Pharr native Rosario Guillen may sometimes wake up with a body so sore it’s hard to get out of bed. For him, that’s the feeling of following his dream.
Since he was a student at Liberty Middle School in Pharr, Guillen’s heart has been on the stage. Whether he is acting in a play or dancing in a production, performing is his passion.
“Dance has always been an outlet, it is my escape from the real world,” he said. “It is always that moment of meditation, and it’s like a prayer. It is like a form of worship for me, when I am dancing I don’t think of anyone or anything else.”
His love for theatre and dance has taken him to stages all across the country.
After graduating from PSJA Southwest Early College High School, Guillen was accepted to the Boston Conservatory at Berklee in Boston, a top-performing arts college for music, dance and theater. He graduated this May.
There, Guillen, who dances ballet, jazz, glamanco, modern and contemporary styles, had the opportunity to dance for many projects, including several Nutcracker productions with several dance companies. In 2018, Guillen was a principal dancer for Greta Gerwich’s production of “Little Women.”
After three rounds of auditions, Guillen was selected to be one of the six dancers to be upfront in a scene early in the movie when two of the film’s main characters, Jo March and Theodore ‘Laurie’ Laurence, meet at a dance event.
While shooting, which took place in October that year, Guillen was able to have a few conversations with Golden Globe Award-winning actress Saoirse Ronan, who played Jo. He recalled how friendly she was to him, offering her water bottle to him at one point.
Guillen said the kindness she showed him reminded him of how important it is to always stay humble.
“Something I see in a lot of performers is that they leave their small towns and go to Broadway schools or New York, then come back to their hometowns and say, ‘Everything is horrible,’” he said. “I think that is such an ugly mentality to have. People need to remember to stay true to themselves.”
Guillen emphasized that the successes he has had as a dancer so far is because of how supportive the local dancing community is in the Rio Grande Valley.
“When I leave and go out and do gigs, I am always thinking of my hometown and I am never ashamed of where I came from or let it ever get into my head,” he said.
While attending college at Boston, he spent most of his summers in the Valley sharing what he was learning to young dancers.
Since he was 16, Guillen has been an artistic director and head choreographer for the city of Pharr’s Parks and Recreation’s Summer Dance Program. This year, he also choreographed McAllen Susy’s Dance School’s upcoming production, “Luna de Muertos.”
The dance is slated for Oct. 17, and the day after, Guillen will be leaving to California to dance for San José Dance Theatre, which he recently signed a contract with.
Guillen’s inspiration to teach while he was still a student himself comes from knowing he was fortunate to have dance instructors who cared about his success. He wants to be that figure for others. “I never felt scared to follow my dreams, and that is something I want to push to students,” Guillen said.
He added that dancers have to not only be physically resilient, but mentally as well.
“All of the rejections you get as a dancer is hard, and you get so many rejections,” Guillen said. “Because they might be looking for someone who is 5’10 and you are either taller or shorter; they might be looking for someone who is white, not Hispanic. So sometimes it’s hard when you keep getting rejected, but you have to push through even though there might be 500 ‘no’s’ because all you need is one yes.”
Guillen started dancing at Nadia’s School of Dance in Mission at 12 years old. He said hanging on the wall of the boy’s restroom of the studio is a Broadway poster of the musical “Chicago.” Until now, that poster has been the focal point of Guillen’s dream of dancing for that production someday.
Throughout college, Guillen was dancing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. almost every day, on top of weekend rehearsals.
“Dance is a selfish art form, that is how I like to say it because it is all about you in that moment,” he said. “It is you in your own space, in your own bubble. You forget who you are for two hours and are just so in tune with your body and what you are doing with your body.
“Some people say it’s hard, but once you start looking at it more like an artistic art form and as a way to express yourself and let go, then it makes it so much more enjoyable.”