Name: Sona Nalbandian
Hometown: Los Angeles
How old were you when you first started rhythmic gymnastics? How did you get into it?
I first started with ballet and artistic gymnastics when I was around 4 or 5 years old. A lot of my friends were doing artistic gymnastics and I thought it was so fun, with the bars, trampolines, etc. My mom was a rhythmic gymnast when she was younger, and decided to switch me from artistic to rhythmic, but not quitting ballet. I was 6 years old when I started rhythmic gymnastics.
When did you realize you had a future as a rhythmic gymnast?
When I was 11 years old, I scored my first high score at a competition. I ended up placing 3rd, but my score was a 10.05, which is very high for a level 6 gymnast.
Which came first for you, dance or gymnastics?
Although rhythmic gymnastics is often described as a combination of ballet and gymnastics, I see it much differently. To me, it’s more of a balance between strength, flexibility, and grace.
If you could only pick one for the rest of your life, would you pick dancing or gymnastics?
Definitely dance. I love the hour of ballet we do before trainings, especially en pointe.
What made you decide to start a YouTube channel?
I made my YouTube channel after my Instagram account got up to 2,000 followers, and people started to ask how I got so flexible.
What stretch is your favorite stretch to do?
I love double oversplits, because I can just stay in that position forever while listening to an audiobook, doing homework, etc. It’s like oversplits but between two heights.
Which gymnastics routine or dance routine do you remember as being your favorite to perform, and why?
My hoop routine in level 6. Even though hoop isn’t my favorite apparatus, I loved the apparatus handlings and elements (jumps, turns, acro) in that routine.
Do you have any pre-class or pre-performance rituals?
Besides putting my hair up in a bun and getting my gym bag ready, no.
What are your favorite foods to eat before and after class or performances?
I’m not supposed to eat before class or performances, because you can get terrible cramps if you do.
Your Instagram bio lists you as a violinist and a member of choir, too. If you could only choose one art form for the rest of your life, would you pick movement (gymnastics/dance) or music?
I already feel myself heading more towards music, because rhythmic gymnastics in the United States does not include college scholarships, while instrumental and vocal music does.
Who or what inspires you to work hard every day?
My mother. There really is not further explanation than this; she works hard every day so that my brother and I can live great lives and have bright futures.
Name a gymnast that you look up to and tell us why.
Alexandra Soldatova; she competed in the Olympics at 16 years old. She started with about the same amount of natural talent as I did, but devoted her life to the sport, training over 10 hours a day.
How do you maintain a balance between friends, school, gymnastics, and your other extra-curricular activities?
I wouldn’t consider myself good a time-management. When it comes to homework, I’m what you’d call a “pro-procrastinator”. I do fun things with my friends occasionally on weekends, but usually the weekends are reserved for my Latin exam. I do get to everything that needs to be done, but I end up going to bed extremely late.
When you’re not singing, playing the violin, dancing, or doing gymnastics, what are your favorite things to do?
I love making videos, taking photos, teaching my dog new tricks, and listening to music. I also love to travel. In my 15 years of being on this world, I’ve traveled to 10 different countries.
How do you unwind after a long day of rehearsal and practice?
I usually sit down with my laptop and watch a movie or YouTube videos.
You’re already amazing at 15. How do you see your career continuing to grow as you get older? What are your plans?
I plan to excel in playing the violin, since it is my dream to be the concert master in the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
What’s one piece of advice a coach or teacher has given you that’s stuck with you to this day?
“Talent is only 10% of success. Hard work is the other 90. Work hard to make use of your talent”.
What are some key tips you have for people when it comes to pursuing your dreams?
The quote “dreamers never make dreams come true” says most of it. Yes, dreaming in a good way to mentally sketch out your plans, but spending most of your time thinking about those dreams will never make them come true. If you don’t try, you’ll never see your dreams come to life.
Finally—besides clothes, shoes, water, and the essentials, what’s one thing you have in your bag that you can’t leave home without?
I need medical or athletic tape in my bag, because it can fix also anything.