PICTURED ABOVE // Senior Rachel Rorich in a ballet pose in front of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Photo by Vihao Pham Photography
Unlike most of the Hockaday Class of 2019, Rohrich isn’t spending her days on the Hockaday campus with her other 118 senior sisters, cutting the lunch line, throwing up the “XIX” after every assembly and enjoying her senior privileges. Instead, she is following her passion for dance at the Washington School of Ballet in their professional training program.
Even though Rohrich had never stepped foot in Washington D.C.—1,328 miles away from home—until her plane landed a few weeks ago, suitcases packed and farewells bid, she isn’t daunted. Her dance career has been building up to this opportunity to study the art form under the best in the country.
“I love [The Washington School of Ballet’s] repertoire, which is very classical,” Rohrich said. “I am looking forward to the training and being in the same studio as a world class ballet company. It is going to be a full immersion.”
Rohrich is also particularly excited about the company’s director, Julie Kent, who had a successful and long career with the American Ballet Theatre, and the head of the Washington School of Ballet, Xiomara Reyes.
Kent recently became the Artistic Director of the Washington School of Ballet in July 2016, after being the longest serving ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre’s history. Because of Kent’s notoriety, her position has put the Washington School of Ballet into the spotlight.
“I am so excited to be taught by such amazing faculty, headed by the beautiful Xiomara Reyes, who inspires me every time I take her class,” Rohrich says.
Even though Rohrich is now dancing with some of the best in the country, ballet wasn’t always in the cards for her.
Before dance, Rohrich tried a slew of different sports during her childhood, finally honing in on dance at the “older” age of 10.
“I have always been very physical,” Rohrich said. “But what drew me to dance was the movements. It can never be perfect, and you always have something to work on. You can have some place to grow in your artistry and technique.”
Rohrich’s progress and love for the art form has been duly noted by her long-time instructor Jacqueline Porter, who is the Founding Artistic Director at The Dallas Conservatory.
“It was clear from her first lesson that she had unusual potential to dance at a top level because of her tremendous flexibility, high jump and lovely feet,” Porter said. “But, over the years, it has been her intelligence and her unusual ease in doing technically difficult work that has set her on the road to a professional career.”
Having attended Hockaday since 2005 and having danced with the Dallas Conservatory since 2010, Rohrich’s move to D.C. signals a big shift in her life. Not only will she share an apartment with a fellow dancer who she met
in a previous dance program, this Texas native will be thrust into the bustling metropolis that is our nation’s capital.
“I am going to learn some good life lessons, but I will be following the dream,” Rohrich said. “D.C. is such a great area with a lush culture.”
Rohrich started looking for apartments two weeks after her acceptance into the program in July and moved in just barely a month later, leaving her friends, family, cats, favorite local restaurants and the sacred Northpark Mall behind.
“What I am going to miss about Dallas is the people. I grew up with Hockaday, and it will always be a part of me, “Rohrich said.
Even though seemingly thrust into a big city for a year, alone, Rohrich’s roommate, Emily Potter, is a friendly face who danced with Rohrich during the 2018 summer dance intensive at Boston Ballet for five weeks.
“Rachel has a very unique sense of humor and always knows how to make me smile,” Potter said. “She comes up with the best jokes and can always cheer me up no matter what.”
Even though far away from the Hockaday halls, Rohrich’s studies don’t cease to exist. She has lined up a rigorous schedule with the help of Hockaday and the online program One Schoolhouse. Hockaday is a consortium member of the online school, so Rohrich is able to take a One Schoolhouse curriculum through the site and still receive credits for Hockaday.
“They have a great offering of many Advanced Placement courses and interesting science courses, which I appreciate,” Rohrich said. “The class assignments are also asynchronous, which means I can access it anytime, which is really important.”
With dance from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Rohrich will have to juggle challenging AP courses like Neuroscience, Psychology and Calculus BC, with even more challenging dance classes during the busy Nutcracker season.
To combat this, Rohrich has a plan.
“We don’t have many breaks besides lunch, so it can be hard to study at the studio,” Rohrich said. “I usually head straight home after the day is over and open up my laptop to One Schoolhouse and start my work for the day. New assignments for the following week open on Fridays, so on the weekends I try to get as much work as possible so that I won’t be too overwhelmed during the week.”
Rohrich isn’t the only Hockaday student who has tackled the challenging task of dancing by day and studying by night. Lily Bines ’17, a previous fellow dancer at The Dallas Conservatory with Rohrich for seven years, also followed the same route her senior year when she danced with the pre-professional program at Boston Ballet.
“I knew that I needed to go to a bigger school with training that would help me become a more mature dancer,” Bines said. “I also wanted to experience dancing at another school where all of the dancers had aspirations similar to my own.”
Bines knows full-well the challenges of dancing while keeping up with a Hockaday-level curriculum.
“Studying online can be difficult because it requires a lot more self-drive, especially because you are usually given an entire week to do a certain amount of work and learn materials. If you don’t plan time to do your work and let it build up until the end of the week, it becomes very stressful,” Bines said.
Now, Bines is a full-time student at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and dances in the ballet program through the Jacobs School of Music, which is the top college ballet program in the country.
Like Bines, Rohrich has every intention of going to college, but for this year, dance will take the forefront.
“It really depends on what happens this year and what I want to do later in life, but I am still applying to college,” Rohrich said. “So whether I dance with a school’s program or a professional company depends.”
The college process, naturally, will be a little different for Rohrich in that face-to-face meetings with her college counselor won’t be an option, so Skype and email will be her best friend.
“Mrs. Skerritt is still planning to support me in the same ways as she would with a student on campus, which I am extremely grateful for,” Rohrich said.
Even though Rohrich has a less than two weeks off in the entire year, including one for Thanksgiving and five days for Christmas, she isn’t looking back.
“I am really eager to start and be immersed with dancers my age with similar goals,” Rohrich said. “Not only will I continue a strong academic curriculum, I am really excited and fortunate to have reached this point.”
Story by Paige Halverson, managing editor
Photo by Vihao Pham Photography