Have You Met?


I was enjoying the highly-acclaimed play, “Dinah Was” at the “history-in-the making” new Shadow Theatre in Aurora recently when on stage, performing as one of the show’s characters, was Joey Santos, the premiere designer of ballroom dance fashions - and the sought after designer of glamorous evening wear for some of Denver’s most well-known socialites and fashionistas.

In addition to always having a flair for fashion, and starting Santos Designs, Inc. in 1993 in Dallas, TX, it turns out that acting was Joey’s first love; and he's been a performer since the age of 7 when he played Prince Charming in “Cinderella” – and then went on to do the choreography for the play “Yankee Doodle” at a neighborhood theatre.

You might call Santos a “Triple Threat.” With so many talents and his strong awareness of movement and showmanship, it all works to his advantage whether it be as a costume designer, dancer/dance instructor, or actor. For sure, Joey Santos connects with his clients and his audience.

Joey, with a degree in fashion design, uses his superb expert knowledge of dance to perfect his creations. Tailoring the look to the clients needs, and making them look stunning, is another reason Santos is at the height of his profession. Every garment is specifically designed so that no two creations are alike. Receiving much acclaim all over the country, Joey has become one of the brightest minds in the world of costume design. Santos joyfully recognizes how fortunate he is and says: “I get to do all I love to do every day of my life, and I am surrounded by people that believe in me.”

Who can forget that at the non-profit “Colorado Neurological Institute’s Dancing for a Cause” gala back in October 2006, Santos outfitted such Denver social celebs as Jamie Angelich, Janet Elway, Troy Guard, Gail Johnson, Douglas Kerbs, Bonnie Mandarich, Joyce Moses, Roselyn Saunders, Les Shapiro and Judi Wolf in sparkly, sexy dance outfits or dresses. Joey also has created custom designs for Cleo Parker Robinson and her dance ensemble. In 2007, he created the costumes for the “Dancing for the Kids” event benefiting the Mount Saint Vincent Children’s Home.

The dynamic Santos is such a joyous bundle of high energy. He loves the multi-faceted life that all of his various talents are bringing his way. Whether it’s on the dance floor, in his design studio, or on stage, Joey Santos is on fire!

How much has the popularity of “Dancing with the Stars” influenced your industry? I would say that when the show first started, it really helped with my business; now that the show is in full mode, it just makes my business even bigger. I think without the popularity of “Dancing with the Stars,” the need for ballroom dress was still there, therefore it has only enhanced my business. I have actually never even seen an episode. As a designer I do not want to be influenced by other people's designs.

What’s the best part of being an actor? What do you do to really get into your role? I love to perform. I love to pull the audience in. It's wonderful when you can make them laugh or cry. To get into my role I spend about thirty minutes prior to the show walking, talking, and thinking as the character. A good actor has to understand and think about every aspect of that character, their life, feelings and attitude.

Where do you hope to take your acting career? I am always looking for the next challenge in a character. I hope to do much more acting here in Colorado because I think there are wonderful directors and theaters. I would also like to do commercials. I also feel that it is important to continue taking workshops in order to grow and expand my understanding of the craft. Like anything else, there is the great need for networking.

With all the dancing you do, no wonder you stay in such good shape. Is there a special diet you stay on also? Please share any of those secrets with us... When I am in performance mode I watch everything and anything that I eat. Although I am blessed with a high metabolism I know how I like to look. When I am in a theatrical production, such as a play or a musical, then I pay attention to what my character should look like. When I am dancing in a dance production I pay attention to what my dance body should look like and most often the two are never the same. I tend to do a great deal of cardio exercise because I love it. I run, bicycle; and I love to lift weights but my weight training consists of very light weights to keep my muscles looking lean. When I am in performance mode all junk food is the devil! As a child I was never allowed to eat sweets. So, that's been great in my adult life because I don't crave cookies or candies.

