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Senior awarded competitive ballet scholarship

Future Brigham Young University attendee earns reward to continue her dance studies

Kylie Williams, Online editor

Pacific Northwest Ballet School student Mia Watson (12) with other PNB School students in the 37th Annual PNB School Performance. (Photo © Lindsay Thomas.)

Pacific Northwest Ballet School student Mia Watson (12) with other PNB School students in the 37th Annual PNB School Performance. (Photo © Lindsay Thomas.)

When discussing college athletes, the first thoughts of many would consist of football, basketball, soccer, baseball– rough, physical, classic contact sports. Ballet, which is often overlooked for its delicate and graceful presentation, is equal in its physical demand to more conventional sports. The older a dancer gets, the more the competition grows to incredibly high levels. Senior Mia Watson earned her way to the next level of the ballet world by being one of two winners–out of a total pool of 40 dancers–of a ballet scholarship at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah.

The weekly schedule of a PNB dancer

Watson began dancing when she was two years old and at the age of seven started at Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), a local dance company with national prestige. PNB trains professional dancers, so even as a high school student, Watson has a demanding schedule.

“Mondays I have technique class from 4-6, and then pointe from 6-7,” Watson said. “Tuesdays I have technique class from 5:15-6:45, pointe from 6:45- 7:45. Wednesdays I have technique from 3:45-5:15 and variations from 5:15-6:45.” Watson’s week carries on similar to this through Saturday which totals to 16 and a half hours a week. This schedule is simply her class schedule, Watson must find additional time to set aside when there are rehearsals for shows that PNB puts on.

“I love it, but it takes up so much time that I don’t get to hang out with friends that often,” Watson said. “There’s not really time to do anything else–even school work sometimes.”

Watson trains in all areas of ballet every week, as well as in different genres to strengthen her all around abilities and to prepare her for whatever path she may take in dance.

“Technique is where we start at barre, it’s kind of a warm up, we plie, roll through our feet, go through the basics, then we move to center and work more,” Watson said. “Pointe class is similar to technique but it’s more on your toes. We do pas de deux, or partner dancing. Variations is when we learn pieces from ballets—short little three to five minute parts.”

Being well-rounded can help dancers in professional settings so that they are prepared for whatever might pop up in an audition.

“We also do modern dance, so we’re barefoot,” Watson said. “Ballet requires very good posture— very proper, strict—and modern is more loose, and roll through your body.”

Moving to the next level

Although a large commitment to make, dancing at PNB shaped Watson to move on to higher levels of dance, such as in college. Ranked among the top programs in the nation, the competition for the BYU ballet scholarship was high. Before getting to the physical audition, there was an application which included teacher recommendations and a short response on why the applicants wanted the scholarship.

“At the audition there were six judges, including the teacher,” Watson said. “The auditions are basically a class and they base their decisions off of that. I was a little bit nervous, but I had already gone down that summer and taken a class with them, so I knew what the class would be like and what the other dancers would look like.”

Watson along with her friend Addy Doll, who also attends PNB, were the only two awarded the scholarship. To maintain it, they will be required to keep up on ballet classes every semester and participate in performances.

“I will have class everyday and class after that for performances that we’re working on–which will be in the afternoon, so I’ll have to take all of my regular college classes in the morning,” Watson said.

The beginning of the end

Although ballet has been part of her life for 16 years, she sees college as being the end of her career. “I do not want to major in dance, but I want to do something creative,” Watson said. “I want to keep dancing for as long as I can but I don’t know if I’ll want to try and pursue a professional career after college, it’s pretty hard.”

The longer Watson dances, she is giving up even more time and putting more pressure on her body, but her passion for ballet is worth the sacrifices that she has had to make.

“It just lets me forget about anything that’s happened at school or wherever,” Watson said. “I enjoy focusing on that and forgetting about everything else. I just love doing it.”

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Senior awarded competitive ballet scholarship