Ballet academy

Christchurch teenager leaves for prestigious New York ballet academy

A young ballet dancer from Christchurch has been offered the chance of a lifetime – a place at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of American Ballet Theater in New York.

Sonia Woods, 16, is believed to be the very first New Zealand-trained dancer the school has ever accepted.

Ever since Sonia was young, she has dedicated her life to dance and now has a great journey ahead of her.

Thanks to daily effort and unwavering passion, the work is finally bearing fruit.

“My mum actually texted me congratulating me, and I was really confused. I was like ‘what?’ and then she said ‘check your email’ and then I got it and my sister and I were screaming and jumping around,” she said.

Sonia is one of 14 dancers to be accepted into the top level of New York’s prestigious JKO School in 2022.

It feeds students directly into the American Ballet Theatre, one of the most famous companies in the world.

Attending school took years for Sonia, who decided she wanted to become a professional dancer at the age of 11.

The prestigious nature of the school means she’s going to have to work hard.

“She’s going to be busy dancing, so she won’t have too much time to get into a lot of trouble, I think,” Sonia’s mother Megan Woods said.

She will leave behind her family in Christchurch to travel around the world.

She will also leave her teachers, who have been by her side since the age of four.

Canterbury Ballet director Alexis James, who is one of Sonia’s mentors, said: “Sonnie has just worked so hard, and she’s been such an amazing woman while she’s been doing it, she’s like the most humble and dedicated person.”

She is currently looking for sponsors to help fund the move.

For Sonia, the adventure has only just begun and the lights of New York await her.