ability to sell it. But unlike most budding ballerinas, this 16-year-old learned how to command the stage early on as a comp kid, training at All American Dance Factory in Tampa, FL, and spending her weekends refining her performance skills at conventions and competitions. She was a successful comp kid, too: The judges awarded her first runner-up at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in 2012 and 2014. There was something about ballet, though, that kept pulling at her. “The comp scene is so much fun, and you're really dancing for yourself," she says. “I met great people at NYCDA who became my family. But I loved the structure and precision of ballet." After testing her ballet chops at the World Ballet Competition in 2011 and 2013—where she won gold and silver, respectively—Tatiana enrolled full-time at the Houston Ballet Academy in August 2015.