A love for dancing

When sophomore Nicole Tsai takes the stage, the stress from weeks of long practices seem to melt away, and she is reminded of her love for the constant pursuit of improvement in her ballet technique.

Tsai has been dancing since she was 2 years old and began ballet competitions when she was 4 years old. She was inspired to dance after seeing her three cousins perform on stage. Before specializing in ballet, she trained in many genres of dance such as jazz, contemporary, modern, tap, hip-hop and lyrical. Tsai started to strictly do ballet at the age of 12.

“[When I started ballet], I felt lost, and after my first class, I was so defeated. I honestly did not want to go back, but my dad encouraged me to keep going,” Tsai said. “He said you can’t just give up because a class is hard.”

Tsai’s achievements include placing within the top 25 in the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest international student dance competition. She was also accepted into the Pre-Professional Program, the most rigorous level of training for aspiring dancers, at Joffrey Ballet, a dance company.

“Leading up to [the Youth America Grand Prix], I hated it because the process was long and the criticism [about my dancing] was harsh. Afterward though, it felt really rewarding. My favorite part of the whole process was being able to make everyone proud and to know that my hard work paid off,” Tsai said.

A typical routine before competition consists of doing basic stretches, warming up, listening to music and taking a nap. Tsai devotes hours of practice at her studio, Anaheim ballet, focusing on building her technique and rehearsing her current dance. Her rehearsals start at 3 p.m. and can last until midnight.

“Balancing school and ballet is hard because of the long rehearsals,” Tsai said. “I just have to manage my time wisely. Knowing [my] priorities, I can’t hang out with my friends. I can’t do a lot of the stuff they do because I just don’t have time.”

Tsai has learned to overcome the difficulties of competing and the expectations to conform to a specific body type with the consistent support and encouragement of her family members. To help her cope with the pressures of competition, Tsai’s family gives her reassurance and the confidence to pursue her passion for ballet.

“What I like most [about ballet] is you never reach perfection because I get bored really easily, so I need something to work toward,” Tsai said. “You can never be the best dancer, so you’re constantly working, and you’re constantly growing as a dancer. I think I’m more disciplined, and I know what I have to work on.”

By Raymond Dunn, Staff writer

Photo courtesy of Nicole Tsai