From Malaga to London's West End

Ruiz, a 23-year-old dancer from Fuengirola, in London.
Ruiz, a 23-year-old dancer from Fuengirola, in London. / DILESH SOLANKI
  • Julia Ruiz has taken the leap to the British musical scene, starring in a show about the life of Gloria Estefan

  • On Your Feet!, a Broadway production with the singer's seal of approval, debuts at the London Coliseum in June

Juia Ruiz, who lives in London, has recently arrived home from Paris, where she gave a Latin dance workshop. She is passionate about dance and travelling, which are the two most important things in her life currently. After working around the world for four years, attending audition after audition, Ruiz is grateful for the "peace of mind" that comes with a contract of at least a year and a half.

The dancer, orginally from Malaga, joins the cast of On Your Feet!, the musical about Emilio and Gloria Estefan that premieres on 14 June at the London Coliseum. With 2,359 seats, it is the largest theatre in the British capital and one of the most prominent in the West End.

Ruiz has been working towards being in a Broadway musical for five years. "It's a big opportunity. Once you enter the circle of musicals it's easier to move from one to another, and even go to Broadway. It's a chance for them to get to know me and for me to show them how much I really want this," said the 23-year-old from Fuengirola.

She has lived in the city for four years, in a shared flat, and still does other jobs as well as dancing. As soon as she settled in England, she joined the 'corps de ballet' for Verdi's La Traviata at the Royal Opera House. This is a lyrical production that runs for two months every year, and has become a great way to learn the trade, while also providing sporadic jobs for dancers.

Julia Ruiz will now be involved in On Your Feet!, which begins in June and is performed in London for two-and-a-half months before setting off on a tour of the UK and Ireland.

Set in Cuba, the musical tells the love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and the singer's rise to fame, with her popular songs as the soundtrack.

Ruiz will be one of the main dancers in the show. Estefan herself helped to select the stars of the musical, including Julia. "I looked her straight in the eye and told her it was an honour to perform for her," Ruiz said. The directors were looking for a versatile Mediterranean profile, and being trained in acting, singing and dancing at ESAEM (Escuela Superior de Artes Escénicas de Málaga), Ruiz was perfect.

"I never wanted to focus on just one style, I'm passionate about dance itself and each dance transmits a different energy to me," she explained.

Ruiz has won 14 titles in national and European dance championships despite having only started dancing at age 14. She is "happy" about the opportunities that are opening up in Malaga for artists, but for the moment she is not coming back to Spain. "In Spain, art is not highly valued, nor is there much work," she explained.

Having arrived in London at the age of 19, she now has perfect command of the English language, as for four years she was "very focused on trying to improve and learn every day," she said. Going to London was "the best choice I ever made. I miss the good weather, the food and my family, but I'm working to make my parents proud of me."

It is clear that she loves what she does. Despite being two thousand kilometres away from home, and having dealt with a lot of rejection, she is happy with where she is. "I can follow my dream and do something I love every day."