Photos by Susan Blackburn Photography.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — “The dance is a poem of which each movement is a word.”
Sophia Olechowski, a 16-year-old dancer from Saratoga Springs has been a ballet dancer since she was a three-year-old, courtesy of her mom Mary Wilson.
“I have done a lot of other dancing,” Olechowski said, “jazz, tap, musical theater, contemporary, modern, hip-hop, and flamenco. I’ve done it all. Ballet is my favorite.”
Olechowski has been at School of the Arts Swyer Studios since her family moved to Saratoga Springs about ten years ago. Swyer Studios is an extension of the National Museum of Dance, which focuses on providing a professional-level dance instruction within a low-pressure, supportive environment. Olechowski said that the school provides that and more.
This year in The Nutcracker, she will be performing as a Ballerina Doll and Flowers and is also the understudy for the Snow Queen. This is her sixth Nutcracker.
“I’ve been doing every single nutcracker since the museum started doing it. This is a big Nutcracker year for me,” she said.
While the Dance Museum is her main dance school, she also does summer programs through Skidmore College and New York State Summer School of the Arts.
Her favorite part of dancing boils down to the performance itself.
“I’ve always loved being on stage and the feeling of excitement right before you go on stage. For me, that’s the only time I ever get that rush of adrenaline. It’s something that you worked so hard for and you finally get to show it to a bunch of people, it just feels really good,” Olechowski explained.
Still, dance has its hard times, too.
“The continuation of doing it over and over because you’re just constantly pushing yourself, constantly staring at yourself in a mirror and trying to fix everything that’s wrong and so sometimes it gets really tiring and hard but you just have to push through those hard days because the good days are worth it,” she said.
Self-consciousness can play a part in any dancer’s world and Olechowski practices staying focused on herself to beat those inner doubts.
“For me, it’s a lot of making sure I don’t compare myself to others and I’m always focused on myself and how I can better improve and knowing that I worked hard to get to where I am, so it honestly just wouldn’t be worth not liking myself at this point,” she said.
Olechowski has given some thought to what comes after high school and dance is what she plans to pursue, whether it be at a school like Julliard or elsewhere.
While she pours at least 13 hours a week into dance, she still makes time for her friends and schoolwork. She takes AP classes and enjoys challenging herself within her education. She practices a rigid before-dance schedule of homework, also.
She cites her mom as her biggest supporter:
“She is always there for all of my perfomances; she’s the one who got me started in dance. She always makes sure that I am auditioning for things and she leads me to all of these great opportunities.”
Olechowski has three siblings, none of which practice dance.
“Dance is something that makes me different, something that I am extra passionate about.”
Her passion is clear. See Sophia on stage in The Nutcracker this weekend. Performances are Saturday, December 21 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 22 at 1 p.m. at Maple Avenue Middle School’s Trombley Auditorium.