Tatum Shoptaugh’s graceful moves and dedication have landed her at one of the oldest and top ballet schools in the world, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, where she will study for the summer. Courtesy photo | Irish Shoptaugh
Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 1:30 pm | Updated: 4:12 pm, Thu Jun 2, 2011.At age 12, Tatum Shoptaugh agreed to take ballet lessons at the urging of her mother. Five years later she is now preparing for an exclusive summer internship at the world famous Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow.
“It’s surreal,” Shoptaugh said. “I’m being handed the opportunity of a lifetime. I’ve worked very hard and it’s paying off.”
Shoptaugh, 17, grew up in Monument and still lives there with her parents Jerry and Irish when she is in town. She attended Monument schools until the fifth grade, when she enrolled at the Colorado Springs School, located near the Broadmoor. However, after her sophomore year she changed schools again, moving to Washington, D.C., where she’s trained the last nine months with the prestigious Kirov Academy of Ballet.
“I love it here,” she said by phone. “I know I am missing out on a lot of things, but I know what I have to do. It’s hard being away from my family, but it’s worth it.”
Shoptaugh’s meteoric rise in the world of ballet is not surprising given the amount of talent, passion and time she dedicates to her craft. She initially honed her skills locally with Russian-born teacher, and Monument resident, German Zamuel at his Zamuel Ballet School. At Kirov, her weekday schedule involves taking core educational classes in the mornings and training from 1 to 7 p.m. She also trains Saturdays and has Sundays off.
“I do sightseeing when I have the time,” she said. “This is definitely not the typical kind of teenager’s life.”
Shoptaugh plans to fly back to Monument on Memorial Day before heading to New York City June 26 for the first leg of her Bolshoi training. The Bolshoi program is sponsored by the New York-based Russian American Foundation.
Shoptaugh is one of 16 American high school ballet dancers who was selected for the prestigious National Security Language Initiative for Youth Program. It is funded by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
She will spend three weeks in intensive ballet training in New York City with the RAF’s Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive. Then she will spend six weeks in Moscow (July 16 to Aug. 27), where they will train with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and also study Russian language, history, arts and culture.
With its 235-year history, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy is one of the oldest and most established schools for classical ballet training in the world.
Shoptaugh’s parents plan to join their daughter in New York and “send her off.”
“The last time we saw her in person was when she was home for spring break,” Irish Shoptaugh said. “We try to Skype a lot. It’s the best thing and we get to see her.”
Tatum Shoptaugh has gradually been leaving the nest since she was 14, going away to dance during the summers. That helped prepare Irish and Jerry for her departure to Kirov.
“We always say she’s a freak of nature,” Irish said. “She’s been so focused for so long. She never wanes from what she wants to be. She lives it. She breathes it. She loves it. She understands it. And she totally appreciates every aspect of it. She hasn’t wasted this opportunity.”
Depending on how the Bolshoi program goes, Tatum Shoptaugh will either return to Kirov for her senior year, or move to Russia to train and take online classes.
“My dreams and goals are to join a company in Europe next year when I graduate,” she said. “I would like to spend a few years as an apprentice then get appointed to the corps de ballet, but I would also like to continue until I reach my goal and dream of being a principal ballerina."