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
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."