Perspective: Mentorship Interview with Mentee Sophia Shapiro

Name: Sophia Shapiro 
Age: 15 
Where are you from? Austin, TX. I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in January, 2020, to train at The Ballet Clinic in their full-time, pre professional program.
What kind of pointe shoes do you wear? Freed, Studio Pros
Favorite Pointe Paint shade? Buttermilk!
Who is your PointePeople Mentor? Candy Tong

What made you want to be a part of this program? 
I wanted to be part of the PointePeople Mentorship Program because it is such an important time in my dance journey, at the age of fifteen, to decide which path I want to take. I wanted the advice from someone with experience as a professional who could help guide me not only on my technique but also on my career path in the world of professional dance.

Why did you want to work with your particular mentor?
I really wanted Candy Tong as my mentor because she has had a lot of different experiences in her dance journey and a unique perspective to help guide me.

Candy has such a wide range of training and experience, and I felt very connected to her because I felt like we had a lot of similarities in our training. We both have experience in other genres of dance, including contemporary and modern, as well as commercial dance.  She not only trained at San Francisco Ballet as a younger student, but she also would seek out training at different studios in the S.F. area to get more training.

My dance journey has been very similar; I would also seek out additional training or masterclasses to learn as much as possible.  I just really enjoy all genres of dance, and I think it is so important to be a very well rounded, versatile dancer.   

What has been your favorite part of the program, so far?
My favorite part of the program, so far, is getting to work one on one with Candy and having our monthly sessions together. I have really loved getting to know Candy better, she is very real with me, and I feel so comfortable with her. She gives me the best advice and guidance, and I really feel like we will have a lifetime friendship. She is such a positive and supportive person and mentor.

Sophia Shapiro © Rhi Lee Photography
Sophia Shapiro © Rhi Lee Photography 

Is there anything unexpected you’ve learned or experienced through the program, so far?
There is nothing really anything unexpected, except maybe that I didn't realize that we got our own "private" mentee masterclasses with all of the mentors. That has been really amazing, and I feel so thankful to be able to have these very personal classes with all of these amazing professional dancers. It's something I could have never imagined to get the opportunity to do, and all of the mentors have been so great and encouraging.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from your mentor?
The best advice from Candy would be to try everything! Just go for it! Have the courage to follow my dream and be confident in myself and my own uniqueness as a dancer.

What would you tell anyone who is considering applying to be a mentee in the future?
I would tell anyone who is serious about a career in dance to apply for the Mentorship Program because you meet so many amazing people, not only the mentors but also the mentees. The mentees have all been very supportive of each other, and hopefully one day I will get the opportunity to meet everyone in person.
PointePeople is such a supportive and positive community of dancers, and I am thankful to be a part of that community.

How is this program helping you to grow as an artist and dancer?
This Mentorship Program has helped me grow not only in my technique as a dancer, but it has also given me great confidence in my own individuality and style as a dancer.

Sophia Shapiro © Rhi Lee Photography Sophia Shapiro © Rhi Lee Photography

How and when did you get your start in dance? 
When I was only three years old, my mom put me in a ballet and tap combo class. Although it was only one hour a week, I loved it! I slowly started to dance more and more in many different styles. I was at a competition studio for many years and competed in tap, jazz, hip-hop, and contemporary dance.

As I became older, I began to focus more on my love for ballet. In January, 2020, I received an invitation to move to Arizona to train with The Ballet Clinic and continue my training in pursuit of my dream of becoming a professional. 

I know you recently took part in the Royal Ballet School’s first-ever online Summer Intensive! What was that experience like for you?
Taking part in the Royal Ballet School Summer Intensive was an opportunity that I will never forget. The teachers were all so amazing, incredibly informative, and supportive. I especially liked their focus classes and the interviews with some of the most amazing dancers in ballet today.

Although the intensive was online, you could still feel a strong connection between both the students and the teachers.

Overall, it was an amazing intensive, and I would love the opportunity to go to London and train with them again. 

Are you still taking classes/training from home, or are you back in the studio? If in the studio, what dance-related precautions or adjustments have you had to take due to Covid-19?
The Ballet Clinic has reopened, and I am so lucky to be able to be back inside the studio! With this being said, there are many precautions that must be taken to keep everyone healthy. We are all required to wear face coverings, do daily temperature checks, as well as maintain a distance of six feet at all times.

It was challenging at first to learn to dance 4+ hours a day in a mask, but we have all adjusted. We all feel very fortunate. 

What is one product in your dance bag that you can’t live without!? 
I cannot live without my trusty lacrosse ball. It may seem odd for a dancer to carry around a lacrosse ball, but it is so helpful. I use it to roll out my muscles to get them ready before beginning class every day.


Sophia Shapiro © Rhi Lee Photography Sophia Shapiro © Eva Nys Photography 

What is an element in your technique that you would like to improve the most? What are you most proud of in your dancing?
An element of my technique that I am working on improving is my quick footwork en pointe. Although I have become much stronger in this area, I still have much more to work on. 

I am most proud of my performance ability. I love being on stage, and I believe I have a great way of capturing and connecting with the audience. 

What’s your favorite part about being on stage and performing? 
My favorite part of performing would have to be the feeling that you get while on the stage. When all of the lights are on you, and you are able to show everyone your true passion and love for dance; it is the most rewarding feeling that makes all of the hard rehearsals and classes worth it. 

What is something interesting that people might not know about you? 
Many people may not know this, but I love tap dancing! My very first solo at the age of nine was tap! I have always loved this amazing and complex style of dance, and I love to take occasional classes. I find that it can also be very helpful in ballet because of the musicality and footwork that it requires. 

Our mantra is #FeelGoodDanceBetter. What do you do as a dancer to take care of your body on a daily basis?
I have a pretty clean diet of mostly fish, lots of fruits, veggies, and nuts. I do pilates two to three times a week, [practice] daily morning yoga, drink lots of water, and take ice and salt baths. I also love doing fun cardio on the weekends like biking or hiking.

What’s something you struggle with as a dancer?

My biggest struggle as a dancer is my adagio. I am always striving to find the correct balance of flexibility and strength. I have seen lots of improvement, but I will always keep working for more. 

Sophia Shapiro © Rhi Lee Photography
Sophia Shapiro © Rhi Lee Photography 

Who inspires you, and why? 
One of my biggest inspirations is actually my mentor, Candy Tong! I am so grateful to PointePeople for connecting us, and giving me the opportunity to learn and grow from her advice. I also love that she trained in all styles of dance, as well as ballet. She has such an amazing career, and has danced with so many amazing companies. I also love that she is so supportive of young aspiring dancers! She is so kind, inspiring, and such a beautiful person.

What’s next for Sophia? Do you have a dream company you’d love to join someday?
The next step for me is auditioning! I will hopefully be able to join a professional ballet school in the near future. Some of my dream companies are San Francisco Ballet, The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
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