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Leroy Dias Dos Santos

Alumni Profile: Leroy Dias Dos SantosLeroy Dias Dos Santos, BA DanceProfessional Dancer, Flawless Dance Group

BA Dance Performance, 2007

What made you choose Middlesex University and your course?

It was really important to me to be in London as I felt most career opportunities for a dancer were here in the capital city. I liked the look of the Middlesex course so my teacher at Barnett College, who saw in me talent and potential, pushed me to audition for a place.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

I really enjoyed the experience of going to university every day, training and taking part in an educational programme that enabled me to develop my talent and strengthen myself as a dancer in new areas such as ballet and contemporary dance, while developing my academic skills at the same time. The university experience also taught me how to manage my time effectively.

Additionally, I really enjoyed meeting different people who were passionate about the same thing.

What is your fondest memory of life at Middlesex?

There are too many! I remember having a dance-off in the Forum in my first year which I won! It made me famous on campus! That was a great memory to have so early on in my university experience and really helped me to build friendships with other students when we were all starting out together.

I also really enjoyed choreographing pieces, performing in these and taking part in other students' work as well. It was always really great to receive positive feedback from people who had watched the performances and enjoyed themselves.

When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?

I didn't! At college, being a dancer hadn't been my first goal. My mum was really keen for me to be a lawyer so I was dancing during the day and studying law in the evening. I was also playing sport as well. Becoming a lawyer didn't really work out as it wasn't for me and in my second year I realised that I wanted to become a dancer as this was my real passion.

You are a member of Flawless Dance Group, an extremely successful English street dance troupe and internet sensation. Can you tell us a little bit more about how this came about?

Around the same time that I started university, in fact the summer just before, Flawless began. This meant that while I was studying, we were also trying to push ourselves out commercially.

I had to juggle my studies while being out there doing music videos for artists such as Madonna which was an amazing experience but at times tough to balance with my studies. My tutors were all really supportive though.

What made you realise you had a real shot at becoming a successful dancer?

In my first year at university, I saw where I had the potential to get to with hard work. I had to work on my contemporary dance technique but I really pushed myself and by my final year everything from my performance to my body and physical strength had improved. By then I had the confidence to really launch myself into auditions and onto the professional dance scene.

As soon as I finished my degree I auditioned successfully for Carmen Jones. I literally jumped straight from university into the West End for three months which was amazing and helped to build my confidence even further. It showed me that all my hard work had begun to pay off.

Do you think your Middlesex education has helped you get where you are professionally today?

My teachers really helped me to establish my career. I built good friendships with my tutors and because of this and the fact they could see I was really keen to succeed, they were able to really mentor me and help me stay focussed so that I could reach my potential.

I am a street dancer but my course allowed me to learn different styles of dance, including contemporary and ballet, which helped me to tune into other aspects of dance. This strengthened me as a dancer both in terms of performance and also the theory behind dance as well.

What are the pros and cons of working within your profession?

The biggest pro is that you meet great people along the way. There are times when you are not working so you always need to have a plan B so you can support yourself financially. This is probably the biggest con. It's a very competitive arena so you don't always get everything you want straight away. I am lucky as I am also trained to work as a dance teacher and run workshops, which helps in between tours and shows. 

What would you say has been your defining career break or highlight to date?

Last year was probably my biggest career highlight to date in terms of achievements. I performed with Kylie at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee so got to go to the Palace and meet artists like Stevie Wonder, Jessie J, Gary Barlow and JLS. I got to talk to Prince Harry which was amazing – he was a really cool guy.

I also danced at the Olympics, in the Paralympics Opening ceremony, and toured round the UK in collaboration with the English National Ballet.

A quiet year then!

It was pretty hectic! Flawless being appointed as Ambassadors for Prince's Trust in 2011 was also a great honour. Earlier in my career, I would say taking part in the movies StreetDance1 and 2 was a pretty great experience.

Are there any career tips you would give to students and recent graduates?

Be courageous, fearless and confident. You need to really believe in yourself. When you start something you may not be the greatest but if you work hard, have a really clear vision of where you want to go and enjoy what you are doing, you can make it. Be focussed and you will get where you want to be.
Also network and build connections. People who you work with can recommend you to others and help you get further jobs. Networking plays a really important part in helping you get your name out there.

What does the future hold for you?

This year I am trying to work more on raising my own personal profile in addition to working with Flawless so I am putting together my own show. I also want to collaborate with other choreographers.

I am also off to South Africa in a few weeks to run some workshops for kids. I really want to share my experiences and inspire kids who don't really feel they have a future or can make it. I feel I have a lot to give in this area and can demonstrate that with hard work and commitment, you can do anything you want.

Finally, given the success you have enjoyed already, do you think your mother still wishes you had become a lawyer?!

I hope not! She does still worry about me though as dance can be very physically challenging so she always likes to check that I am eating properly and looking after myself.

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