What do you see as some of the upcoming fashion trends? I must say as a designer, I probably open a fashion magazine maybe once a year. I am very blessed to be in the industry of ballroom dance and figure skating costumes, because we don't always watch what the current trend is in everyday wear. In figure skating, the designs revolve around the client’s music as inspiration. The appropriate neckline and silhouette depend on the client's body. So, what might look good on one person might not look good on another. In ballroom dance, there is no season per se. When a new client comes in exclaiming that they've just had their colors done by a professional color analyst, I have to chuckle because in a ballroom, in a hotel, under lights with full makeup and eyelashes you're coloring is of little importance, because most competitive ballroom dancers, professional or amateur, use the tanning products for that professional glow. I always pay close attention to the client's bodies and attitudes to design their gown. When they are in a finished product their attitude blossoms. I guarantee a show stopper with every design!

What fabric do you just love to work with? I love the beautiful knits, satins, chiffons, and stretch mesh. These are all fabrics that go into the creation of my designs .There is a fabric called luxury stretch crape’ that I get from a supplier in England. It handles like butter and its drape-ability is exquisite.

Who is the most interesting person you have ever met, and why? I have to say the most interesting person I've ever met is my partner in the business, Robert Nardozza. I have never met a person that makes you want to be a great person to others all of the time until I met Robert. He is talented and creative. From the first time I met him, I saw how he was able to help others achieve their goals as he was a figure skating coach and a dance instructor. He is now the owner of Colorado Dancesport and teaches people all over the country how to dance, how to understand where movement comes from, and how to feel good about themselves in order to do all the other things that make a great dancer. From him, I learned how to listen to my clients and how to make them genuinely feel like a million bucks.

What other popular designer’s clothes do you absolutely love these days? I think Zach Posen is a very talented designer, and everything I've ever seen him do is beautiful.

When a person comes to you for a design, what’s the first thing you ask them? What parts of your body do you love, and what parts of your body do you hate?

What inspires you to come up with your designs? I love color! Not to denounce the simple black dress but I love the way color makes me feel. I also love to watch black and white movies and make up in my own mind what beautiful colors the ladies must have been wearing. I am also very inspired by music and how it makes me feel.

Have you had any Joey Santos Designs runway fashion shows? I believe we have done about five. The actual dates have slipped my mind, purposefully, as they are a great deal of work and pain. I like it more when they are over.

Have you ever “felt the fear,” but took a chance and did it anyway? When it comes to designing or any type of performance I can honesty say from the bottom of my heart I have NO fear. I have nothing to lose by trying everything and anything creatively.

What non-profit organizations are you involved with at this time? Every year I am involved with some fundraiser that is brought to my attention. I love to help raise money. Most recently, I created the gowns and danced in the event called, “Dancing for the Kids,” where we raised over two million dollars for the Mount Saint Vincent Children's Home. I designed costumes for Nancy Sevo, Eula Adams, Stephanie Riggs, Holly Kylberg, John David Tynan, Laura Moore, Leigh Sullivan-Guard, Sean Kevin McNicholas, Joana Canals, and Penny Parker.

What is your most favorite vacation spot in the world - and why did you love it? For me, I love New York City. I go every year. The energy of NYC is amazing. I love to go watch Broadway Shows, shop till I drop, taste the tasty foods, and dwell in the culture of so many different types of people. When I go I bring back so much fabric. I would actually like to live there some day soon. No matter how many times I go I never run out of new things to do.

Joey, you are so very talented, is there actually another talent you wish you had? I wish I could cook. I have to say I haven't put much effort into it. I might actually be pretty good at it.

What did you dream of doing when you were a young boy? I wanted to dance in movie musicals the rest of my life.

Are there any other dreams you have that you want to come true? I want to expand my business so that I have many seamstresses and embellishers. That way I can do nothing but design and meet with clients. I would also love to expand more into evening dresses. I also would love to act full time. Working long hours does not bother me. I love to be busy.

Twenty years from now, what can you see yourself doing? Still acting on many stages. I also want to have dominated the design world in ballroom and figure skating couture. But most importantly, in twenty years I see myself being happy and healthy and able to bless others.

What kind of legacy do you hope to leave? I hope that people will remember that I was fun, and that I absolutely loved creating, whether that was creating a character or a fabulous gown. I want my particular style in design to be thought of not as trendy but unique. In my acting, I want people to remember that there was never a part that I couldn't do.

(Joey Santos will be performing in the upcoming comedy/drama “18 Holes” by award-winning playwright, David MacGregor, starting August 1st with the “Next Stage Theatre Company” and playing at the Aurora Fox Theatre.)