Natalie Steele has been dancing since she was 2 years old. A 2020 graduate from St. Anne School, she is classically trained in Russian ballet and loves traveling the world to compete. Last year, at age 13, Natalie was the youngest dancer to make to the final round at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), in New York—the world’s largest ballet competition. She has received scholarship offers from Princess Grace Academy in Monaco, American Ballet Theatre, Bolshoi summer intensive, Harid Conservatory, Houston Ballet, and Sarasota Ballet.
This spring Natalie was scheduled to compete in the World Finals and was invited to train in Europe over the summer. Sadly, those plans were canceled due to the COVID-19 restrictions. For now, world-renowned ballerina, Misty Copland has offered to mentor Natalie online and looks forward to meeting her in person once things return to normal.
Natalie is also training for the Moscow Ballet Competition in Russia, scheduled for next summer at the Bolshoi Theater. This is among the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world and very few Americans make it through the rigorous selection process. Natalie’s coaches believe she has a good chance. We sat down with Natalie and asked her a few questions:
When did you first realize that classical ballet was your thing?
When I was 7½, I switched to my current ballet studio Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy. The atmosphere felt like home and I am so thankful to attend such an incredible school. I immediately fell in love with ballet. I love that you can be strong, yet graceful, and that it demands perfection.
Who inspires you the most?
I have so many inspirations... it’s hard to say. I look up to Maria Khoreva because she is one of the youngest soloists for Mariinsky Ballet and she has impeccable technique. Sarah Lamb from The Royal Ballet makes the art look so effortless. Isabella Boylston and James B Whiteside from American Ballet Theater show the fun you can have while still being dedicated. Karine Plantadit and Mochi, founders of the Kamochi Method, demonstrate kindness, positivity, and spirituality. Finally, every dancer who is passionate and driven in their work inspires me to keep pushing every day.
What is your most memorable performance?
Dancing on Lincoln Center stage at Koch Theater for the final round of the Youth American Grand Prix. It was the most incredible (and a bit scary) feeling to dance a solo where so much ballet history has been made. The stage is absolutely massive and looking into the sold-out audience was an experience I will never forget. The talent that night was among the best in the world and I felt so honored and grateful to have been selected. I hope to be back on that stage again one day.
What advice do you have for others who want to pursue ballet?
Always be the first one in the studio and the last one out. And focus on competing with yourself rather than others. Always try to do better than you did yesterday, and don’t allow competition with others to take over your mindset. Remember the passion and joy you started with. And lastly, be grateful for every opportunity you receive, and performance you take part in, as the gift of dance truly is a blessing.