While many kids do gymnastics, soccer or ballet growing up, Loyola rising junior Mia Potter was flamenco dancing, which is a Spanish-folk style, when she was just 4 years old.
“It’s my first love,” Potter, 20, said. “I mean it’s what I am married to.”
After trying ballet and hating it, she ventured into tap dance. Potter said tap was “too happy” for her so she opted to try yet another dance discipline. On the first day of her flamenco class, Potter said the teacher made all of the students cry except for her.
Despite her initial resentment of ballet, Potter said she appreciated that as a dance major, she gets to specialize in ballet and modern at Loyola. Still, flamenco has remained her prioritized discipline outside of class.
After she finishes her second year at Loyola, Potter plans to transfer to Saint Louis University where she will study on the school’s Madrid campus.
While under Loyola dance professor Sandra Kaufmann, Potter became an understudy for the Fall 2018 main stage performance concert. Even as one of the younger students, Potter maintained a “leadership role” in her two years in the program, according to Kaufmann.
“She is an incredible role model,” Kaufmann said. “She has earned everybody’s respect by just being so authentically herself and so driven and so filled with purpose.”
As a Mexican-American, Potter, whose stage name is Mia Angela de Lourdes, said she enjoyed picking up some Spanish from the dance steps, which are derived from the language. While she noticed a “clash of cultures” due to the difference in Spanish and Mexican culture, Potter said that flamenco still brings her back to her roots.
While she initially planned to start her time in Madrid in August, the pandemic has delayed that to January at the earliest.
Potter said her plan hadn’t always been to cut her time at Loyola short. After she spent last summer in Spain, she said she felt a “calling” to stay. After initial hesitation, Potter said mentors in the field encouraged her to pursue this opportunity.
“I really needed to fully commit myself into my art, into my craft,” Potter said. “I really want the next couple years to learn and to really dive into the history and into the culture and being the best that I can be.”
Although she’s soon saying goodbye to the university, Potter maintained her Loyola pride and praised the dance program.
“The dance program at Loyola has been one of the most eye-opening experiences that I’ve had,” Potter said. “The way that Loyola has taught these certain subjects has been totally influential in how I see myself as an artist.”
Unfortunately, the effects of COVID-19 not only had Potter saying goodbye to Loyola’s campus months earlier than expected but also left her plans for this fall up in the air.
Once she does get to Spain, Potter said she doesn’t want to “make it big” in the traditional sense but instead follow in the footsteps of her inspirations, such as Carmen Amaya, a trailblazer flamenco dancer who was the first female to master footwork commonly used for men, and Rocio Molina, a choreographer known for her reinventions of traditional flamenco, and immerse herself in the culture.
“Going to Spain as a flamenco dancer is like going to New York as a musical theater performer,” Potter said. “I’m going there to completely submit myself into dance.”
While she doesn’t know how long she plans to stay in Madrid, Potter said she intends to return to the States at some point. Once she does, she wants to teach or set up her own dance studio.
“When I come back to the states … I want to share my experience,” Potter said. “I want to make sure that dance as a discipline and flamenco as a culture is very inclusive and everybody can feel welcomed in dance.”