Sofia Gonzalez stood on the darkened steps leading to the Nationals’ stage, a mixture of nerves, fear and excitement. She had no concerns about the first 30 seconds of her teen solo. She knew that perfectly. The problem was… this solo is two minutes long. That left one minute and 30 seconds of blank space to fill. Sofia was about to walk out in front of an esteemed group of judges, at one of the biggest competitions of her life… and wing it.
“I was really nervous because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I had no idea what was going to come out of my body” confessed the 16 year old. “That’s what I was ready to do though, take a risk and challenge myself.”
The challenge was as real as it could get. Her dance, “City of Stars” illustrates the constant doubt and anxiety that gnaw at her and so many other teens on a daily basis. Yet here she was, electing to place more pressure on an already stress filled moment. This high school junior would voluntarily do what most dancers in the heat of solo competition fear the most… improvise. Sofia intentionally chose to complete her dance as she competed her dance.
“I feel more vulnerable and I express myself more the way I want to when I do that. When I was on stage, I didn’t think because I was so in the moment. That’s the difference. You are so in the moment.”
Just a few minutes later, the petite but athletic dancer was racing back to join her age group for rehearsals before awards. Friends asked her how she did. She smiled and told them she did well. The truth is, she had absolutely no idea. She does not remember a single movement after the first 30 seconds.
“I didn’t remember. That’s the beauty in it. You don’t remember what you just did. You just know it felt good.” Good indeed… Sofia walked away with 1st place.
From the time she was just 5 years old, the little girl with more energy than her mother knew what to do with, was tumbling, turning and putting on tights. The battle between gymnastics and dance quickly claimed a winner and Sofia devoted all her time, heart and creative soul into her new passion. By the age of 7, Sofia was already collecting first place awards. Countless successes followed including winning Miss Teen Adrenaline 2016/2017 at Nationals and even a Young Arts honorable mention, but Sofia felt that for her, there was more.
” I don’t get the point of dance if you don’t share and show something. Choreography for me is setting the story. ”
The storytelling began young with Sofia and a friend sending videos of their own choreography to the teacher who inspired them the most, Marie-Louise Gaschler.
“Even when she was just 8 or 9 years old,” said Gaschler who is the co-founder of Sofia’s studio, Miami Dance Collective. “I could see she was putting together little pieces that had depth to them”. When Sofia was still 13, she asked to choreograph her first solo.
“Usually, I would have been scared,” laughed Gaschler, who has won numerous national choreography honors, “but my gut was right. It’s just overwhelming. As a mentor it’s a beautiful thing. I grow from it as a teacher as well.”
Just this year, Sofia branched out into choreographing for other students. One of her first efforts produced, “Bird Girl”, a mini piece about facing one’s fears and breaking away from the safety of the nest. Sofia’s fledging flight was very rewarding. Georgia Easton (@georgiaeastonn) and Valeria Bickford (@valemica777) fell in love with the dance and so did the judges. It has captured 1st place awards at several regional competitions including at New York City Dance Alliance and Revive.
“I see this as a chance to share my voice. I am hoping when they watch one of my dances, they are not thinking, they just get lost,” says last year’s class president at Miami’s, New World School of the Arts High School.
So far this year, Sofia has gotten her driver’s license and choreographed nearly a dozen pieces including two group numbers. All have been met with competitive success at the highest level. Just this month she received one of the nation’s highest honors for a high school artist. Sofia became one of only three teens in the country to be named a Young Arts finalist in the choreography division. The validation confirms her plans to create long beyond high school.
“I want to go to college for dance and one day open a company and dance and choreograph for my own company.”
Sofia Gonzalez now stands on the unclear steps of her limitless future. Like her solo at Nationals, she has no idea what will happen next. She will walk onto life’s next stage with only a trust in herself and the conviction that whatever happens, it will be from her heart and it will be beautiful.