As for pictures in the photo studio, every move she makes is graceful and delicate. Her arms float above her head and unhurried steps guide her body through the room. She poses for the camera shyly as though she has never been met with a public audience, but the hundreds of thousands of people who have watched her performances on YouTube beg to differ.

17-year-old Alina Taratorin, a senior at Palo Alto High School, leads a busy life as an aspiring ballerina. A three-time winner of the World Ballet Competition, Taratorin is more than just a casual dancer; she competes in local and regional ballet competitions and has trained tirelessly for performances since she was in elementary school.

“I started [ballet] when I was six. My sister did ballet when she was little … [and] I [wanted] to be just like her,” Taratorin says. “We put on these little shows for my mom, so [she] decided to take me to classes.”

When she began classes at Bayer Ballet in Redwood City, California, the dance community immediately clicked with Taratorin; she still trains there today over 10 years after her first lesson.

It’s easy to assume that with a sport as competitive as ballet, time commitments and pressure from teammates can create a stressful environment for young athletes. Taratorin, however, maintains a positive outlook about the sport.

“[Though] dance is very competitive and people get competitive over the smallest things, I feel like where I train, that’s not it at all,” Taratorin says. “We’re all very good friends and really respect strengths and weaknesses, so I feel very comfortable.”

Even while running an Instagram account with over 12,000 followers, balancing homework, completing college applications and practicing ballet for more than three hours every day, Taratorin’s good time management keeps stress at bay and prevents work from piling up.

“Every time I make it on stage, it’s as if nothing exists. … I’m not really conscious until the second I run into the stage wings, catching my breath.”

— Alina Taratorin, senior

Before becoming a busy high school student and focusing her time outside of class on ballet, Taratorin formed an early connection with music as an art form. In earlier years, she was a dedicated pianist; she won multiple piano competitions, performed at Carnegie Hall and received an invitation to tour Russia in recognition of her talent. Though she chose to only pursue ballet as the demands on her time grew, music is still a core part of Taratorin’s life and has contributed to her sense of music and rhythm.

“What makes her unique is that she has extremely good musicality … and how she feels music,” Inna Bayer, director of Bayer Ballet, says. “She has excellent coordination… . She’s an artist.”

Professionals from around the world have recognized both her dedication to ballet and unique talent. Taratorin was selected this year as a competitor for the 2020 Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland, a prestigious international ballet competition for skilled young dancers.

“[Being chosen for the Prix is] like making the Olympics,” Bayer says.

While training for this competition, Taratorin is completing her class credits and will apply for college early. After high school, she hopes to spend a gap year focusing on ballet and planning the rest of her educational years around how her ballet career progresses.

“Every time I make it on stage, it’s as if nothing exists. … I’m not really conscious until the second I run into the stage wings, catching my breath,” Taratorin says about her dance performances. “These moments are what keep me going. … When I go out [on stage], … I feel like I am somewhere unreachable by anyone else: my individual version of heaven.”

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