A conversation with: Daisun Lee Santana

By Ivan Gomez

I have been waiting a long time to be able to interview you, I hear you’re a good dancer and you motivate the youth, what made you decide to work with them?

In a sense, I am them (the youth), I come from a part of town where it is usually overlooked. Many kids have little to no options, no outlets. Growing up with a single mother, we didn’t have much, we only had each other, as far as the city goes, there wasn’t much to do, one can easily get involved with things that lead you a negative lifestyle, Thankfully I found dance, It saved my life, I then focused all of my attention on learning and trying to become the best I can be, so to answer your question, I decided to devote my existence to uplifting the youth because I want to be an example, I want to express that they can truly make their dreams come true focus, be determined, learn as much as you can and you can achieve whatever you mind to.

What got you into dancing?

I was born in Puerto Rico and as you may know, dance and music has a lot to do with who we are as people, most of my family on the island are heavily involved in church, most of my cousins are musicians and church gets really hype. The music always inspired me, I would sit in church and watch the band do their thing, It would give me goosebumps. When I was 5, 6 years old, I already knew how to dance salsa, but it wasn’t until my 9th-grade year at Lincoln West High School, where my life changed completely, I came across some old friends from elementary that were B-Boying (Breakdancing). I started attending their sessions every week and basically began growing as a Bboy, I would get advice from everyone, my peers, the older cats, I was a sponge, I would soak up as much information and knowledge from everyone and apply it to my dance. As the years went by, I was able to do moves I saw in movies, I began competing locally, regionally, nationally then internationally, I was performing for over 20,000 screaming Cavs fans at every home game since 2006, I was a featured act onboard Carnival Cruise Lines, As the years went by, I started getting booked to judge events where as a young kid I dreamed of just attending. This dance took me around the world, right now I am 28 years old, I literally have been dancing half my life, what I do isn’t just a hobby or a job, it is my lifestyle, my culture, my way of being, my Passion!
Describe your style
My style of dance is explosive, It is impactful. I enjoy mixing my Spanish roots with my rock and find ways to jump into spins and moves in a very dynamic way and stop at the drop of a dime, my style is influenced my many pioneers but most of all, Bronx Style.

Daisun Lee Santana Cleveland_1
Photo by: Steve Vaccariello

If you hadn’t chosen this career, what might you be doing?

Hmm… That is actually a great question, a lot of times I ask myself the same question but then I just jump into a move and just forget about it haha, Before dancing, I was big on science, I wanted to learn how things work, how things come to be, I wanted to be a physical Science teacher while still going to college to then being a professor, to then having my on lab and just create stuff, I really wanted to make a time machine or a teleportation device, that kind of thinking helped me learn all the moves I can do at a rapid pace, currently I am a student Barber incase one day I cannot dance, someone somewhere will need a haircut, both of my brothers are barbers and own Santana’s Barbershop, so having a flexible schedule and being able to be creative and just the satisfaction of helping people become more confident or well-groomed kind of makes me enjoy it, barbering is recession proof.

What’s your favorite non-dance activity or hobby?

My favorite nondance activity, I enjoy researching and learning new things. I also enjoy listening to podcasts, especially ones where they interview business owners and talk about how they came to be, how they became successful and overall advice, I like to learn.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

Even though I am a dancer and have performed in front of huge crowds and competed against some of the best dancers around the world, I am actually somewhat of a shy person. I like to lay low and not be in the forefront, I don’t really like being the center of attention, But as the owner of CityBreaks, I have to be the face of my company and connect with new people every day, So it is a challenge and I am getting better each day, But yeah, I don’t like to dance ALL of the time, I enjoy dancing when I truly feel it, when I reach my breaking point, that is really how breaking started, people would dance but once that break of the song (Hype part of a song, usually the break down when the musicians go the hardest) comes on, people would go bananas! They would BREAK OUT!! That is where the term Breakdance came from, We dance to the Break of a song, we Break to the hype part of the song.

Daisun what keeps you from not quitting dance, in other words: what inspires you to keep on dancing?

As a young dancer, I had the honor of having the older heads passing the torch onto me, meaning them teaching me their philosophy of the dance, their wisdom, their advice, my biggest inspiration to keep at it is to pass the torch onto the next generation which at the end of the day is my mission.

What are your upcoming projects?

I have recently reopened CityBreaks CLE, Cleveland’s first Hip Hop Breaking studio, It is located in Gordon Square in the city’s Westside. I plan on building up our student count and overall making CityBreaks THE go to a studio in Cleveland. We are an underdog dance studio in an underdog city, after witnessing The Cavs bring home that trophy, I am inspired and determined to accomplish my goal!

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

Currently I work a third shift job to help fuel my studio, but for many years I made a living performing for the Cleveland Cavaliers on the Scream team, I would also be flown out all over the country and the world to judge or compete at many dance events, I would be paid to fly out and if I win events, I would also get cash prizes, I teach dance at Cleveland High School for Digital Arts, and get booked to perform at many different events, corporate functions, private parties, etc. But my goal is to solely rely on my studio for my livelihood.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

The biggest challenge for me is time and balancing my life with my passion, I always say, there isn’t enough hours in a day, I am student barber by day, studio owner all day, a father of 3, and work the third shift at night, I am learning to balance and properly organize my life.
A life of professional performance seems like it would be very demanding, competitive, and stressful, Is that true or is that only from the outside looking in?
I can definitely agree to that, one has to keep training, keep on learning and find ways to keep up, especially if competing is your passion, I don’t really look to competing a lot anymore due to wanting to focus on building my company, But, life as a dancer isn’t easy, as I stated before, once you have a nice balance with the rest of your life, everything works out fine.

Have you ever competed in other states or countries? If yes where?

Oh yes, I began competing at dance events here in Cleveland, against friends, soon after I ventured out to other cities in Ohio and the neighboring states, as I grew as a BBoy, I went to many states on the east coast, west coast, down south and in between, I have traveled to China, Australia ( twice), France (4 times), London (twice in two weeks) Wales, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, The Netherlands, The Bahamas, Grand Turks, Jamaica, Belize, Honduras, Mexico, that is all I remember right now, this year my passport expires and I am proud to say I filled all of my pages with stamps and had to even go to the US Embassy to add more page to fill, extremely thankful and blessed to have experienced all of that, I learned so much from traveling, I got to see the world and connect with many different people of different cultures, religions, and ways of life, Very, Very thankful.

Well Daisun, do you want to add anything else or have shout outs?

I am happy to share my story in hopes of inspiring anyone in need, to anyone looking to learn some moves, looking to book me or my team for shows or simply want to connect and build, don’t be afraid to reach out or simply come to CityBreaks, thank you.

Daisun Lee Santana Cleveland_3
Photo by: Steve Vaccariello
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