You submitted nominations for the best and brightest emerging Valley creatives, and the results are in. Presenting the 2015 BigBrain finalists.
Angel Castro's hands flex and glide through the air as he explains that he doesn't feel he has to catch up anymore.
Castro decided to go against his parents' wishes and focus on dancing at 18, a late age for the art. Even though he came from a family of singers and actors, he had to convince his family that he could do it.
Six years after making the decision, he has earned a dance degree from Arizona State University, danced with most of the established companies in the Valley, created several of his own shows, and secured a job at Celebrity & Company.
See also: Announcing the 2015 Big Brain Finalists
Clearly, Castro doesn't have to catch up anymore, but he credits that drive to his success.
Before receiving a full-ride scholarship to the Herberger Institute at ASU, Castro's only dance training came from musical theater at South Mountain High School, being on the JROTC drill team, and watching YouTube videos.
In college, he dedicated all the time he could to honing his technique. But unstable funding created a guessing game as to whether Castro would return to school each semester. For his own emotional survival, Castro says he had to detach from school.
Castro was a dancer and a performer and saw his art as his physical interpretation of another's choreography.
It wasn't until his senior year that Castro transitioned, reluctantly at first, to the role of creator -- choreographing and producing his senior thesis because he realized he needed to tell his own story.
"I was doing all these awesome things and experiencing all these cool experiences, but I wasn't taking them in," Castro says. "From that moment forward, I realized I have a lot to say."
During college, Castro created Halo Movement Collective with his mother to express his three passions: dance and choreography, fashion (which he learned from his mother), and installations.
But Castro says his upcoming November show, Savage Beauty, will epitomize this intersection of interests.
"[Savage Beauty] is truest to what I want to do," Castro says, hanging out at the breakroom table in Celebrity Dance Company's office.
His eyes light up, his back straightens in his chair, and his hands fly through the air as he describes his plans for his fall show, which he decides on the spot will be all-female.
Castro draws a capital "I" on the table to illustrate how the raised stage will be shaped, with the audience seated in the middle and both repurposed and new dance pieces and a fashion collection showcased throughout the space.
Listening to Castro, you would think he'd begun his journey as a creator and dancer as soon as he could walk, but Castro believes it took him so long to truly find his passion for a reason.
"I was totally set up to be here," Castro says. "I was made for this. There's no way in six short years that I'm where I'm at, and I'm doing the things I'm doing, and working with the people I'm working with . . . and not have been meant to do this."
The 2015 Big Brain Award winners will be announced onSaturday, May 9, during New Times' Artopia, an evening of food, drink, art, and music at Monarch Theatre. For details and tickets, $25, visit www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.
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