10.0 Spotlight - Ariana Berlin

March 12, 2009

Senior Ariana Berlin is the featured gymnast in 10.0 Spotlight, which profiles a member of the UCLA gymnastics squad throughout the season. Berlin has been one of the most consistent gymnasts in UCLA history, hitting over 96% of her career routines. She has also never missed a meet in her career, competing in 53 straight meets. Berlin, who is a two-time All-Pac-10 honoree in the all-around, has recorded career-highs of 9.975 on bars and 9.9 on vault, beam and floor. As an accomplished b-girl, Berlin has infused her unique dance style into her gymnastics, Last weekend against Georgia, just minutes after recording a career-high 39.5 in the all-around, she performed with her dance crew World Famous. Berlin will be competing for the final time in Pauley Pavilion this Sunday against Nebraska.

How has it been trying to balance your gymnastics and dance? Has it been difficult to juggle your gymnastics practices and competitions with responsibilities within your major (World Arts & Culture, with dance emphasis), on top of being in your own crew? Is it hard on your body to do all of that, and how do you handle any time conflicts with the three?
While dance is a big part of my life and another passion, I do have priorities right now. Don't get me wrong, I will dance and perform any time I have a chance. I have really been privileged to have a coach like Miss Val who really understands the passion of a dancer. Because of this, she is so supportive of my dance career and tries to help me fit it in where ever I can. Dancing is definitely hard on my body, especially breaking. I have not been doing as much breaking because it affects my knee, which needs to be feeling 100% for training and competition.

How does your dance background help your gymnastics, and how does your gymnastics background help your dancing?
My dance background allows me to view each competition as a performance where I am putting a show on for the audience, rather than a stressful competition between teams. Gymnastics has helped me be confident when entering a breaking battle. Gymnastics has also given me such upper body strength that allows me to break a lot easier, learn difficult skills, and be in total control of my body.

Have you found it to be difficult to sell your style of gymnastics to judges and/or fans?
I definitely think the judges and crowd have warmed up to my style of dance. I always felt that the crowd enjoyed my routines but the judges were not as pleased. I remember hearing some negative feedback about my routine my freshman year, but as the years have gone by, the judges seem to have warmed up to my style of dance. Once in a while I'll catch a judge smiling and nodding her head to my music while I'm competing floor.

What was it like last weekend doing all-around at the gymnastics meet and then immediately changing into your dance gear to perform at the end of the meet with your crew?
I felt like I competed two different meets! I was super focused on the gymnastics competition, and the second that ended, I had to change my focus to the performance. Double the nerves, double the excitement. It felt so great to be able to show the gymnastics world another huge aspect of my life.

What are your immediate dance career plans after gymnastics season is over, and what are your post-dance career plans? Will we be seeing you audition for any TV dance competitions anytime soon?
My immediate dance career plans would consist of dancing with my crew 'World Famous' and getting back with my dance agency, where I will start going on auditions again. Post-dance career, I would really love to get into the film industry. I am a film minor, and I have found this to be yet another passion of mine. I would really love to be a film/sound editor or director. Auditioning for any TV dance competitions? I guess you will all have to wait and see!

For someone who had such a big layoff from gymnastics (about five years) and who couldn't train full-time for about two years, you've been able to do what few people have done in the sport - compete in every single meet of your career. To what do you attribute your ability to compete week in and week out? Mental fortitude? Physical strength? Or just a strong-willed desire to compete?
I think it is a combination of all those things. Mental game is definitely one of the most important. I try to be positive in everything I do, even if that means saying to myself 'you can do it, you can do it,' over and over again so that negative thoughts don't come to thought. Regarding physical strength, I don't think I have EVER done as much rehab as I do at UCLA in my life! Although I am not a huge fan of it, I have definitely felt the effects. My leg is so much stronger, which allows me to make my skills bigger and better. And the last thing, strong-willed desire to compete. I LOVE competing, and if it is within my power to be out on the competition floor performing, I will be there!

What was it like to do gymnastics with the rod in your leg, and what is it like now to do gymnastics without it?
When the rod was in my femur, I was in constant pain. Although some days were better than others, I could always feel pain in my right thigh. Training was very limited. I was able to train on my leg MAYBE once a week. Although I was able to compete, I was never able to train the more difficult skills that I would have wanted to train. Now that the rod is out, I can almost train as much as my teammates. The trainers and coaches are still very cautious about how much pounding I can do, but the amount of training I can do now is a significant improvement. I am now able to train a double arabian, which I have been hoping to compete for the past 3 1/2 years and competed for the first time this year.

You've been the leadoff on pretty much every event during your career. It's not the most glamorous job in the world, and you rarely get rewarded with big scores going early in the rotation. Do you enjoy the leadoff role or would you rather compete later in the lineup?
I absolutely loved the leadoff role. It felt great being able to set the tone for the rest of the team on each event. Although I didn't get the highest scores, I wouldn't have switched my role with anyone!

What would you say has been your most memorable moment as a Bruin gymnast?
It is impossible to pinpoint one moment because there have been infinite! Every day going into the gym, being surround by the best coaching staff in the world, laughing, crying and working my butt off with my amazing teammates are all my most memorable moments in which I experience every day!

You've got senior day coming up on Sunday. Is there anything you'd like to say to the Bruin faithful who have supported you and your team throughout your four years?
I can't even explain how thankful I am for everyone who has supported me throughout my career. It was such a blessing to be a part of UCLA gymnastics and to be surrounded by such incredible fans, staff, coaches, and teammates. My four years as a Bruin could not have been any better!

Lightning Round
Favorite dance movie?
Dirty Dancing

Favorite dancer and/or dance crew?
Jabbawockeez

Does Beat Freaks' second-place finish on America's Best Dance Crew help or hurt your crew World Famous?
I LOVE the Beat Freaks! I'm not sure if their second-place finish will help or hurt our crew. I guess World Famous will just have to wait and see.

What's the one thing you would change about college gymnastics if you could?
Subjective scoring! (I don't know how, but if someone figures it out please let me know!)

If you could wear anything for gymnastics, what would you wear?
A slightly baggy t-shirt, spandex shorts, and socks

Favorite UCLA leo?
The periwinkle leo with the white sleeves

All-time favorite gymnast?
Jeanette Antolin

Favorite song?
Busta Rhymes - 'Don't Touch Me'

Describe yourself in one word.
DORK

Describe your team in one word
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

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