#DancerDose – Shannon Harkins
March 17th, 2020 by Elizabeth Radabaugh
Usually when we think of people making a difference, we tend to picture an older person. However, Shannon Harkins redefines that notion. She is a wonderful reminder that hard work and determination can turn dreams into a reality.
Nurturing A Gift
At the tender age of 5, Juli and Derek Harkins, Shannon’s parents, placed her in a pre-ballet class.
Upon seeing “The Nutcracker,” Shannon knew that she wanted to be a dancer for the rest of her life. By 13 years old, she was attending the Washington School of Ballet for eight years and was part of its production of “The Nutcracker” for seven years. Most importantly, she was the only African-American girl in Level 7, which is the highest pre-professional level. In her short years, she has had extraordinary opportunities, such as playing numerous roles in “The Nutcracker” and being taught by ballet legends Suzanne Farrell and her role model, Misty Copeland.
Practice Makes Perfect
Shannon believes that practice makes perfect, and although she is aware that being a successful ballerina will not be an easy task, her passion for dancing is what continues to drive her. Over the years, she has sacrificed her summers by auditioning for summer intensives in order to maintain her techniques. Her parents’ financial and emotional support have encouraged her to continue to follow her dreams. She is currently a freshman at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance where she plans to graduate in 2022.
Shannon Harkins’ story serves as a reminder that one can make a difference at any age. Although seeing African Americans in prestigious ballet companies is rare, Shannon’s determination to become a principal ballerina encourages Girls of Color to dare to dream the unthinkable. May her story not only inspire, but remind all those who read it that change begins with you. To all the dancers out there: continue to dream so big that it transcends race, gender, class and anything else that might seek to limit you.
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Phaedra McDowell is a writer for StarQuest. She loves to celebrate others, serve her community through the arts, and encourage young people to dream without limits.