Siann Charles practically grew up in the dance spotlight.
As a child she was a member of Heather Henderson Gordon's La Danse Caraibe.
As a student of St Augustine Girls' High School she was part of her school's dance group, and as a bachelor of fine arts student at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) she majored in performance arts, specialising in dance.
But the 34-year-old, although forever a dancer and choreographer, has set her sights on other creative ventures too.
"I love hair styling, and I do everything except keratin treatment," (a process that seals the hair's cuticle with a coat of keratin protein to seal in moisture).
And although she has her own home-based hair studio in Arouca, Milrose Hair Studio, named for her 13-year-old daughter, her plan is to take her creativity in a new direction – working on photo shoots, music videos and commercials.
"I like the fast pace, the creativity, the environment of the entertainment industry. I like to be outside in the action," she told WMN.
And Charles already has a foot in the door, as she is booked to style masqueraders' hair on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, and also meticulously styled the hair of the dancers for soca artiste Machel Montano's Machel 40 One Show, on Carnival Friday – something she did not expect to be doing so early in her hair styling game.
"I did the hair of models for a Monday-wear shoot, and the makeup artist, Amanda Bugros of Faces of Bella Rouge, saw my work and liked it. She took my number and called me, like a week later.
"I didn't expect her to call me, and I was super nervous, because she is a well-known makeup artist. There I was, working with top models, a top makeup artist and top photographer, and little me, Siann, came with my Pinterest ideas," she chuckled.
"This was a different environment to what I was used to in my salon, but I got through it."
Charles and Bugros will work out of Queen’s Hall on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, starting as early as 3am. She said she started working on Montano's dancers from around noon on Thursday.
"This is my first Carnival doing this, and I already have clients and a space. I am truly blessed in starting this business. Things are moving really fast and it's like, 'This is what I am supposed to be doing.' I can’t wait to see where it takes me."
She told WMN although she initially chose to focus on dance, she had been doing hair styling since secondary school and was the resident stylist for SAGHS May fairs. In 2018 she even began producing her own line of haircare products, Milrose Organic, but that fell apart as a result of the covid19 pandemic.
"The supply of raw material became difficult and expensive. And although people still asked for it, my supplier didn’t have my ingredients and I had to pivot.
"For a while I did nothing, because the entertainment industry and beauty industry had shut down." In 2021, she said, when things began to reopen, she focused on hair styling – a decision she has not regretted.
"I have strong faith, and I knew my customer base would be there. I followed the laws of the land and I was able to pick up as normal like we didn’t go through a setback."
But even as she ventures down this new path, Charles hasn't given up on dance, because it's like second nature to her, having gone so far as to defy her parents' wishes to pursue it.
"I did a certificate in business and technology from UWI's (School of) Continuing Education. I wanted to do a degree in dance.
" My parents said, 'You need to go and do something practical. What is dance?' But the bright new, shiny NAPA (National Academy for the Performing Arts) building called me. UTT was offering a degree I wanted to do, and I was fully adult then, so I could make my own decision. I was a UTT student from 2010-2014."
Over the years she has danced alongside soca artistes such as Nadia Batson, Sekon Sta (Nesta Boxill), Orlando Octave, Lyrikal (Jesse James Enoch), Skinny Fabulous (Gamal Doyle) and Motto (Lashley Winter), and choreographed some of the routines.
"I started off with the Soca Monarch hustle until I got picked up by a soca artist. My first was Nadia Batson, then Sekon Sta. I danced and did choreography for Sekon Star this year.
"When I’m doing choreography I offer a package – I organise hair, makeup, costumes, I choose the songs they’re going to dance to, how dancers enter and exit. Sekon Sta leaves that entire part up to me."
She said all this comes fairly easily to her, because of her exposure to concepts and fashion as a fine arts student at UTT.
"Lighting, stage management, costuming – I'm familiar with everything, because we had to put on shows."
She also has a dance school and used to give classes at the Big Truck dance studio in Arouca.
"But that too fell through because of covid19."
Now she teaches dance at a private pre- and primary school twice a week.
"I always knew I wanted to teach children. I teach all genres except ballroom. Maybe it's because I don’t like to be led," she said with a laugh. "I just never actually did ballroom dancing, but I love to watch it...
"The reason why I have dance school and didn’t choose to teach in a secondary school is because I never liked working for people. (Like) most millennials, I have an entrepreneurial mindset, which I probably got from my dad. I like to be in control of where I take my business."
Her goal is to put her best foot forward and keep growing.
"I really want a bigger studio where I can have people work with me. I don’t want to completely get rid of the salon itself, because I have no intention of abandoning my loyal clients, who will always have a place in my salon.
"But I want trained professionals working in the salon, and I want to be the hairstylist that the performers call when they want 'creative' hair, something that will stand out."
Follow Siann Charles on Instagram @milrose.hair.studio