PBT School student Sophie Silnicki has serious drive. Each day starts with a 2-hour commute from her hometown of Fairmont, WV, to PBT Studios and often ends with extra evening classes at her mother’s Fairmont ballet studio – all for the love of ballet. And this year, the 16-year-old’s passion earned her a select spot among only seven other female dancers in the U.S. to compete in Switzerland’s prestigious Prix de Lausanne international student ballet competition. Read more here about Sophie’s journey – happening this week – here below, and check out her blog posts from Lausanne here.
Most-played song on your iPod right now: I love Broadway show tunes actually, so I love listening to music from any Broadway show and singing along with it. I really like Sutton Foster—I love all of her music.
3 things you always have in your ballet bag: I always have my toe tape, my one-piece warmer, and my stitch kit. My stitch kit is definitely my number one thing in case ribbon or elastic falls off.
Non-ballet hobbies: I love the beach, so I love to swim and surf in the summer. We have a summer home in North Wildwood, New Jersey, so we live right across from the beach in the summer.
What is your commute to PBT like every day?
My commute is an hour and half to two hours from where I live in West Virginia. Usually in the morning I sleep, because we leave at 5:45 a.m. for an 8 a.m. class at PBT. And then on the way home…I just listen to music or watch a movie and just relax a little bit. Then I go home to my mom’s studio and take another dance class, so the commute is my time to relax for a while before I go back and start rehearsal again.
What is a typical day like for you?
I have my 8-9:30 a.m. technique class, and then from around 10 a.m.-2 p.m. I usually do my schoolwork, but lately I’ve been having my rehearsals throughout the day, so it varies. During The Nutcracker, I had constant rehearsals throughout the day. Then at 3 p.m., I have another technique class until 4:45 p.m., and then from about 4:45-6 p.m. I have either pointe, variations or pas de deux classes. Then I go home in the car for an hour and half, and at 8 p.m. I go back to my mom’s school, and I have class at her dance studio until 9:30. We do everything—ballet tap jazz, even acrobatics.
What do you like to do on weekends?
I’m at PBT on Saturdays, and then I go home to my mom’s school and we work on choreography for our competitive company that goes to competitions in the area. So I usually just choreograph with her all day. Last weekend, we were at the studio Saturday night and most of Sunday, too. On Sunday nights I try to relax and get ready for the next week. I also like to take my dog for walks and go to the park with my dog and my mom on weekends.
What inspires you to keep up with your busy schedule?
I love ballet so much. I don’t mind the drive every morning to do it because I love it and I constantly want to dance. I think one of the reasons I love ballet is because of the discipline and the repetition of the barre and the hard work in the center. Then when you go onstage, you can transform into a character. In many classical ballets, the ballerina is a princess, so you wear a tutu and a tiara and you become a different person onstage to portray that character.
What motivates you to come to PBT to train?
For me, just being in the same building with the PBT company members really inspires me to work hard and to try to be like them. I also love coming to ballet class with the great faculty here at PBT—I love taking class from them.
What do you think helped you to achieve this invitation to the 2014 Prix de Lausanne?
First of all, my mom always tells me that I have to work hard to deserve to do things, so I think just working hard in class helped me get to this spot, and hopefully it will all pay off. My coach Pollyanna Ribeiro has helped me so much. Just watching Polly’s movement has really helped me. She’s taught me so much about how I should prepare for the competition, and she helps me so much in my coaching. Also, other people from PBT have been really helpful. Artistic Director Terrence Orr has come into my rehearsals and given me so much help. I’m really grateful to all of them.
What’s your top goal while participating in this international competition?
I’m in the younger age category, so I think I’m mostly interested in offers to a school and possibly a scholarship.
Regardless of the outcome of the competition, what do you hope to learn from being involved?
It’s an honor just to be chosen to go and to represent PBT, and I’m very honored that they’re supporting me in going to Switzerland. I’m very excited to learn and take class from the jury and be coached in both my classical and contemporary variations, and also to be surrounded by such amazing talent from all across the world. I’m really excited to watch the other ballet students perform. We all share the same love for ballet, so it’ll be exciting to be surrounded by all of them.
How do you feel about getting the chance to visit Europe?
I’m really excited to go to Switzerland, because I’ve never been out of the country. I of course want to see the Alps, and after the competition, my mom is taking me to Paris. We’re taking the train and staying in Paris for four days after the competition, and then we’re coming back to PBT. I really want to go see the Eiffel Tower and possibly go up to the top and go to the Louvre. I’m just really excited to go to all the cafés and everything!
What are the classical and contemporary variations you’ll be performing in the competition?
For my classical variation, I’m doing the Swanilda variation from Coppélia. It’s very fun, and I’m very excited about it. I love my costume. I picked Swanilda, because I feel like that character is sort of like me in a way.
My contemporary piece is choreographed by Jorma Elo, and it’s called 1st Flash Solo No. 2. It’s very fast, so I really like it. I picked it, because I like quick movements and moving fast, and there are a lot of jumps and turns, and I feel like those are some of my strongest things. I think both of the variations will be really fun to perform.
Why do you think it’s important to expose yourself to the competition experience?
I think it’s very important, because, in the future, hopefully it will help me with a job or apprentice offer. Also, it’s good to just put yourself out there and be seen by so many directors of ballet schools from across the world and learn from them.
What are you most excited about?
I’m most excited to take class from the jury members and actually perform on the stage. I take ballet class every day, but to take it from someone who’s a director at a major ballet school is very exciting. Just to learn from them and pick up their style in class, and also to be taking class with the other candidates, will be a lot of fun. The jury will be judging us on how we do our classwork in the classical and contemporary classes, along with how you respond to coaching with a choreographer during coaching sessions and, of course, your performance.
Have you had a chance to talk with any of the other PBT School students who have competed in the past?
I’ve gotten a chance to talk to all of them, especially Elenora Morris, who participated last year. They’ve told me to just take everything in and to learn from everyone who’s there, to do my best and remember that it’s already an honor just to get there.