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A Coeducational School | Early Learners to Third Grade

Alumni Profile: Shannon Harkins '09

Fall 2014

At age 14, Shannon Harkins ‘09 has danced seven times in The Washington Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” most recently as a Chinese girl, and has aspirations for the Sugar Plum Fairy role.

Her dream is to dazzle the ballet world as a principal ballet dancer in a professional company. “I’m reaching for the top,” she says. Shannon’s idol is The American Ballet Theater’s Misty Copeland and rightfully so, as she is the ABT’s first African-American female soloist in twenty years. Shannon is the only African American among dancers who dance the premiere shows of “The Nutcracker” performance here in D.C. 

“Sometimes when I tell people that I dance ballet instead of hip-hop, they are very surprised,” she said. 

Most dancers in the top companies today are white. African American ballerinas are nearly non-existent. “I believe the ballet world is changing with dancers like Misty Copeland and others who are finding success in classical ballet. That gives me hope,” she said.

Her training continues every summer. In 2013, Shannon was a student at the French Academie of Ballet summer intensive program where Copeland was an instructor and taught Shannon. Of about 120 girls, Shannon was the only African American in the intermediate class. There was also one African American dancer in the advanced level. This past summer she attended a six-week ballet program, Kaatsbaan Extreme Ballet, in Tivoli, New York and was featured in a recent Huffington Post article as #3 on a list of “17 Ballet Icons That are Changing the Face of Dance.”
Shannon stays focused on achieving her dream although ballet training is expensive, rigorous, and time-consuming. While at home, she was fortunate to have the support of her parents, her older sister and many friends to keep her motivated and encouraged. 

She remembers her teachers at Beauvoir being very supportive of her dancing, which helped her keep her confidence. “Some of my teachers came to see me in the Nutcracker, and that made me so happy!” 

She is currently a ninth grade Ballet major at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, a performing arts boarding school in Natick, MA that provides students with the unique opportunity to live, work, and among others united by their passion for arts. Her mother Juli Harkins said she has settled in well. She dances six days a week, she said, among a normal load of high school classes in English, Geometry, History, French and Science. 

She wants to be an example that “dreams can come true,” Shannon said.
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