A! Magazine for the Arts

Sydney Johnson as the Danish Marzipan with the Nutcracker Prince (photo by  Richard Mink)

Sydney Johnson as the Danish Marzipan with the Nutcracker Prince (photo by Richard Mink)

Arts for Youth Spotlight: Sydney Johnson

November 30, 2016

Sydney Johnson saw her first ballet when she was 2 - "The Nutcracker."

"My mom says that I sat mesmerized on the edge of my seat throughout the entire production. From that moment, she knew that I was drawn to the art of ballet," Sydney says.

She started taking classes at Highlands Center for Ballet Arts shortly before she turned 4 and has been there since. In addition to being the first ballet she saw, "The Nutcracker" has been an essential part of her life in dance. She dances the role of the Snow Queen in this year's production by Highlands Ballet Company.

"My first role in a company production was a mouse in a Highlands Ballet collaboration of "The Nutcracker' – I was 4. From that moment on I was hooked, and my goal was to play Clara. Eight years later, that wish came true and I was fortunate enough to be chosen as Clara.

"Dancing the role of the Snow Queen is a dream come true. I have been a member of the Snow Corps for three years, and every year I have watched the Snow Queen in awe. I am sincerely humbled to be chosen, and I'm so excited to have this opportunity to push myself in this role. My favorite ballet, by far, is "The Nutcracker.' There is grandeur and magic brought forth on stage to the audience through the dancers, costumes, props, etc. My favorite role is one that I have never danced, but one that all dancers strive for - the Sugar Plum Fairy. The music is known by all and is so interwoven with the holiday season. It has always reminded me of a dancer in a music box," Sydney says.

Her other favorite roles include the Lilac Fairy in "Sleeping Beauty," Abu in "Aladdin" and the female in the Marzipan pas de deux in last year's "The Nutcracker."

Sydney says she loves the grace and elegance that ballet possesses and the ways in which it tells a story with no dialogue. It is also an integral part of her life.

"For me, ballet is a way of life. I can't remember a time in which I haven't been dancing. The studio is a place where I can block out all of the stresses and worries of being a teenager. Ballet provides an outlet in which I can express my emotions through physical movement.

"I am influenced not only by my teachers but my fellow dancers as well. There is a healthy competition among all dancers, which helps to motivate. However, everyone realizes that we all have to work together in order to create a wonderful show for the audience and that there truly are no small, unimportant roles. It's an honor to be able to take instruction from teachers as experienced and credentialed as Ms. Dee Dee and Ms. Cole. Not only do they impart their talent and skill, but their integrity as well. Highlands Ballet truly focuses on building not only good dancers, but people of good character.

"I have been blessed to have a family that has supported me throughout the years. Ballet is very time consuming and requires a commitment from the entire family. My mother has been involved with the costume committee since Highlands Ballet's first production of "The Nutcracker,'" Sydney says.

Sydney plans on attending a university where she will be able to continue with dance while pursuing other interests, possibly in the medical field. She can't imagine dance not being a part of her future in some form or fashion and intends to dance for as long as she's able.

When she isn't dancing, she is involved in activities at her church, Faith In Action, DECA and the Republican Club at school, and is a part of the Washington County Community Scholars Program.

She is the 17-year-old daughter of Jeff and Lisa Johnson, and is a junior at Abingdon High School, Abingdon, Virginia.