How did you start dancing?
Actually, I was a gymnast first. I won two state championships by the time I was 8, so everyone thought that was going to be my future. But I broke my foot really badly in a fall off the balance beam, and I couldn’t do any of the gymnastics stuff for several months. So I decided to enroll in ballet to get my strength back up. I had a performance at the studio, and I just fell in love with it then. I just love performing. Also, ballet is much more “me” than gymnastics. Gymnastics is almost solely about strength, while ballet is about a combination of strength, beauty, and grace.
I was 8 when I started dancing. I was doing both for a while because my ballet teacher said that I showed a lot of promise for ballet, so I kept on with that. When I was 9, I had to choose, and I chose ballet.
Where are you from?
I was born in Virginia. I lived there for a few years. I actually moved out to Indiana because of my dad’s work. That’s when I did my most serious gymnastics. And then I moved back to Virginia. That’s when I broke my foot and decided to start dance. And then I moved to Maryland and trained at a good ballet school there. My family moved to New Jersey last fall so that I can train in NYC.
What are you up to now?
I dance with School of American Ballet six days a week. In my free time, I do a lot of school and photo shoots. This summer I will be attending Boston Ballet’s Summer Program.
How did you get to SAB?
I was auditioning for many places, and one of my auditions was at SAB. I really, really fell in love with it at the audition. I was doing a different style of dancing before. The School of American Ballet has a very specific style called Balanchine. I really fell in love with the style, and I loved the teacher and the teacher really liked me. After the audition, I was asked to attend the school’s 2014 summer program. I went to the program, and around the second week, I was asked to attend the year round program. It was a dream come true for me.
How do you like SAB?
I love it. The school has wonderful teachers and a great curriculum. Last year, I was an intermediate student. Next year, I am going into the advanced division. There are three levels in advanced. I will be doing this through high school and hopefully get a job at a company after that.
Do you have to go through all the levels to graduate?
Everyone is different. Your training is considered complete when you are ready to dance professionally. Some students get invited to the school when they are older and may only attend a year or two. Other students start in the children’s program when they are very young and attend SAB for 10 or 12 years.
How do you handle school and dance?
I am home-schooled, so my schedule is really flexible. This year I did my school work in the morning and dance classes in the afternoon. Next year will be more challenging since I will have dance classes in both the morning and afternoon, but I am sure I will manage. Due to the hectic schedules, they have two schools in the city that can cater to dancers and artists. A lot of the girls in my class go there.
One thing I noticed was that you have a big following on Instagram. How did that start?
I really wanted to start a dance account (@ballerinaanna) on Instagram a few years ago, but I had to convince my parents. They finally said yes, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’ve learned from it. You can learn out of your own pictures, and I’ve improved over the years from those pictures. It’s also a fun thing to do.
Two years ago, I was in Florida for a summer, so I took a ton of beach dance photos, which were really popular. My followers started going up, and I reached 3K. And then I was featured by a large dance account with over 200K followers and gained 3K followers overnight. Boom. Up to 6k. That was like the stepping stone, and it has just kept growing from there to over 90K.
So it’s been growing and growing. Is it weird to have all these people follow you?
It is weird. I think about it sometimes. The ones that are active and leave comments, they’re good friends. It’s fun to get to know people through Instagram. I’ve had a lot of opportunities through Instagram as well. I’ve been a model for Bodywrappers for a long time.
Where do you see yourself going?
I want to dance with New York City Ballet. But I am good with almost any company. I just really want to be a professional dancer above all else. I’ll probably go to college and take sports medicine or something so that when my career ends as a dancer, I can go into physical therapy or something to help dancers--like teaching.
What’s the average age to stop dancing in the ballet world?
It differs from the dancers because you can get an injury. But usually people start dancing professional from 18 to 20-something in the company world. Usually people retire in late 30’s, early 40’s. Some dancers dance in their upper 50’s. It just depends on the person.
What are your hobbies?
I like taking pictures. I love photography. I actually like to sketch and draw. I draw a lot on my free time. I really like exploring the city--eating at new places with friends as well.
What’s your favorite part about the city?
I love the busyness of it. Everyone has their own life and their own story. There’s something special about New York. I just love the city.
What about your least favorite part?
I don’t like sometimes the smell--the subway in particular. But I really do love the city. It’s probably my favorite place.
Do you have any advice for dancers?
I would say above all else perseverance is most important. There were many times I could’ve stopped dancing. If you persevere and you really go out with all of your efforts, then you can pursue your dreams. You can decide your future if you work hard.
Do you have any mentors or figures that you really look up to in dance?
I really look up to Sterling Hyltin. She’s a principal with the New York City Ballet. She’s taught my class a few times. We’ve talked a little bit. I just like that she’s an inspiring person and a dancer. Even though she’s so famous now, she hasn’t lost anything--she’s so humble. She’s a wonderful person and a dancer.
Is there anything you want to share with the world?
I guess a sort of fun fact would be that I’ve broken 5 bones. I think I broke my first bone when I was 6. And then I broke my last bone when I was 9.
That’s a very short amount of time to break that many bones.
I was really clumsy when I was little [laughs]. I also want to thank my family for being so supportive of my dancing life. Just being there for me always and doing so much for me. They’re really great.