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- What is your background in both dance and medicine? Why did you decide to pursue those two disciplines?
I started ballet when I was four years old and started competing at international ballet competitions by the time I was nine years old. After my 6th grade year, I decided to switch to online academic school to be able to accommodate my training and traveling schedule for ballet. I was fortunate to have been featured in a ballet documentary called “First Position”, where I was followed through the ups and downs of participating in a major ballet competition. From there, I started to perform all around the world and received a professional contract with the Birmingham Royal Ballet at seventeen years old. As much as I was finding success in ballet, I was dealing with different injuries and started to gain an interest in careers outside of dance. This is where medicine comes in. When I was injured, I started discovering how the tendons, muscles, and bones of the human body allowed me to dance and found it fascinating. I had an urge to learn more and so I decided to attend college to start my new chapter. I first started out at a community college to have a smoother transition away from my professional ballet career and then after two years, transferred to the University of California, Berkeley. This past summer, I graduated with honors and have decided to take a gap year to focus on my applications to medical and graduate programs.
- When was the first time you performed, and what part of that experience do you still carry with you?
The first time I performed on stage was when I was five years old! I don’t remember too much about this experience but I do remember being covered in glitter and receiving a lollipop afterward. To this day, I still love many sparkly items and also like rewarding myself with a treat after I have accomplished a goal or finished a difficult task.
- Such creative journeys often face great challenges and successes. What event(s) inspired or challenged you personally to pursue dance, and incorporating that into your medical training and vice versa?
Taking the leap from my career of ballet and the performing arts to medicine and research was definitely a challenge. I had worked for over 15 years to build up my career in ballet so leaving all of that behind was a huge decision for me to make. Yet, this was not the most difficult part for me. What was the most challenging for me was to open up to everyone in my life about my career change. I had identified with ballet for so long and had built up a pretty large group of supporters, so coming out about my career change was the most difficult part. It took me nearly two whole years to open up. Yet, what surprised me during this transition was how understanding and supportive people were with my decision, which I am truly thankful for. I hope to be a vessel of support for those who may be going through similar transitions in their careers and lives. I hope to use many of the lessons and experiences that I have gathered in ballet to help me along with my next chapter in life.
- How do you blend your work in dance and in medicine? What’s one piece of advice you can share for those aspiring artist-science students?
Part of the reason why leaving ballet behind was so difficult for me was because I thought I would never be able to experience much ballet after my career change. Yet this was assumption was not necessarily true. I have been teaching and coaching the next generation of dancers on weekends and have absolutely loved doing so. I also try to make time to watch and support the dancers of the closest ballet company to me which happens to be the San Francisco Ballet. I will always keep the memories, people, and experiences that I have been fortunate to have in ballet, very close to my heart. One piece of advice that I would share for those aspiring to be artist-science students would be to manage time very wisely, because if you can do so, then you can definitely pursue both!