Eva Pace, Arts Editor
One of the qualities of NCHS that makes its students so proud is the outstanding athletic program. From football to squash, our high school has it a huge variety of sports, with a majority of students engaged in at least one season of athletics a year. Yet, what we often forget are the sports that go on outside of campus; building athletes that are just as formidable and impressive as the ones you see on Dunning. One of these sports is dance. Junior Sophie Graham, a stand-out ballerina at New England Academy of Dance in New Canaan, recently had the opportunity of a lifetime when she scored a feature on Seventeen Magazine’s Youtube channel.
Sophie is by no means a newbie to the life of a ballerina. Her parents saw a light in her at a young age that made them think an athletic career of dancing would be perfect for her. “Neither of my parents ever danced, but because I was always moving as a child, they enrolled me in classes at NEAD,” Sophie said. “So far, I’ve been dancing for 13 years.”
Her teacher, Ginna Ortiz, is a co-director of NEAD and has been teaching at the dance academy since 1996. Having known Sophie for over a decade, she has had the tremendous opportunity of witnessing her bloom as a dancer. “She started as this very shy, quiet girl with not that much confidence, but a lot of determination and ability to master this art form of dance,” Mrs. Ginna said. “However, she made her biggest leap soon after she was casted in her first leading role in our Nutcracker Ballet. As the Arabian princess in 2015, she worked harder than ever before, breaking through barriers, and finally she began to see herself as the leading dancer that she is.”
This year’s Nutcracker Ballet was another huge stepping stone for Sophie. Junior Morgan Walling, who has been dancing with her since they were three, saw how perfectly Sophie fit the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. “Sophie was born for the role of Sugar Plum Fairy,” Morgan said. “She fit the welcoming and kind personality and definitely had the skill level for it. Sophie exceeded the expectations that everyone had for her.”
Apart from the busy rehearsal schedule of NEAD, Sophie’s role as an Intermediate/Advanced level Company dancer makes her weekly practice schedule even more packed. “I have class from from 6:30 to 8:30 every day except for Friday,” Sophie said. “Rehearsal for performances takes place both Saturdays and Sundays, in addition to a one and a half hour Company class.”
To help her find inspiration to improve, many people in Sophie’s life motivate her in her dancing career. Apart from famous dancers working for the American Ballet Theatre and beyond, Sophie finds inspiration from her dance teachers. “All my teachers have always pushed me forward and told me I have potential—pushing me to do my best. This encourages me to keep working hard,” she said.
While scrolling through your Facebook feed, you may have noticed a post regarding Sophie’s latest feature on Seventeen Magazine’s Youtube channel. It all started when a former dancer at NEAD, who now works with Seventeen, wanted the opportunity to write a story about the life of a ballerina. “NEAD dance alumni Laura Edwards, who is presently Senior Manager at Hearst publication and Seventeen Magazine contacted us early on in September to see if we could do a story on one of our students,” Mrs. Gina said. “We strongly suggested Sophie, as she had recently been casted in the leading role in our Nutcracker production as the Sugar Plum Fairy.”
Friends have been supporting Sophie with likes and re-posts, and they got to witness the filming experience from a different perspective. “Being at the studio the day it was filmed was such a cool and one-of-a-kind experience,” Morgan said. “Watching it all come together made me so proud of Sophie. She inspires our whole Company and studio.”
All of the dancers believe that this opportunity will truly open doors for Sophie’s future dancing career. “Social media can be powerful in the best of ways. The exposure that Seventeen Magazine has provided Sophie with in this project is simply great,” Mrs. Gina said. “This is her path, her future. It gives the world a chance to see first hand Sophie’s talent and her dedication to this art form of ballet.”
Sophie strives to continue pursuing a future in dancing professionally, however she is not naive to the intense competition that is out there. Her friends, however, know she has qualities that set her apart. “Sophie dances with lightness and grace that makes her stand out. She has perfect technique and flexibility that most ballerinas strive for,” Morgan said.
Check out the Seventeen Magazine Youtube channel to see Sophie’s passion for ballet first-hand. If you want a chance to see her talent live, she’ll be dancing in the NEAD 2017 Spring Performance in June.