Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic, Courtesy San Francisco Ballet

On the Rise: Natasha Sheehan

With her delicate movement quality and a silken jump, at age 17 Natasha Sheehan became the youngest winner of the International Competition for the Erik Bruhn Prize this past November. The rookie San Francisco Ballet corps dancer flawlessly embodied the ghostly Giselle, and her emotional performance stood out in an arena typically showcasing athletic prowess. The spellbound audience and judges agreed: Sheehan's profound artistry and self-assurance belie her years.


Company: San Francisco Ballet

Age: 18

Hometown: San Francisco

Training: SFB School since age 11, nine months after her first dance lesson

Accolades: 2016 female winner of the Erik Bruhn Prize, Dizzy Feet Foundation's Angelina Ballerina scholarship recipient


Here and above: Sheehan with Angelo Greco at the Erik Bruhn Competition. Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic, Courtesy SFB.

Breakout moment: Last season, while still an SFB trainee, Sheehan danced one of the Four Little Swans in Swan Lake. "After that, I felt I could accomplish anything," she says, "because it required so much precision, focus and strength to dance as one." Soon after, artistic director Helgi Tomasson hired her full-time. He later chose her to be the company's female representative at the Erik Bruhn Prize, despite her not meeting the competition's usual minimum age requirement of 18.

"She really does seem born to dance. I am

completely fascinated by her." —Helgi Tomasson

A budding artist: "She's not just focused on the technique but the meaning behind it," says SFB School associate director Patrick Armand. "She's a very sensitive person and what you see is the emotion she can put through her dancing. You can't teach that."

Juggling high school with a company job: Presently in 12th grade, Sheehan takes online courses, often studying before class and between rehearsals. "With the kind of family I've got, not doing school is not an option." (Her mom is a writer, her dad is a content tech strategist and both paternal grandparents are history professors.)

Embracing her roles: Sheehan confesses that she sometimes overintellectualizes her dancing. "Getting my head around the storyline or concept of the choreography without overthinking is my biggest artistic challenge," she says.


Photo by Karolina Kuras, Courtesy SFB

Fueling her dancing: Sheehan plans to become a nutritionist once she finishes dancing. She steers clear of processed foods and snacks on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, probiotic yogurt, hummus and avocados. Each morning, she sips kombucha and a cup of green tea with lemon.

What Tomasson says: "I watched her doing Snowflakes during Nutcracker, serene and confident onstage despite the chaos around her. She's the calm at the middle of the storm. A dancer like this comes along only so rarely. I think she's a major talent."

Latest Posts


Courtesy Schelfhaudt

These Retired Ballroom Dancers Started a Dance-Themed Coffee Company

Like many dancers, when Lauren Schelfhaudt and Jean Paul retired from professional ballroom dancing in 2016, they felt lost. "There was this huge void," says Schelfhaudt.

But after over 20 years of dancing, plus United States and World Championship titles, reality shows, and high-profile choreography gigs (and Paul's special claim to fame, as "the guy who makes Bradley Cooper look bad" in Silver Linings Playbook), teaching just didn't fill the void. "I got to the point where it wasn't giving me that creative outlet," says Paul.

When the pair (who are life and business partners but were never dance partners—they competed against one another) took a post-retirement trip to Costa Rica, they were ready to restart their lives. They found inspiration in an expected place: A visit to a coffee farm.

Though they had no experience in coffee roasting or business, they began building their own coffee company. In 2018, the duo officially launched Dancing Ox Coffee Roasters, where they create dance-inspired blends out of their headquarters in Belmont, North Carolina.

We talked to Schelfhaudt and Paul about how their dance background makes them better coffee roasters, and why coffee is an art form all its own:

GO DEEPER