Nataly Santiago Interview on Dance Scenes for High Strung Free Dance [Exclusive Interview]

Dancing comes naturally for Nataly Santiago in High Strung Free Dance.

The up-and-coming actress performed wonderfully in her dance sequences and supporting role as the lead character’s best friend in this dance sequel.

In the inspiring dance film, it’s a tale of a triangular romance between a young choreographer, contemporary dancer, and an innovative pianist creating a New York Broadway show.

High Strung Free Dance stars Juliet Doherty (Strange Girl in a Strange Land), Thomas Doherty (Descendants 2), and Harry Jarvis (Proven Innocent) as the three main leads. The supporting cast includes Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), Ace Bhatti (Bohemian Rhapsody), Manuel Pacific (Terminator: Dark Fate), Jorgen Makena (#REALITYHIGH), and Nataly Santiago (Breaking Brooklyn).

Director Michael Damian returns to helm the sequel.

LRM Online spoke to Nataly Santiago over the phone about her supporting role and developing her dance sequences.

For more information on the film, visit its official web site here.

High Strung Free Dance is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD today.

Read the exclusive interview below.

LRM Online: Congratulations, Nataly, on this project with High Strung Free Dance.

Nataly Santiago: Thank you. I appreciate it.

LRM Online: Tell us about the attraction to a High Strung Free Dance.

Nataly Santiago: It was with Janeen and Michael Damian. The first time I met them, I was dancing with a convention. I was on tour. I had seen the first movie, and I was a fan of the first movie. A lot of people that I admired were in the first film. They came to me about making a sequel. They said I would be perfect for the character.

For me, I was intrigued since it was the part that I love so much. I was in high school while we were shooting, and when they started talking to me about it. At the time, I was studying as a drama major. I was studying acting at a professional performing arts school. I had done one or two shorts films, but I was looking for something that’ll help me cross into acting more to get the experience to be on a set for a feature.

Then there’s the cast, everybody that was involved. Michael and Janeen took a fantastic job at keeping the energy up, keeping everybody feeling comfortable, and being super friendly. I was working with a lot of beautiful people. All the names are on the project intrigued me. It pulled me towards wanting to do it and be a part of it.

LRM Online: How much preparation did you have for your role?

Nataly Santiago: After I booked for it?

LRM Online: Yes, that’s correct.

Nataly Santiago: I’m trying to remember. We filmed it two years ago. At the time, I was 17. I wanted to say about a month, give or take. They sent me the script, kept updating and making edits to the scripts. Certain things were added and taken out. It was about a month that I got to work on my character on who she was and what her relationship was to Barlow, the lead character.

LRM Online: What do you like the most about your character in the film?

Nataly Santiago: She’s caring. As a special friend, she empathizes well. Her name is Paloma. The first thing that I did that I remembered doing. I looked up what the name means. Specifically, the name means Dove. So she’s very delicate, and little motherly. She cares a lot about Barlow and likes what she’s going through. She and Keke took her in when she needed a place to stay. It was the admiration of Barlow from her talent. It was super sweet.

There was this scene in which she told her that we got your back and whatever you need. She’s somebody that you can rely on. From that admiration, she can be a little intimidating, but she’s quite caring. That’s something I like about her.

LRM Online: I’ve seen the film, and it shows. How acting alongside Julie Doherty as Barlow in the movie? How did you develop a relationship?

Nataly Santiago: It happened naturally because we spent so much time outside the set together. It was me, Juliet, and Kerrynton [Jones]. We would go to lunches. On days off, we would spend time together. By working on a set on a film, it’s essential to get to know your fellow actors and who you’re working with. It builds that connection that’ll help with your characters in the film.

Genuinely, I adore her. We built a great relationship and bond while we were in Romania, shooting for two months and a half. It just really grew. While we’re working on the scenes, we tried our best to connect to make the relationship was pure. Getting into the characters and bring ourselves towards the characters helped.

LRM Online: You have three crucial dancing scenes if I recalled from the film. Let’s start with the first one. The audition scene. Could you talk about the audition scene and the dances that you prep for that?

Nataly Santiago: Before shooting, we were there a week or two weeks. We were working in the studio every day with Tyce [Diorio]. We worked at it hard. He’s brilliant when it comes to visualizing and creating what he envisions. I used to take his class all the time that at the Pulse on Tour, which is a convention that I trained at. For all of the dancing that you’ll see, the environment and the energy were so beautiful.

Every part of it was terrific, but it was hard, especially with the opening scene. It was all difficult to shoot. The opening scene, I remembered it was late-night, and everybody was tired. We kept going and going. It’s incredible when everybody’s tired together, and we’re pushing each other since everybody in the room cared so much about the film. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of stress on the body, but super worth it.

LRM Online: What about the apartment scene? It looked like there’s a lot more freestyle and the girls had a lot of fun with that.

Nataly Santiago: Yeah, we did. Believe it or not, that was the hardest dance sequence for us to shoot. That was the last day in Romania. Everybody was exhausted. It was late at night, and it looked like it was broad daylight. We’re all working hard to get the best take.

There were a couple of difficulties, but we connected, and then we helped each other through it. It’s about bringing joy and love into the room. It was the last day, but it was such an important scene. As a result, it came out beautifully. It was a tough one, but we had a lot of fun. As the three of us, we had spent so much time together throughout the trip and shooting the film, and we made it count.

LRM Online: One final dance scene was the closing scene, which looked very choreographed and difficult. Could you talk about how that big scene came to fruition, especially for you?

Nataly Santiago: It felt like we shot that scene in a series of days. The scene was a big massive whole production. The choreography that was specific in certain places from the dancers that did certain pieces. For the last scene shot, I’m on a bed on like a higher level and shot on a different day than the finale was shot. It was a monster. It was a beautiful monster.

Shooting dance scenes are hard. They’re never easy, especially when you want to get the best takes. We went through a lot. I got hurt once, but we pushed through. Everything ended up beautifully.

The final scene was the most enjoyable. I loved the story that was being told throughout it. Every little detail was perfect with all the props–the piano, the chandelier, the bed, the papers, and the typewriter. Every aspect was fascinating. Janeen did an incredible job of capturing the captivating details. Tyce did a fantastic job bringing everything for life. It was super fun with every art and every form. So I love shooting that one.

LRM Online: For yourself, Nataly, do you want to go more towards dancing, or do you want to go more towards acting?

Nataly Santiago: I’ll be moving towards more acting in the future very soon. I love dancing. As a first language, it was the first thing that spoke to me. When I was younger, you know, I didn’t know how to communicate how I felt. Then dance came along, and it allowed me to express myself in any way that I wanted to. It made me feel free.

I loved the dancing. I would never stop dancing, but I do want to crossover into the acting industry. Since I was 13 years old, it was super intriguing. For high school, you apply and audition for different departments and majors, you have to put which one you want to get into first. At home, we put the dance down because I danced my whole life. After I thought about it, I wanted to learn something new. It was fascinating to step into the shoes of other people and characters to see what their lives are like.

I always did that naturally. As a person, I wanted to learn more and be able to pursue it. I switched my major for drama. It’s been hard for me to try to manage both dancing and acting. My path and career were taking off so rapidly within this past year, which I’m incredibly thankful for. There’s been beautiful memories and experiences. I grew so much as a person, but it’s to crossover and explores other people’s shoes.

LRM Online: Nataly, thank you for taking the time to speak with me this afternoon. I loved the movie, particularly with your scenes. Thank you very much.

Nataly Santiago: No, thank you so much.

High Strung Free Dance is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD today.

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Gig Patta

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.

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