When he started at Colorado State University, Binyamin Salzano had no plans to become a dancer.
“I started at CSU strictly as a zoology student,” Salzano said. “I had always had a fascination with the natural world, and animal behavior in particular.”
But to be considered a full-time student, he needed two more credits. The only two-credit course he could find was an introductory-level dance class for non-dance majors. So, he signed up.
Fast forward a few years later, and Salzano is graduating this spring with degrees in his two passions: zoology and dance.
“Through the course, I was welcomed by the dance department and highly encouraged to audition for the program by faculty and students,” he said. “I did, was accepted and I completely fell in love with dance. Now I can’t imagine my life without it.”
Salzano’s instructors applaud his talent, but also his heart and commitment to the craft.
“Mr. Salzano is a role model in his classes and always strikes for a new height,” said nominator and Dance Professor Chung-Fu Chang. “Despite the challenges of his double-major course work and the pandemic, he always finished his assignments with the best quality of his work ahead of the deadlines. He has performed in the dance program’s mainstage concerts each semester, and he often has been chosen to be a featured dancer in faculty and various guest artists’ work. Each year, his choreography has been selected for the fall and spring dance concerts, and his works are versatile, imaginative and compelling.”
In their own words
Q. What experiences in your life, or at CSU, have required you to demonstrate courage?
At the beginning of my second semester at CSU, I was still living in my parents’ home, and they discovered that I was in a romantic relationship with a man. I was given the ultimatum of losing all of my freedom, my finances and being forced to pay for “psychiatric help” from my own savings or finding another place to live. So, for about a month of that semester, I was homeless, while still attending classes, auditions, rehearsals and work. It was one of the most difficult periods of my life and fundamentally changed me as a person, and the fact that I survived that situation at all is near miraculous. It required a lot of courage to not simply give up completely.
Q. What was the most rewarding part of your CSU experience?
The most rewarding part of my CSU experience has been all of the opportunities I have had to see my impact on the world around me. Through coursework, I have had many opportunities to participate in research or engage in community outreach, both in dance and zoology. Seeing how the work that I do impacts the lives of those around me is incredibly powerful and rewarding.
Q. What is your advice to incoming students at CSU?
My advice to incoming students is to not be afraid to change your mind. We have this cultural mindset that you must have everything figured out by the time you graduate college – if not before you even begin – and that’s just not possible. No one knows what they’ll be doing at 50, even when you’re 49, so let yourself change your mind, your goals and your environment. Change over time is a fundamental element of life itself, so lean into it.
“No one knows what they’ll be doing at 50, even when you’re 49, so let yourself change your mind, your goals and your environment. Change over time is a fundamental element of life itself, so lean into it.”
Q. What’s your favorite memory of being a student at CSU?
My favorite memories are of the connections I’ve made with my peers. For example, I was an orientation leader in between my first and second years, and one of the students I led was a dance major who ended up becoming one of my best friends here. All the memories of meeting people for the first time who I now can’t imagine not being part of my life are the best memories of my undergraduate experience.
What are your plans for after graduation?
My immediate goal is to perform dance professionally for as long as my body lets me. I am currently auditioning across the country and following opportunities wherever they lead me. My long-term plan is to continue in zoological research and conservation work and use that research to create impactful dance works of my own that connect people to the wonder of the natural world.