Radical Recreation: Blooming of expression

Diana Reyes practicing at the Express Studio. Photo by Jeremy Viray.

Growing up, nursing major Diana Reyes spent most of her time dedicated to ice skating, until she started high school. Reyes never thought she would become a dancer, especially with her introvert personality. It all started when her friend wanted to be in the same class as her, and that is when Reyes took her first dance class. Reyes was shy at first, but after some encouragement from her teacher, one of her biggest inspirations, she began feeling more comfortable expressing herself. Reyes continued dancing after that and has been dancing for six years.

Reyes classifies herself as a hip-hop dancer, while also admiring other dance styles such as contemporary, jazz and Latin. She has performed at UAA for Open Mic Night, the Dena’ina Center for “Meet the World,” elementary schools for multicultural events, and in local dance competitions.

“I try to dance every day. Whenever I hear music I automatically start dancing,” Reyes said. “When I don’t dance, I feel like I am not growing as a person. I feel lazy and unproductive. Dance is a huge part of me and I try my best to remain a hungry dancer.”

Before Reyes started dancing, she was shy unable to express herself. She believes that dancing has allowed her to grow in many ways.

“My utmost favorite thing about dance is how it developed me as a person and artist. Back then, I was very timid and dance boosted my confidence,” Reyes said. “My friends now say that I have a fearless personality and I attribute it to dance.”

During her sophomore year of college, Reyes was offered the assistant director position for Dance Contempo at East High School. Dance Contempo gives students who have a passion for dancing an opportunity to learn a variety of dance styles.

“She’s always there with that extra mile to motivate everyone to keep dancing,” said Jeremy Viray, a dancer friend of Reyes. “Diana is a natural teacher when it comes to helping others. You can feel and see how passionate she is when it comes to lending a helping hand, whether it’s one dance more or several, she won’t hesitate to take her time and help.”

Diana Reyes at the underground dance company for a hip-hop competition for break dancing and all styles. Photo by Sabine Kretschek.

In high school, Reyes was invited to participate in Dance Contempo, and during her senior year, she became one of the captains of the dance group. One of her unique qualities was that she was a captivating performer and that is what Ariel Graham, director of Dance Contempo, first noticed about Reyes.

“I love working with Diana, we have different aesthetic styles and it’s wonderful to be able to play off each other and offer a creative eye and different perspective to what we are working on with our students,” Graham said. “She understands who she is working with and is able to take her ideas and energy and transfer it to our students.”

Apart from dancing, the medical field has always been an interest to Reyes and that is what influenced her to pursue a career in nursing.

“I love that nurses are advocates and play a special role in their patients’ lives. With the lack of adequate medical care in many countries, I know that I can make a difference as a nurse,” Reyes said. “My motto is to spread positivity, and what better way than helping those in need?”

Besides pursuing her nursing major and dancing, Reyes is a peer mentor for the TRiO program known as Student Support Services. She helps first generation students successfully adjust to the college rhythm. Her biggest motivators are her parents, who have inspired Reyes in her education and motivated her to help others in their education.

“Hearing their experiences has heavily influenced my perspective on education. They always encouraged me to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered here in the United States,” Reyes said. “I always took their advice to heart and I am thankfully on the path to graduating from UAA.”

After Reyes finishes school, she wants to travel and explore the world after being in Alaska all her life. Eventually, she wants to move to the Lower 48 to work as a registered nurse while continuing to dance. Her dream is to join a hip-hop team and she is working toward that dream with each dance.