FIUSM sits down with actress from “Rock of Ages”

Junette Reyes/Staff Writer

Maria Ines Serritella danced her way into a career. She has been an FIU alumna since 1997.

She strayed quite a bit from her Bachelor of Arts in the College of Education when she pursued her passion for dancing which began years before her time at the University.

With an extensive background in the art of dance, she quickly found her way onto the set of the film adaptation of the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages,” with only three years of acting under her belt. She also found herself back on stage, after six years without performing, to dance in “Soulé,” a dance and live music show that explores the crossroads of flamenco, American roots music and contemporary dance with a cast of 15 dancers and musicians.

FIU Student Media got to sit down with Serritella to delve deeper into her artistic side.The Beacon: You recently worked in “Rock of Ages.” How did the audition process for the film go?

Serritella: They were looking for “dancing moms.” I learned the choreography, I danced my butt off, and I just pretty much convinced myself, ‘I am going to book this thing. I am a dancing, protesting mother.’ I was just so excited and very proud and just really staying extremely focused because I just really wanted to nail this audition. I’m very grateful and blessed that I did. And I’m definitely appreciative of the opportunity to have worked with such a great choreographer and on such a great project.

The Beacon: What other acting roles have you had before “Rock of Ages”?

Serritella: I had a few acting roles leading up to this, but not many. My four professional credits are listed on my IMDB page. Aside from “Rock of Ages,” one was for an episode of “Real Vice: Miami,” a show on the Discovery Channel, another was for a French film titled, “R.T.T.,” and the fourth was for an episode on a TV series titled, “Ángel Rebelde.”

The Beacon: How was the atmosphere while working on the film?

Serritella: The atmosphere was very surreal. You know, given that I’m an artist in Florida, we don’t have that many opportunities down here for these types of projects. So when they come through, each one is very exciting. Sitting right next to renowned rock stars from the ‘80s and then working with makeup artists and hairdressers that just came off working on shows like “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live,” it was just a very cool experience. Then to go on set and be an elbow away from Catherine Zeta Jones and an arm’s length away from Tom Cruise and just across from Russell Brand, it was just very cool. The entire experience, from start to finish, was just pretty amazing.

The Beacon: It has been six years since you danced professionally on stage. How did you end up getting involved in the “Soulé” performance with the Aire Dance Company?

Serritella: I actually got involved in that project through my good friend Ana Bolt, who is also an amazing and beautiful dancer. She was already involved in working with Artistic Director Ana Miranda and when Ana Miranda needed an additional dancer, Ana Bolt recommended me.

The Beacon: How long have you been teaching dance?

Serritella: I have been an instructor of dance for about 20 years now. I teach everything according to my history of training. That is everything from classical ballet to modern, jazz, flamenco, belly dance, and tap and hip-hop when needed. I instruct dancers from ages six through adult. I currently freelance between two different studios; one is Dancer’s Gallery in Miramar and the other is Evolution Dance in Hialeah Gardens.

The Beacon: When did you begin dancing?

Serritella: I started dancing when I was four, but I guess my intense training came into play when I auditioned and was accepted into Norland-North Center for the Arts when I was in middle school. Then from there, I went on to work with New World School of the Arts in Downtown Miami for high school. From there, I received a full scholarship to attend the NWSA College Program, where I stayed for two years to acquire my Associates of Arts in Dance. I was then offered a full scholarship to attend the Bachelor of Fine Arts Program at NWSA, but I let that go in order to finish my Bachelor of Science in Education at FIU.

The Beacon: Did you ever do anything specifically with FIU, performance wise?

Serritella: I did work with instructors and choreographers that were on staff with FIU because they were also working as adjunct staff with NWSA. So, since I was at NWSA, I had the opportunity to work with those FIU instructors as well, but on the NWSA campus. But actual performances in the FIU theater, no I have not yet had the opportunity to perform. But I would love to.

The Beacon: At what point did you know that this is what you wanted to pursue as a career?

Serritella: That clicked when I was in my senior year of NWSA High School. I was like, “This is what I want to do.” I want to dance with (at the time) Freddick Bratcher and Company. It was the Miami-based jazz and contemporary modern dance company. I was just in awe of them and was completely struck when he invited me to join his company as a soloist. That, for me, was a real turning point.

The Beacon: What would you say to someone pursuing a career in the performing arts?

Serritella: Be polite. Be appreciative. Be persistent. Fully commit. Be open to taking direction and constructive criticism. Don’t shy away from what you know you can do. Say “please” and “thank you.” These things really do go a long way. Always approach things with a positive attitude. Smile when you meet somebody. Shake a hand, if that’s appropriate. People really do enjoy working with others who come with that disciplined attitude versus someone who is going to be problematic or diva-ish.

Serritella will be in the short student film, “Out of Time” by Iris Saunders as a leading role known simply as Secretary. The film is in its pre-production stage and centers on the topic of modern day slavery in the U.S.  She will also be involved in a “Random Acts of Culture” exhibition, funded by the Knight Foundation. The exhibition is set to occur on Sept. 1 in a location that is yet to be disclosed. She is also going to perform with fellow “Soulé” dancer Pioneer Winter in the Art Live Fair 2012, which is set to occur Oct. 26-28, so keep an eye out for this multi-talented University graduate.

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