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Inspired in a Yoruba sculpture-temple, Santiago’s fifth grade students conceived the drawing above with chalk on blackboard in 1996.

 

 

 

In addition to his fruitful career as a writer, dancer and choreographer, Santiago is a fully credentialed teacher in the State of California where he taught primary grades for 11 years. His contributions in the field of education for his innovative use of art as a tool to educate proved to generate a significant cognitive development in the students exposed to the methods. In 1999, The Music Center of Los Angeles/Education Division published Santiago’s article, “Dancing Into Literacy,” in its regarded Arts Dialogue journal, detailing some of the highlights of his methodology.

 

Biography

 

Miguel Francisco Santiago Ortiz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 19, 1966.  He was educated in Puerto Rico through the 12th grade at the Santa Rita Academy in Bayamon. From the age of seven began piano lessons and at the age of 10 began training in dance. An old film shows Santiago at the tender age of nine performing a flawless “La Estudiantina” for the school’s musical recital. Soon after, Santiago began to take dance lessons and 1983, he was already performing at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in Condado in a hot and sizzling “White Christmas” production. Also that year, the Central University of Puerto Rico awarded Santiago first place for the poem Homage to Poetry in the university’s creative writing contest.

In 1984, Santiago moved to Ames, Iowa. There, he studied dance and telecommunications for two years. For that period, he danced for Barjche, Iowa State University's Dance Company. In the spring of 1996, Santiago performed for the American College Dance Festival receiving an Honorary Mention. It was then that he was spotted by a Des Moines Metropolitan agent and invited to audition for the Opera in the winter of 1986. That same year, Santiago began to dance for the Opera in “Romeo and Juliet” and in 1987 danced in “The Flying Dutchman,” in which he also became assistant choreographer. Also in 1986, he transferred to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa where he studied Public Relations and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in the prestigious School of Journalism and Mass Communication. In 1988, the School named him to the Dean’s list for his academic excellence and contribution to the School of Journalism. He also joined the Des Moines Ballet for two years beginning in 1986.  

In 1989, Santiago moved to California to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Choreography and Performance at the University of California, Los Angeles Dance Department. UCLA awarded him with a full academic graduate Scholarship and Fellowship to earn a master’s degree while performing for the UCLA Dance Company. Among the concerts performed at UCLA were Jose Limon’s “Missa Brevis,” revived by Risa Steinberg, and “Dancing with the Saints,” choreographed by Santiago himself. 

As a scholar of both dance theory and technique, Santiago developed his own framework to inject research into the creative process. His thesis writings, which focused on dance in the Santería religion, later became published in a book titled “Dancing with the Saints,” after former Dean of Art at UCLA, Emma Lewis Thomas, insisted that Santiago’s writings be presented for publication. Today, “Dancing with the Saints” is used as reference in such institutions such as the University of California and University of Florida. These insightful writings were described by  N. Denise Youngblood, Director, County Briefings and Co-Managing Editor, County Reviews, as among most “reliable sources” available for the academic study of Santería. The overwhelming response received from both the concert and the book energized the artist’s career, and he began to perform in TV shows like “Thirty Something” as well as working in pilots like “Over My Dead Body.”  

Santiago also danced in major commercials. In addition, he engaged as a performer, choreographer and director in the musical theater arena. In 1994, the prestigious NAACP Hollywood Chapter selected Santiago for a nomination for Best Choreography in a Musical for the production “A Little Meditation.” 

In addition to his fruitful career as a writer, dancer and choreographer, Santiago is a fully credentialed teacher in the State of California where he taught primary grades for 11 years. His contributions in the field of education for his innovative use of art as a tool to educate proved to generate a significant cognitive development in the students exposed to the methods. In 1999, The Music Center of Los Angeles/Education Division published Santiago’s article, “Dancing Into Literacy,” in its regarded Arts Dialogue journal, detailing some of the highlights of his methodology. A major contribution in the area of moral leadership is eloquently detailed in the March 20, 2000 Los Angeles Times article titled “Parents Learn How to Untangle Red Tape,” by Jocelyn Y. Stewart. 

Santiago has also become known for his unique watercolor painting technique created on fabric. In the year 2000, he was invited to exhibit at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the California Association of Bilingual Education. In September and May 2000, the Pomona Latino Chamber of Commerce and the City of Pomona exhibited his works. His own distinctive blues inspired by gems are a signature in Santiago’s paintings and a trademark in his collection of important, untreated sapphires featured in significant world presentations such as the Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels exhibit.  

Today, Santiago’s paintings and photography are used in major public relation’s campaigns as well as within the first video of authenticity, conceived by the artist himself, entitled “Aquamarine, The Birth of a Gem.” The aerial and underwater photography for this motion picture, taken of the Island of Culebra in Puerto Rico, as well as the installation art developed for the set of “Aquamarine,” was made available on DVD in the spring of 2006 through the release of “Aquamarine.” It is quite a revolutionary visual experience! 

While he was a professor at the Universidad Central de Bayamon from 2007 to 2010, Santiago wrote “Objetivo Fobia 1, 2 and 3,” a play about teachers asked by their superintendent to audition in order to get jobs in the entertainment industry when the goverment shut down leaving them unemployed. By popular demand, it played for three consecutive years, magically entertaining large audiences who still want more of it to this day.

 

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