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By Jenny Dalzell
Daisy Jacobson’s next step
For many pending high school graduates, the choice between attending college and starting a career is not easy. In this new monthly column, Dance Magazine will speak with dancers who have chosen to follow one path over another.
From a young age, Daisy Jacobson had her mind made up to join a ballet company after high school. Training with Diane Lauridsen at South Bay Ballet in Southern California, Jacobson looked up to dancers like Misty Copeland (American Ballet Theatre) and Ashley Ellis (Boston Ballet), both alumni of the studio. She attended summer programs at ABT and Kaatsbaan Extreme Ballet, and competed in the YAGP finals in NYC. During her senior year of high school, she was offered a traineeship with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. But a few experiences shifted Jacobson’s goals, and this fall she will be rehearsing a new work by postmodern choreographer Takehiro Ueyama, as part of the freshman class at Juilliard. —Jenny Dalzell
How did your path switch?
My mom always said I should apply to Juilliard. But I said, No, I’m not a modern dancer, I want ballet. But last September I saw the premiere of Benjamin Millepied’s L.A. Dance Project. Four of the six dancers in Forsythe’s Quintett were from Juilliard and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I became totally obsessed. On the drive home, all I could think was, What if I went that route? Finally I said, What do I have to lose? Who knows if I’m good enough, but I’ll let Juilliard decide.
Had you also applied to academic colleges?
Yes. I applied to 13 schools. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I also felt like I was overflowing with work. I knew inside that I wasn’t serious about going, I just had to dance. But at the same time, I thought, What if I get injured? I wanted to have the option.
Were you nervous about the Juilliard audition?
When I was in Miami for YoungArts Week [Jacobson was named a 2013 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts], there were five ballet dancers and a lot more modern dancers. They were constantly talking about the Juilliard audition. At that point I had already applied, but I was nervous to mention that I was auditioning too, because I was the bunhead. I remember thinking, “Oh, no. This will never happen.” I can kick [my legs] up, but I felt like, “This is what I’m competing with? Whoa.”
But it was also then that I realized I didn’t necessarily want to go to a ballet company or be a bunhead anymore. I didn’t feel like I fit in with that group. I wanted to go to school and be educated. And as much as I loved ballet, it was a turning point. I don’t have the perfect ballet body—I have the legs and feet, but I’m short-waisted and not super skinny. I feel like I need to be in a place where I’m not so self-conscious of those things. And I know that I’ve 100 percent made the right choice.
Above: Jacobson at the 2013 YAGP finals. By VAM Productions, Courtesy Jacobson.