Interviewed by Fatima Az-Zahraa Dadou
Hi Michelle! Thank you for giving me the chance to interview you today! To begin Michelle, please share with us some things about yourself and your love for music, arts and dancing.
I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, where I began my Armenian dance training at the age of two. My mother is a classical pianist, and my father is a classical violinist. I began my violin training at the age of four with my father, and piano training with my mom at the age of five. As I got older, I stopped Armenian dance, and went into classical Ballet training. My first ballet training was at a Russian pre- school that I attended. One of the teachers was a former member of the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Russia. She taught me the basic Ballet technique as well as artistry. My family moved to Texas for a year in 2005 where I studied at the prime ballet school in Texas. Once we moved back to Boston I went back to studying privately with the teacher from Bolshoi. In 2007, my family moved to Maryland. We were relatively close to the city, so I attended the Baltimore Ballet School. I studied there for about two years until we moved again to a nicer area in Maryland. After that I studied for two years at a smaller studio. Finally, when I turned ten, I decided that I wanted a stronger, more professional training. That is when I started attending the Berrend Dance Center, owned by the prestigious Patricia Berrend. There I received quality training as well as several performance and master class opportunities. Now I am dancing classically with a focus on modern and contemporary, as well as Broadway. In late December I will be attending a Master Class in New York City on Broadway St, taught by Randy Skinner. Randy Skinner was the choreographer of 42nd Street the Musical on Broadway. Also, I will be playing one of the lead roles in The Addams Family the Musical this year.
How has being raised in a musical family affected your appreciation for music?
Several people these days do not understand or relate to classical music. Most kids especially prefer pop or hip-hop music over classical. I feel so fortunate to have parents from this field. I can appreciate classical music for its beauty and real impact. For example, there is so such thing as “auto-tune” for classical music. It is simply beautiful on its own! Additionally, classical music is everywhere! From the music in video games, to the Star Wars theme! I can easily point out the orchestral sounds and instruments in movies, where as most people do not care for, or understand it. In my own life though, my musical blood has tremendously helped me with my dancing. Dance is always to some kind of music. Because of my background, I understand when to move in the music, when to slow down or speed up movement, as well as simple artistry. It has even helped me in troubled cases. For example if I don’t know the combination well, at least I can stay on the music!
What are some accomplishments you feel proud of looking back and what are some you would like to achieve in the future?
Beginning a few years ago, some dance instructors told me that I could not make it in the dance industry because of the way my body is structured. For example my feet do not arch as much as they like in the dance world. At first I was crushed because I believed them. Finally I realized that what they say should not hold me back from doing something that I loved! So, I decided that I would work on my feet, and get stronger. I knew that because of my disadvantage of bad feet, I decided I would have to work ten times harder than other girls who were just born with the proper feet. After years of working hard I got into several prestigious, National and International Ballet programs, as well as attend the renowned Boston Ballet School five-week summer intensive. I feel that my overcoming this dilemma made me a stronger dancer, and a better person. In the future I would like to be in a dance company or perhaps, or even on Broadway. To be a Broadway performer or actor is my biggest goal.
How has being homeschooled given you greater opportunities to advance with your career?
When I began to attend dance classes every day of the week, my academic work slowed down tremendously. I was not getting good grades, and I was tired the whole day because I had rehearsals all night! Eventually, it was decided that homeschooling would be the best thing for me to do. I was a little scared at first, because I wanted to keep a high quality education. After discovering Calvert, I was so relieved that I would receive a quality education, and still be able to dance full time. Homeschooling has helped me in many ways. For example, last year I participated in the Youth America Grand Prix competition. This is the largest ballet competition in the entire world! Of course I would need to have months of preparation for this. Because I was homeschooled, I was able to have private lessons in the morning, as well as rehearse all day in the studio space in my basement. Also, I went to Boston for the competition. I was able to easily bring my homework with me, where as most kids would have to skip school for a week.
What else would you like to share with Calvert Voices' audience?
I think that if you are passionate about something you should try it out no matter how old you are. Misty Copeland did not start dancing until she was thirteen, and she is now a principal with the American Ballet Theater! So whatever you are passionate about, you should go for it!
Click here to watch a video of Michelle dancing.
A publication created by Calvert High School students for the Calvert School community.