Sophia is an alum of our Exploration Skiing in Patagonia program and wrote about her experience of discovery in her college essay. This fall she’ll be attending NYU Tisch School to study acting.

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At age 13, on a crisp December evening in the heart of London’s Covent Garden, I peaked. It was opening night of English National Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker – my third season as Young Clara. She had become like an old friend I had been lucky enough to revisit annually since age ten, and performing the show was like breathing. That night I felt it: I had performed my best show. The conductor and I had been in sync during my solo, the professionals considered me one of their own, my reaction to Freddie breaking the Nutcracker was as earnest as when Drosselmeyer fixed it bars later. I had danced perfectly, and the stern, demanding artistic director Tamara Rojo agreed. As I tightly gripped my awarded bouquet, Tamara emerged from the theatre and headed towards me. She clasped her hands around mine, stared into my eager eyes, and in her thick Spanish accent confirmed: “You were good, really so good. You have improved so much. Your feet, your jumps, everything. Really well done.” She glided away leaving me speechless. I had been perfect, and the hardest person to impress agreed.

This euphoria didn’t last. I started imagining that there were faults in my performance and concluded that I had been far from perfect. My quest for perfection seeped into all corners of my life – my height, my body, my face – as I tried to control the uncontrollable and change the unchangeable. Perfection was everything I was not, yet it was the most addictive chase. In the following three years, I had to leave the toxic pursuit that I had imposed on myself as a dancer, and followed my expressive instincts towards acting.

At a summer acting program, I performed unrehearsed Shakespearean scenes in a small château in Normandy. Against everything ballet had programmed in me about preparing and practicing, I took the stage and delivered lines from ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’ without knowing who my scene partners were, what they would say, or even what the play was about. When Silvia handed me a portrait of herself, my reaction was utterly real. I threw her portrait to the ground injecting an unexpected sass into the scene as I exclaimed, “Madam!”. The audience roared with laughter at the improvised moment sparked by my character’s frustration. Since I had learnt these lines in complete isolation, when I delivered them to Silvia for the first time they were unique. I listened to what she said, digested it, and reacted intuitively. I had no time to analyze every move and thought, I was just living and unlocking my truest passion for creative expression – imperfection. A lot had changed.

Leaving perfectionism’s confines opened up my multidimensional persona; through acting, I am able to travel a road to balance, acceptance, and artistic discovery. Performing everything from Juliet to a teen addict has made me more empathetic, curious, and daring. I’ve learnt that life isn’t as simple as performing ‘perfectly’; it’s about making mistakes, learning, and evolving. Approaching performances and life experiences with this new mindset allowed me to unlock a curiosity for pursuing other passions, learning, and challenges.

The same summer I tackled unrehearsed Shakespeare, I skinned up a mountain in Patagonia with a group of strangers. On the Southernmost tip of the world, standing at the top of that mountain, I wondered, “How did I end up here?” The little girl in a pink frill costume and ringletted hair, Young Clara, consumed with every mistake, had been hung up on unrealistic standards and disappointed every time she didn’t reach them. That Clara in Covent Garden would never have imagined trying something this bold, adventurous, and fraught with the potential for failure. Setting off down the slopes of Mount Krund, I felt the remnants of this old outlook melt away as I embarked upon the rest of my deliciously imperfect life.

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