At age 3, Alena Garver would skip ballet class to sneak into a classroom next door for gymnastics training. Her mother, after learning what Alena was up to, decided to enroll her “vibrant firecracker” in faster-paced, hip-hop dance classes in her hometown of Dinuba.
Nine years later, Alena is hired by famous musicians to dance in their music videos and concerts. She has more followers on social media than the population of her rural Tulare County hometown – including nearly 40,000 people on Instagram (Dinuba’s population stands at about 21,000).
“Alena has a really big fan base … people actually request, ‘Hey, where’s Alena?’ ” choreographer and professional dancer Phil Wright says. “She went viral in the ‘Humble’ video that I choreographed.”
She’s just a vibrant firecracker.
Jason Cadena about his stepdaughter Alena
Alena had a solo performance in that video set to music by Kendrick Lamar that has been viewed more than 9 million times. The 12-year-old also danced in an official music video for Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas; on stage during an MC Hammer concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles; and in halftime shows for the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks and NBA Los Angeles Clippers.
Among the many accomplishments listed on her two-page résumé is dancing for Cher in a music video that wasn’t released. The singer talked with Alena and other young dancers about helping impoverished people in Africa and about “women empowerment.”
“She told us to always work hard for what you believe in and never give up,” Alena says of Cher, “even if other people don’t think it will happen, just keep pushing and working harder.”
Alena says something similar to her own fans from around the world.
Never ever give up. And if someone tries to knock you down or stop you from doing what you love, get up and try harder.
Alena Garver, age 12
“Never ever give up,” Alena tells them on social media. “And if someone tries to knock you down or stop you from doing what you love, get up and try harder.”
Alena’s parents regularly drive her from Dinuba to Southern California so she has more opportunities at dance studios in Hollywood and Los Angeles. Wright, who taught Alena at Millennium Dance Complex and International Dance Academy Hollywood, praises her energy and ability to comprehend choreography.
Her stepfather, Jason Cadena (a self-proclaimed “dad-ager” – a play on the word “manager”) calls Alena a vibrant, energetic and “heavy-hitting” dancer.
“A lot of the descriptive words I get from other people is, ‘She’s a beast. She’s a firecracker,’ ” Cadena says. “She’s just amazing. Everyone just loves her energy.”
We hope it opens up the eyes of other little Valley girls and shows them it’s possible.
Amanda Angulo about her daughter Alena’s success
Cadena says Alena often trains six to eight hours a day. She also recently started working as a choreographer, teaching dance at her aunt’s No Limit Dance Studio in Dinuba where she got her start.
Along with hip-hop, ballet and gymnastics, she’s trained in jazz/funk, contemporary, lyrical and tap dance.
“I like to express myself and my feelings and when I’m at the dance studio, I can be myself,” Alena says. She describes herself as “very sassy … always eager and excited for anything, and always laughing.”
Alena says she was bullied when she was younger, and hopes her success helps inspire others to stay strong and dream big.
“I want to show them nothing is impossible. I’m from a very small town,” she says. “I want to inspire small girls. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or how much money you have or how you look, as long as you put your all into it, it will happen.”