There is an expected aura of glamour and romance among the professional dancers of the prestigious American Ballet Theatre in New York City. The delicate satin ballet shoes. The elegant swept-up buns. The graceful pirouettes.
The American Ballet Theatre has one of the most prestigious names in the competitive world of ballet; in 2006 the ABT was named America’s National Ballet Company through an act of Congress.
Working hard alongside the ABT’s ballerinas and cavaliers is Jamie Kopit, an 18-year-old ballerina from Fountain Valley. Kopit already has accomplished so much at a young age, but being in a place of such high repute has not changed her. The Orange County native is overly modest and a well-grounded young woman. When listening to her, you cannot help but notice her maturity and genuineness.
Kopit has an apartment in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and possesses a humility that many would find refreshing in today’s fast-paced world. Despite having to grow up quicker than most, Kopit, who moved away from her parent’s home at age 15 to attend the Royal Ballet School in London, possesses a playful nature about her and still finds pleasure in the simpler things of life.
In a recent phone interview, Kopit said she enjoys going to the street markets in New York, hanging out with friends and riding her bicycle. But she misses sunny Southern California and the beaches, where she can be found when at home with her family in Huntington Beach.
And to think, when Kopit got her start at age 3, at Fountain Valley’s Southland Ballet Academy, she disliked dancing.
“I actually hated it when I was younger,” Kopit said. “My mom used to force me to go. I remember I used to make her go into the classroom with me or else I wouldn’t go and I would make her dance with me. I ended up quitting for a year when I was four...like I knew what I wanted to do at that age.
“When I was 12, I realized that I liked this and I saw I was pretty good at it and I started focusing on it,” Kopit said with a laugh. “That’s basically when it all started.”
It was while studying at SBA, with instructor Salwa Rizkalla, that Kopit was given the opportunity to play a variety of different roles. She was able to get experience while performing with the Festival Ballet Theater at The Barclay Theatre in Irvine. She played both the roles of Princess Florine, the Yellow Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty and the part of Clara in The Nutcracker.
After 12 years of studying at SBA, Kopit found herself at the Youth America’s Grand Prix competition in Los Angeles in 2009. She won the Grand Prix award in the Senior Division, and then found herself in the finals competition in New York City. It was at this competition that Kopit was presented with a scholarship to study at the prestigious Royal Ballet School in London.
In London, at age 15, Kopit continued to study and performed with the Royal Ballet in numerous shows. While in London, Kopit was given the opportunity to audition for the renowned American Ballet Theatre. To her surprise, Kopit was accepted in the dance company as an apprentice in May 2011.
“I was super excited and surprised and almost scared because I was only halfway through my training at Royal, so I didn’t think that I was really ready to be at a company yet,” she said. “But of course I couldn’t say no. I was excited, though, to come back to the States.”
In October 2011, Kopit became an official member of the dance company as a Corps de Ballet.
Although living a seemingly extravagant lifestyle, always being in the spotlight and traveling extensively, Kopit takes it all in stride. Along with her busy days rehearsing, she has to manage a hefty workload. She is presently working on five plays, which she rehearses for each day.
Kopit confesses she is extremely hard on herself and claims to still feel a large sense of pressure to prove herself worthy.
“I am still intimidated rehearsing where I am, and I’ve been here almost a year now!” Kopit said. “It is such an honor dancing beside these dancers and to be considered worth putting next to them on stage is so amazing. There is so much to learn from ALL of my colleagues.”
The dancer credits her family with helping her achieve success. They have been supportive of her, and she recognizes that the Southland Ballet Academy and Royal Ballet School have been vital in her accomplishments.
Jamie’s father, Wayne Kopit, recalls an ambition in his daughter that was instilled in her after an injury she sustained when she was 12 years old. He attributes this drive to how Jamie got to where she is today.
“As her father I noticed how committed she was to dance. She fought back to get into dancing,” Wayne Kopit said. “Once she came back, she told us how she was going to be a professional ballerina and how her goal was to dance in New York and be with American Ballet Theatre. She became so focused and dedicated and passionate that she had the vision and she did this.”
Jamie Kopit said she first saw the ABT perform in Irvine at the Irvine Barclay Theatre when she was 10 years old. Little did she know that within a few years she, too, would be gracing the stage alongside the gifted and stunning dancers of the esteemed and cherished American Ballet Theatre.