I am not fragile: The story of Julienne Sorota


Julienne dances on pointe in Raymonda during Petrov’s 2016 Spring Gala.

by Kobie Tsiang, Staff Writer

Walk into a warm studio. Feel the eyes of your artistic director watch and analyze your every move. Do thousands of pirouettes, grande Jetés, and arabesques. Do them until  dizzy, until your feet swell and cry for mercy. Do them again. Combine all these things, and you have entered into the life of Julienne Sorota. 

Sorota is a ballet dancer at Petrov Ballet School in Waldwick. She is spends approximately 19 hours every week dancing in her studio, not including rehearsal time which can be anywhere from 3 to 12 additional hours.

An open class at Petrov Ballet School in Waldwick. Julienne (right) is seen following her teacher.

Julienne’s dancing career began in her childhood, when her sister decided she wanted to begin taking classes. Her mother had been dancing  all her life, so ballet was not a foreign dance to either girls both of whom would continue to dance for the next 14 years. Along with traditional ballet, she goes to one character and modern class a week. Each class offers something completely different and helps Sorota become a well-rounded dancer. For example, the Modern style of dance creates more free flowing movement that can be incorporated into her traditional ballet numbers.

Due to all of the shows, classes, and rehearsals, it’s safe to say that Sorota is very experienced. This might be surprising if you knew that she was born with multiple birth defects. These include scoliosis- mitral valve prolapse (a heart condition that causes blood to be pumped back into the heart). She also has asthma.

“I hold myself in a very strange position. It feels completely awkward and wrong, but I know that it’s straight,” Julienne said.

Dance still remains Sorota’s physical therapy. Scoliosis can completely wreak havoc on the body, sometimes resulting in a person being unable to walk, move, or permanently bent over. 

Stephanie Sorota (Julienne’s sister) sits with her sister during a photoshoot.

Ballet calls for the use of muscles that the average person does not use. These include back, leg, and arm muscles that are activated in ballet  because of the strenuous movements. After spending years dancing and gaining strength, she has conquered her own conditions and become a strong dancer and increase her stamina over time. This includes increase in strength in her back and breathing.

Sorota often finds that other people have trouble with her conditions, a she chooses to brighten the room with her sense of humor and hilarious jokes.

Silent storytelling through movement makes portraying characters one of the best parts of dance (especially evil characters) for Sorota.

Different teachers create many different atmospheres in class. On one occasion Julienne recalled a time when her teacher “punted a foam roller into an air vent and broke it.  They also may mix dance styles and create amazing routines and numbers that challenge the normal style of dance at Petrov. One number combined contemporary, ballet and swing dance to create an explosion of graceful movement and fun rhythmic steps to Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing.” 

Julienne practices in her studio during the summer.

Friends of Julienne, like Kelly Walters, have seen her skills develop throughout the years ,watching her grow and get better.

“She’s a great dancer yeah, but she’s more than that, she’s a bright and smiling person,” Kelly Walters said. 

The Petrov School of Ballet has become more than a studio to Julienne. It’s her second home, where she can go enjoy her passion with some of her closest friends.

“One summer I looked around and realized: I love my family, I love my studio, and I don’t want to stop dancing ever,”  Julienne said.